31 July 2014

Kerry’s mission overload

Published: July 31, 2014Suhasini Haidar

APWhen President Obama picked up the phone to dial Prime Minister Modi in May, it was expected that the U.S. would waste no time in reaching out to him and putting the past behind them. Instead, while other countries rushed senior members of their cabinet, the U.S. has waited two months. Picture shows U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry boarding a plane to New Delhi at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington on Wednesday.

It will take more than a meeting of two leaders to reverse the damage of the past year in India-U.S. ties — the hurt needs to be addressed as well

It has been a challenging month for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been charged with nuclear negotiations with Iran, dispatched to the Middle East to try and broker a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza, and tasked with leading a campaign to sanction Russia further for the conflict in Ukraine. Compared to those missions, his 48-hour visit to India should have been a snap, but both circumstances and a lack of diplomatic headway so far will mean that Mr. Kerry will have his work cut out for him as he begins his meetings this morning.

No truck for 10 years

To begin with, Mr. Kerry’s visit is effectively the first time the U.S. has engaged the Modi government at a cabinet or political level.

This is in itself curious, given that the U.S. administration has had no ties with Mr. Modi for the past 10 years, except for one meeting with the then U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell earlier this year — owing to its decision to cancel his U.S. visa in 2005 and politically boycott his government in Gujarat. Adding to the pressure is the fact that there has been no movement in the India-U.S. relationship since last September, when former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Washington, and the Khobragade fiasco has dominated the narrative since. “A year of drift,” is how one senior official described the last 10 months to The Hindu.

America is not known for half-measures, so when President Barack Obama picked up the phone to dial Prime Minister Modi in May, it was expected that the U.S. would waste no time in reaching out to him and putting the past behind them. Instead, while Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, and the neighbourhood have all rushed senior members of their cabinet to meet with Mr. Modi and his colleagues, the U.S. has waited two months. Mr. Kerry — his visit is to be followed by Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel’s in August — thus has a mission overload in his time here as he needs to acquaint himself with the new government, conduct the day-long India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue, and also set the agenda for Mr. Modi’s visit to Washington. At the same time, there are pressing issues in the India-U.S. equation. At a hearing a few weeks ago, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal confessed to feeling “frustrated” at the lack of movement on the civilian nuclear deal.

The real threat to WTO

Sanjaya Baru | July 31, 2014

The US must address Indian concerns that it may abandon the WTO and pursue a trade agenda inimical to India once it gets the trade facilitation deal through. Source: Reuters

Aside from war and migration, observed the Nobel prize winning economist, Thomas C. Schelling, “trade is what most of international relations are about. For that reason, trade policy is national security policy.”

One of the few economists to take any serious academic interest in national security issues, and known for his analysis of nuclear deterrence from a game theoretic perspective, Schelling made these observations in 1971 to a United States Congressional Commission on “National Security Considerations Affecting Trade Policy”.

While economists like to believe that trade policy is defined by rational calculus, the wielders of power and policy have always known that trade policy is integral to a nation’s strategic policy. The transatlantic powers created a post-war trading regime under the auspices of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) designed to serve their geoeconomic interests. This was sought to be democratised, though only partially, with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), creating not just a “rules-based” trading system but also a disciplinary mechanism to enforce those rules.

India correctly took the view that it had a “strategic stake” in such a multilateral rules-based system, and successive governments have worked hard with the West through the WTO. The current impasse in the WTO has in fact been created by the dilution of Western commitment to that regime, and not by developing-country intransigence, much less India’s.

In the current stand-off on India’s stance on its food security policy, Western powers are pretending as if they are the upholders of fair play and India the spoiler. The fact is that major trading powers have never shied away from being spoilers in multilateral trade talks whenever it has suited their national interest. It should be recalled that the US and EU have readily deployed non-economic weapons to threaten their trade partners whenever their economic interests have been threatened. When Japan emerged as a competitive global exporter, building a huge trade surplus vis-à-vis the transatlantic economies, the US deployed domestic laws, Special and Super 301, to get Japan to adopt “voluntary export restraints” (VERs). The EU “single market” was created in the early 1990s as a conscious response to Japan’s rise.

Terror connection

Khaled Ahmed | July 31, 2014

ISIS was first formed by Abu Musaab al Zarqawi in 2003. At the age of 23, Zarqawi went to Pakistan, only to find that the Soviet Union had already pulled out of Afghanistan.

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has mutated into the Islamic State after capturing parts of Syria and Iraq. The historic Islamic term “Sham” is the name given by al-Qaeda to Syria, which the Syrians don’t like because it means “left hand” and “shame”, and instead use the pagan term, Suriya, based on the correct pronunciation of the Greek letter “y” in Syria.

The Islamic State is a Sunni terrorist organisation, linked to al-Qaeda in the past but now on its own. First formed by Abu Musaab al Zarqawi in 2003, it is led today by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, also known as Caliph Ibrahim. Baghdadi is supposed to have gone to Afghanistan in the late 1990s with Zarqawi, a Jordanian street fighter who died in Baghdad in June 2006 as an international terrorist with $25 million on his head.

Zarqawi went for jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He established a training camp there to prepare guerrillas against Jordan. He was jailed for seven years in Amman on his return but was soon back in Afghanistan training jihadists in Herat, and was also in Tora Bora with Osama bin Laden in 2001. He got injured in Kandahar during the American invasion and was evacuated through Iran by Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who had good contacts in Tehran. He moved to Iraq after that, well in time to see the Americans invade the country, and joined the Kurd-led jihadi militia, Ansar al-Islam, there. Ansar al-Islam, recently revived, was founded as a terrorist group by one Mullah Krekar, who went to the International Islamic University (IIU) of Islamabad as a lecturer in the 1980s and later joined the jihad in Peshawar.

At the age of 23, Zarqawi went to Pakistan, only to find that the Soviet Union had already pulled out of Afghanistan. He began to frequent the inner circles of al-Qaeda, which had just been founded. He lived in Hayatabad, Peshawar, and met such jihadi leaders as the Palestinian intellectual Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, Pashtun warlord Hekmatyar and Tajik clerical leader Burhanuddin Rabbani. He also met for the first time another personality who had arrived there from Jordan, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi.


Thursday, 31 July 2014 | Claude Arpi | i

Chinese plans to improve connectivity between Tibet and the Himalayan nation, by extending the railway network and building a new land-port at Kyirong, should be of concern in Kathmandu and New Delhi

Next week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Nepal. Can you believe that he will be the first Indian Prime Minister to pay an official bilateral visit to Kathmandu in 17 years? Press reports say that Mr Modi may also travel to Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, and Janakpur, where legend has it, Lord Ram wed Sita.

This is good: India needs to re-establish her cultural, historical, economic and strategic links with Nepal as the Chinese are descending fast on the former Himalayan Kingdom. In September 2013, according to the Nepali publication The Republica, Mr Lobsang Gyaltsen, Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, told some Nepali officials visiting Tibet that China would extend a rail service to Nepal once the train reaches the southern city of Shigatse. At that time, the Nepali delegation seemed more interested in a Chinese-built railway line from Kathmandu to Lumbini.

Mr Hari Basyal, the Nepalese Consul General in Lhasa, said that Mr Gyaltsen, though non-committal about Lumbini, announced: “Feasibility study is underway for expanding rail service between Nepal and Tibet.” Mr Gyaltsen also expressed China’s commitment “to extend a meaningful support to Nepal for achieving the common goal of socio-economic development.” This is ominous for India. This month,The Global Times made the train story official: “Sky rail to run from Lhasa to south Tibet; further railway expansion to connect Nepal, Bhutan, India by 2020.”

The rail line, linking Lhasa and Shigatse (poetically termed by China as the ‘closest stretch of railway to the sky’), will be open in August. The construction of the extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which started in September 2010, will be 254km long and have 13 stations. Trains will run at a speed of 120kmph and it will take only two hours from Lhasa to Shigatse, the TAR’s second largest city.

The rising America-Russia tension US-led attempts to contain Russia have been marked by inconsistencies


G Parthasarathy

The wreckage of the MH 17 that was shot down over Ukraine, escalating tension between Russia and Ukraine. AP/PTI

IN the early hours of the morning of July 17, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 17 with 298 people on board was shot down over Eastern Ukraine, now controlled by Russian separatists, engaged in a civil war against the Kiev Government. The Russian-speaking minority has been reinforced by their kinsmen from across the Russia-Ukraine border. They carry heavy firepower including tanks, armoured personnel carriers and surface-to-air missiles. The shooting down of MH 17 came alongside rebel missile attacks over the past four weeks, which have downed two military transport and three state-of–the-art Sukhoi attack aircraft, of the Ukrainian Air Force.

The missile attack on MH 17 was evidently based on the mistaken assumption that it was a Ukrainian Air Force aircraft. There have been seven incidents of such inadvertent shooting down of civilian aircraft in the past. In recent times, South Korean Airlines Flight 007, with 277 passengers strayed into Soviet airspace. It was shot down by a missile fired from a Soviet MiG. After the usual rhetoric, Reagan and Gorbachev returned to business as usual. Thereafter, on July 3, 1988, Iran Air Flight 655 from Teheran to Dubai, with 290 passengers, mostly pilgrims headed for Mecca, was shot down over Iranian territorial waters, by two missiles fired from US Navy Missile Cruiser, USS Vincennes.

The US refused to accept responsibility for the action. It paid $61.8 million as compensation to the families of victims, following the ruling of an International Tribunal. What the US paid was less than 3per cent of what it got from Libya, for the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am 103. The Captain of the USS Vincennes was awarded “Combat Action Ribbons”, shortly thereafter! Washington’s displeasure, about Russian supply of surface-to-air missiles to the Russian resistance in Ukraine, is surprising. It was the US that started the practice of providing lethal weaponry to non-State actors. The CIA liberally provided lethal “Stinger” surface to air missiles to the anti-Soviet “Mujahideen” in Afghanistan, through the ISI. Three Indian Air Force Aircraft — a MiG 21, MiG 27 and Helicopter gunship — were shot down and a Canberra bomber damaged, during and just prior to the Kargil conflict. The IAF aircraft were fired on by Pakistan’s Northern Light Infantry, using, what were assessed to be, “Stinger” surface-to-air missiles.

Intervention, evasion, destabilisation

July 31, 2014

Brahma Chellaney

If Libya, Syria and Iraq are coming undone and Ukraine has been gravely destabilised, it is the result of interventionsby big powers that claim to be international law enforcers when, in reality, they are lawbreakers

Big powers over the years have targeted specific regimes by arming rebel groups with lethal weapons, thereby destabilising some states and contributing to the rise of dangerous extremists and terrorists. The destabilisation of Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Libya, among other states, is a result of such continuing geopolitical games.

It is the local people who get killed, maimed and uprooted by the interventions of major powers and their regional proxies. Yet those who play such games assume a moral posture to rationalise their interventionist policies and evade responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Indeed, they paint their interference in the affairs of other sovereign states as aimed at fighting the “bad” guys.

Cold War echo

Take the blame game over the downing of Flight MH 17, which was shot down by a surface-to-air missile (SAM), allegedly fired by eastern Ukraine’s Russian-speaking separatists, a number of whom have clearly been trained and armed by Russia. Russia’s aid to the separatists and Washington’s security assistance to the government in Kiev, including providing vital intelligence and sending American military advisers to Ukraine, is redolent of the pattern that prevailed during the Cold War, when the two opposing blocs waged proxy battles in countries elsewhere.

Today, with the Ukrainian military shelling rebel-held cities and Russia massing heavy weapons and troops along the frontier, the crisis threatens to escalate to a direct U.S.-Russia confrontation, especially if Moscow directly intervenes in eastern Ukraine in response to the worsening humanitarian crisis there. The United Nations says the fighting in eastern Ukraine has uprooted more than 230,000 residents. Over 27,000 of them have taken sanctuary in Russia.


By Divya Kumar Soti

India has often been criticized for its lacklustre Central Asia policy. India banked too much on US presence in Afghanistan, and for quite a few years after 9/11 it was never realized that the US will leave Afghanistan one day without finally finishing the Taliban.

India also toned down its strategic policy in Central Asia to address Pakistan’s unfounded apprehensions as to Indian presence justifying its support to Afghan Taliban which found expression through Americans.

The Pakistani military-intelligence establishment successfully put up an act of being paranoid to any Indian presence in Afghanistan and its Central Asian neighbours, and in a way was able to pass off this apparent paranoia to certain extent to Washington when imaginary concepts like good Taliban-bad Taliban were being discussed by Western policy makers.

As a result, India’s Central Asia policy during the first decade of the 21st century was more or less ad hoc and country specific. It was lacking in objectivity and broader strategic planning, and whatever was there was sluggishly implemented. India to a great extent made its policy subservient to Washington’s plans for Afghanistan, and made itself look like a marginal player in Central Asia’s geo-politics.

In this process, India lost the close cooperation and diplomatic support it used to get from Russia in Central Asia. A particular instance of this is India losing the Ayni Air Base in Tajikistan. In the aftermath of the 1999 IC-814 hijack, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2002 arranged for Indian military presence at the strategically located Ayni Air Base to deal with such a security emergency under a tripartite informal arrangement with the Tajiks and Russians as part of which India was to refurbish the base.

However, India had to give up its plans in 2007 even after putting in an investment of $1.77 million due to Russian pressure on Tajikistan, as Russians were supposedly wary of New Delhi’s growing proximity with the US. In the meantime, China has firmly extended its influence in the region, which also bolsters Pakistan’s strategic prospects in Central Asia.

But with American forces leaving behind an Afghanistan with a Taliban which has been able to sustain its guerrilla campaign for 13 years, the regional security concerns are mounting. Moreover, the recent happenings in Iraq where the Iraqi army has weakened in its fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) also add to concerns of the Taliban gaining strongholds in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal. This time again, regional players like India, Iran, Russia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan will be at the forefront of trouble.

While Afghanistan grapples with a presidential election dispute which has Pashtun-Tajik dimensions, Tajikistan has a stabilizing role in Afghanistan through its influence over the Tajik leadership in Afghanistan. However, the importance of Tajikistan does not end there. If Afghanistan is to yet again slip into chaos after withdrawal of US forces with the Taliban gaining strongholds in southern and eastern Afghanistan, it will have serious security ramifications for all regional players, particularly for India and Iran.

In the past, during Taliban rule in Afghanistan, India had to face security emergencies like the IC-814 hijack. Indian missions in Afghanistan continue to be repeatedly targeted by groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Moreover, India is engaged in major reconstruction projects across Afghanistan and there are well-founded apprehensions as to the safety of personnel involved in these projects. The abduction of Indian workers in Iraq by ISIS further underlines such threat scenarios.

Similarly, after takeover of Kabul by the Taliban in 1996, many attempts were made to attack Iranian interests and target the Shia minority in Afghanistan. Selective killings of Shias were organized by the then Taliban government. In Bamiyan province alone around 5,000 Shias were killed by Taliban. The Iranian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif was attacked and 10 Iranian diplomats were killed. Iran had to respond by massing 300,000 troops on its borders with Afghanistan and threatening to punish the Taliban regime.

Why are Indian graduates unemployable?

Only 19 per cent engineering graduates in India are employable.

Only 5 per cent graduates from other streams are fit for employment, says a recent survey on graduate employability in India.

What is driving this unhealthy trend? Who is to be blamed? We find out...

More than three million Indians graduate out of colleges every year. Of these 20 to 25 per cent are engineers.

According to a recent survey by Aspiring Minds, an assessment and grading firm, only 19 per cent engineers are fit for employment.

The unemployment figures among Indian graduates have been dwindling down the years and engineering graduates are not the only ones affected by it.

We spoke to Himanshu Aggrawal, CEO and co-founder of Aspiring Minds to find out the possible reasons that encourage the trend.

A graduate in computer science and engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Aggrawal works closely with young graduates from across the country helping them address the skill gap and advance in their careers.

Read on to find out what he thinks about the issue of unemployability in India

Why are Indian engineering graduates becoming increasingly unemployable? What reasons do you attribute for this declining trend? 
Unlike in the past where engineering was considered a professional vocation, in recent times, engineering has become just another stream to pursue graduation. 
The poor quality of teachers in two-tier engineering colleges combined with an outdated curriculum is further adding to the problems of graduates. 
But that is just one part of the problem; there is also a silent revolution that is taking place in terms of the kind of jobs engineering graduates are seeking. 
If you were to talk to engineering graduates who have recently completed college, you'll realise that most of them want to explore working in non-technical sectors too. 
They don't want to become software engineers; they want to explore more avenues -- become analysts, technical sales, pursue marketing and accounting, to name a few. 
Needless to say, there is a lot of competition to meet these specifics. 

Indo-Pak discussions on Deterrence Stability in South Asia

Author: Ms. Aditi Malhotra
July 25, 2014

In the picturesque city of Istanbul, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and The Stimson Center brought together an interesting mix of young Indian and Pakistani researchers, academics and journalists working on nuclear issues. The workshop held from June 18- 20, 2014 was titled ‘Deterrence Stability in South Asia’ and aimed to delve on issues related to India-Pakistan nuclear deterrence and deterrence stability. Over a period of three days, the gathering deliberated upon the varying perceptions and key challenges to deterrence stability in South Asia and ways to address these challenges. The discussions focused on identifying common grounds and novel approaches on various issues, which could help in furthering better relations and understanding between the two neighbours. Interestingly, all participants agreed to keep the most contentious Indo-Pakistan issues on the back burner and discuss subjects where some progress was possible. The ensuing paragraphs reflect on some of the important points that were discussed during the workshop:

Deterrence Stability

The lack of a common lexicon on deterrence stability in South Asia complicates the already precarious situation

There were lengthy discussions on the concept of deterrence stability in general and factors affecting it in South Asia. A majority of the participants shared the perception that deterrence in South Asia meant different things to both countries and their decision-makers. Even the concept of stability is highly influenced by one’s perceptions and more so in the case of India and Pakistan. Capabilities of a country, internal politics, role of perceptions, structures of state institutions etc. were identified as some factors affecting deterrence stability. It was agreed that the lack of a common lexicon on deterrence stability in South Asia complicates the already precarious situation. Therefore, it was felt that India and Pakistan need to achieve a better understanding of each other’s perceptions, fears and thinking in order to minimise any chances of misunderstanding.

Discussing the nuances of deterrence stability, it was argued that extreme secrecy with limited bilateral dialogue on nuclear issues might lead to a situation wherein the other party may misunderstand signals. Also, during a crisis, a country tends to assume that the other country may act or react in certain ways. Such assumptions result in the creation of grey areas, leaving them contingent on the future shaping of events, which may lead to increased tensions during a crisis.

A majority of the participants agreed that the current leaderships in both the countries are strong. The clear mandate given by the people provides the leaders in India and Pakistan the capability to take some tough decisions and ensure its implementation. On the one hand, this has its advantages. For instance, Pakistan’s Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif’s recent visit to India for Indian PM Narendra Modi’s swearing in ceremony, indicates that both the leaders have the potential and will to work on Indo-Pakistan bilateral relations.

On the other hand, participants felt that strong Indian leadership implied that the Indian government could take an aggressive stand during a crisis initiated by Pakistan or Pak-backed non-state actors. India’s response to another 26/11 type of an attack from Pakistan was discussed, as was its impact on deterrence stability. In this regard, there were mixed opinions, as many believed that India would react aggressively to such as attack, while others disagreed.

Economic Levers

India and Pakistan do not have strong economic linkages. It remains essential to work on this aspect, as both countries do not have any levers that could be leveraged for peace. Economic interdependence could take Indo-Pakistan relations to a level wherein economic links take primacy over military or nuclear-related issues. It was also emphasised that the ‘fauji foundation’ needs to given an incentive in investing in India and vice-versa, which would make them stakeholders in Indo-Pakistan peace. In light of the new governments in both the countries and PM Modi’s pro-economic image, majority of the participants were hopeful of improved economic relations between New Delhi and Islamabad in the coming years.

Summer Offensive by Afghan Taliban Demonstrates New Battlefield Capabilities

Elizabeth Williams
Institute for the Study of War
July 29, 2014

Taliban Summer Offensive Shows Increasing Capability

The Taliban’s annual summer offensive in Afghanistan in 2014 can be characterized by waves of violence across the country and, in particular, a string of attacks ringing the capital, Kabul. The attacks appear mainly to target Afghanistan’s infrastructure, particularly its airports. Although the Taliban attempted to focus its efforts in June on the 2014 presidential election runoff, it was unsuccessful in derailing the elections or disrupting them to a notable degree. That period of concentrated effort lasted less than two weeks. While the Taliban mobilized again at the end of June, launching a large assault in Helmand province, the group carried out only a few attacks throughout the rest of the country. That trend has reversed, however, as July has witnessed a surge of violence in the southern, eastern, and northern regions of Afghanistan. This assessment looks at the groups likely involved in the violence and describes the spread and nature of the attacks in each of the country’s Regional Commands (RCs).

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Haqqani Network

Although the Taliban has claimed responsibility for many of the summer attacks, it is probably not alone in perpetrating the violence, given its relationships with other militant organizations operating in different parts of the country. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), for example, frequently launches attacks in the north and occassionaly east of Afghanistan. Likewise, the Haqqani Network has traditionally maintained a stronghold in eastern Afghanistan. The situation in eastern Afghanistan is made more complex by the presence of an estimated 77,000 refugees fleeing from the Pakistani military’s ongoing operation in neighboring North Waziristan. Numerous reports indicate that Pakistan-based insurgents, such as the North Waziristan-based Haqqani Network and fighters from the Pakistani Taliban and IMU have also moved to eastern Afghanistan to escape the Pakistani offensive. The increased presence of militants raises additional security concerns for stability in eastern Afghanistan.

As evidenced in our March 2012 report, the Haqqani Network is active in Khost, Paktia, and Paktika provinces, also known as Loya Paktia. They also operate in Nangarhar, Laghman, and Kapisa provinces, and have staged “spectacular attacks” in Kabul province as well. The Network’s de facto leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is one of the most competent, dangerous, and well-financed leaders operating in the country. The Haqqani Network effectively organizes and sustains a rigorous training regimen for its fighters and for those of other affiliated groups in the region, such as the IMU.

ISW has previously assessed that, since 2009, the IMU has had an increasingly destabilizing effect in northern Afghanistan, particularly in Baghlan, Kunduz, Takhar, and Balkh provinces. The IMU began as the Islamist opposition group in post-Soviet Uzbekistan, but shifted its focus from the Central Asian states to the Afghan North, specializing in “weapons trafficking and narcotics smuggling.” The Haqqanis and the IMU have a mutually beneficial relationship in which the Haqqani Network has provided the IMU sanctuary and training, and the IMU has provided fighters for the Haqqani Network in exchange.

New Taliban Offensive Seeks to Recapture Former Stronghold of Kandahar Province

Carlotta Gall and Taimoor Shah
New York Times
July 28, 2014

After Losing Province in 2010, Afghan Taliban Strike Back

KABUL, Afghanistan — A sudden Taliban offensivea in the southern province of Kandahar in recent days has led to some of the heaviest protracted fighting there in years, officials said on Sunday. The militants overran a district center on the border with Pakistan, battled government forces near the provincial capital and staged a suicide-bomber attack on a home of the province’s powerful security chief.

Kandahar, a crucial base of Taliban power since the 1990s, had enjoyed much improved security since the surge of American troops pushed the Taliban out in 2010. American forces still maintain a base at the Kandahar airport, but Afghan forces have aggressively taken the lead in the province under the security chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq, whose brutal tactics in fighting the Taliban have raised criticism but have nonetheless been seen as effective.

In an annual public statement over the weekend for the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, reiterated his determination to re-establish an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan. The proof was borne out by a multifront offensive in Kandahar involving hundreds of Taliban fighters that was seemingly timed to take advantage of Eid al-Fitr, which closes the holy month of Ramadan.

Up to 100 Taliban, Pakistani and other foreign fighters attacked the district compound of Registan, the southernmost desert district of the province, on Saturday, Afghan officials said.

The battle raged for 10 hours as policemen fought for the compound, but their commander and five of his men were killed in the fighting as they ran out of ammunition, said Dawa Khan Minapal, a government spokesman in Kandahar. The area is remote, and army and police reinforcements were hours away across the red desert that gives the district its name.

General Raziq had set off leading security forces to the south to repel the Taliban and secure the border when news came of an attack by six suicide bombers on his home in Spinbaldak, which borders Pakistan in the east. The bombers occupied a school near his home and aimed rockets and gunfire on the guesthouse where his family was living. The border guards in charge of security of his house fought back, leading to an extended firefight in which one guard was killed and three others were wounded.

The bombers were shot dead or blew themselves up. A civilian boy was also killed, but there were no casualties in General Raziq’s family, his spokesman, Zia Durani, said.

Two days earlier, an estimated 250 Taliban fighters made a surprise attack on security outposts in Zhare District, to the west of the provincial capital. Afghan security forces repelled the attacks, but the clashes continued much of Friday. Twenty-four Taliban fighters were killed in the heavy fighting, Mr. Minapal said. One policeman and one army soldier were killed, and five police officers were wounded.

An elder from Zhare said the Taliban showed up in several villages Friday morning as people were attending prayers at their mosques. “People rushed to evacuate their homes,” said the elder, Hajji Abdullah Khan, who comes from the village of Pashmul. Some went to an adjoining district of Panjwai and some to Kandahar city, as he did, he said.


By Amitava Mukherjee

There has been a subtle shift in Narendra Modi’s attitude towards Bangladesh. Although in his pre-election rallies Modi had threatened to drive out the Bangladeshi infiltrators, his foreign minister Sushma Swaraj hardly mentioned the topic during her recently concluded visit to Bangladesh. The reason is very simple. China is now spreading its influence in Bangladesh very fast and India does not want to lose the confidence of Hasina Wazaed, the prime minister of Bangladesh, who is always looked upon in New Delhi as a traditional ally.

Yet there are reasons for India to be apprehensive about Dhaka’s future course of action. Mandarins in India’s ministry of external affairs confirm that Hasina Wazed’s visit to China in June this year has raised many eyebrows among Indian policy makers. Hasina not only signed a number of agreements with China – some of them being militarily uncomfortable for India – but the tenor of her speech during meetings with Chinese political bigwigs as well as her official press briefing after coming back to Dhaka also raised skepticism. To her, Sino-Bangladesh relations are not only a matter of a closer comprehensive relationship of cooperation, but a dynamic process which has metamorphosed from the stage of economic partnership into the realm of strategic partnership.

But rather than establishing an independent identity for Bangladesh in South Asian politics, this fundamental change in perception – away from an India-centric foreign and internal policy long cherished by Hasina Wazed’s party, the Awami League – is likely to entangle Dhaka in the vortex of troubled South Asian waters. Hasina’s grudge with New Delhi lies in the fact that the previous Manmohan Singh-led UPA government failed to deliver to Bangladesh the quantum of waters from the river Teesta. There are some other minor issues like the settling of the land boundary between the two countries, which has been stalled due to opposition from several state governments and regional parties of India. But the Teesta issue has been rankling in the minds of the prime minister of Bangladesh and her talk of strategic partnership with China assumes significance in this context.

It is true that Hasina Wazed has reason to be dissatisfied with India. She cooperated with New Delhi so far as tackling the insurgency in northeastern India, handed over to India several dreaded terrorists who had taken shelter in Bangladesh and expected, in return, that India would accede to her request of enhanced water flow from the river Teesta. That India could not live up to Bangladesh’s expectation was entirely due to the folly of India’s former National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, who failed to convince Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, an Indian state through which the river Teesta passes before entering Bangladesh.

Clearly Hasina Wazed is now trying to capitalize on the geopolitical advantage that Bangladesh enjoys as a country which overlooks the strategically important sea lanes of the Indian Ocean linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, thus playing a role in securing energy supplies for Beijing. In her first press conference in Dhaka after returning from China, Hasina Wazed said that she is prepared to forget the past in the interest of economic benefits for her country, a clear allusion to China’s hostile attitude during Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971 and her willingness to forge closer ties with China.

But for Bangladesh, doing business with China will have its own connotations. As strategic experts believe, Beijing has its own theory of ‘string of pearls,’ meaning bases by which China can encircle India in South Asian politics. It has already targeted Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka, and if Hasina is now prepared to forget everything in the past then China would have another very important addition to its kitty.

Sectarian Violence Escalating in China’s Restive Western Province

July 30, 2014

More Violence in China’s Xinjiang After Deadly Attack

Reuters, July 30, 2014

BEIJING — Western tourists saw a body lying in a pool of blood in a major city in China’s violence-prone Xinjiang province on Wednesday, as security forces flooded in after the government said dozens of knife-wielding attackers were shot dead elsewhere in the region earlier in the week.

State media said a gang armed with knives first attacked a police station and government offices on Monday in the town of Elixku, in Shache county, about 200 km (125 miles) from the old Silk Road city of Kashgar in China’s far west.

Some moved on to the nearby town of Huangdi, attacking civilians and smashing and setting fire to six vehicles, in what the official Xinhua news agency called an “organized and premeditated terrorist attack”.

"Police officers at the scene shot dead dozens of members of the mob," the brief report said.

Xinjiang, home to many Turkic-language speaking Uighurs, has been beset by violence for years, which the government blames on Islamist militants or separatists who it says are bent on establishing an independent state called East Turkestan.

There were indications that unrest had spread by Wednesday to Kashgar, a popular tourist site especially during the summer.

A French traveler said he saw a body lying in a pool of blood outside the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar’s old town on Wednesday morning, and armed police pouring into the city by afternoon.

"We heard shouting and my friend saw two people running away with knives. Police came quickly and told people not to take pictures. They checked mobile phones," he told Reuters by telephone.

He added that it was the reasons for the violence were unclear and he could not tell if those involved were Uighur or members of China’s majority Han ethnicity.

Why China's Silk Road initiative matters

29 July 2014 

In the fabled spice trade, pepper outranked even nutmeg and cloves in importance. Bales of Chinese and Persian silks, Indian cottons, Chinese rhubarb and precious stones supplemented the exotic traffic which aroused the envy of all Europe.

–Douglass North, The Rise of the Western World.

Five hundred years ago, Portuguese mariners opened sea routes from Europe to east Asia, and the Silk Road was doomed, another loser in the history of globalisation. The Silk Road had long been failing due to banditry and rebellion as the Mongol empire disintegrated, and later from protectionism as the Ottomans rose in Constantinople. Before long the Khanates of the dusty fortress towns along the road were swallowed up by imperial Russia. The modern world and its sailing ships simply bypassed Central Asia.

China's revival of the Silk Road is not only evocative of a mythic history but says much about the country's strategic orientation. Perhaps anticipating trouble at sea, China is covering its back. With its population huddled on its eastern seaboard, China has started turning inwards to secure development, stability, access, and energy in its continental interior; it is China's 'own counterbalance'.

Beijing proposes an alphabet soup of initiatives: the new AIIB development bank, the CICA security architecture, and corridors through Pakistan (CPEC) and Burma (BCIM) to the Indian Ocean. All this augments the existing SCO partnership, which binds most Eurasian states to a power order nominally co-led with Russia but increasingly under Beijing's sway. Under Xi Jinping, China 'will prioritize relations with neighbors', if necessary at the expense of Sino-US ties. 

China's pivot to Eurasia is smart, necessary and urgent.

The US subtly threatens China's sea routes, whereas the Eurasian 'heartland' is a landlocked space occupied by weak countries. China offers them investment, trade and security assistance, and in return gets a lock on Kazakh oil andTurkmen gas. Beijing cherishes the goal of 'breaking through' to the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and Europe, bypassing its Malacca dilemma. Washington stands by; its own 'New Silk Road' program is flailing and its main focus is to leave Afghanistan. It should welcome Beijing's initiatives. The truth is, China has far more to offer the region than distant America.

China proposes three broad systems as part of its new Silk Road: a northern railway to Europe which eventually converges on the Trans-Siberian, the pipelines to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and possibly beyond to Iran, and the southern highway corridors.

The Hamas-Israeli Intelligence War

The shadow intelligence war between the IDF and Hamas

Yaakov Lappin

Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2014

A Hamas regional operations map recovered by the IDF in Gaza Photo: IDF SPOKESMAN’S OFFICE

The IDF and Hamas are engaged in shadow intelligence war, in which each side seeks to learn as much as it can about the other and use the information to plan painful attacks.

Hamas has come a long way in the world of field intelligence, having recently set up a surveillance and reconnaissance division that is able to communicate the position of IDF ground forces to attack cells, which in turn emerge from tunnels and open fire in coordinated strikes.

On the Israeli side, a mammoth intelligence effort is under way to support the ground forces in Gaza. Military Intelligence and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) work around the clock to provide alerts for threats such as imminent use of tunnels by Hamas, anti-tank missile attacks, Hamas drones, raids on the Israeli coast from Gaza and rocket launches.

The IDF has in recent years invested heavily in intelligence- based combat. This involves Military Intelligence working intimately with the Infantry Brigades and the Armored and Engineering Corps on the ground. Military Intelligence has deployed its officers to the headquarters of army brigades that are now maneuvering in Gaza.

There, they share a wealth of information on the enemy, including signal and visual intelligence. Their presence also speeds up the time it takes to open fire on a target detected by Military Intelligence.

The valuable information is filtered down to battalion and company commanders, who learn about tunnel locations, Hamas weapons facilities, and where to go next from their current position. The intelligence also enables ground forces to avoid booby-trapped homes and ambushes.

Every 12 hours, Military Intelligence draws up a new operational plan, allowing for adjustment to real-time developments on the battlefield.

Satellite Imagery Reveals the Massive Damage Caused by the War in the Gaza Strip

Satellite Imagery Shows Extent of Destruction in Gaza
Elias Groll
Foreign Policy, July 28, 2014
Three weeks into the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, the violence has taken a massive toll on the Gaza Strip, where more than 1,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in an aerial and ground campaign aimed at stymieing Hamas rockets and destroying the group’s network of underground tunnels.

Israel has also paid a human price, with at least 48 of its soldiers killed, but the destruction has been concentrated in Gaza, whose ramshackle buildings easily give under Israeli bombardment. Recently released satellite imagery reveals the extent of that destruction.

The satellite image below, taken on July 25 and released by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, shows the neighborhood of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza. Last week the neighborhood saw a U.N. school shelled, killing 16 people and wounding more than 100.

Status Report on the War in the Gaza Strip: The Israeli Perspective

Protective Edge Vs. Cast Lead at Day 22

Fourfold Hike in Israelis Fatalities, Slight Drop in Palestinians Killed, Huge Surge in Gaza-Launched Rockets; IDF Artillery Fire

Barbara Opall-Rome

Defense News, July 29, 2014

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL — As Israel closes out the 22nd day of Operation Protective Edge, here’s some preliminary data measured against its 23-day, 2008-2009 Cast Lead campaign.

Both operations were launched in response to Gaza-launched attacks, started off with a week of punishing precision, standoff strikes and escalated to a combined arms ground war.

Both operations aimed to “extract a heavy price” from Hamas and restore “quiet” to civilians threatened by incessant cross-border salvos.

While data from the ongoing operation is rough, unverified and still in flux, this much is clear: Israel is paying a much heavier price against an enemy emboldened by new asymmetric attack capabilities.

As of late July 29, Israeli fatalities stood at 56.

That’s a fourfold surge from the Cast Lead incursion, which claimed 13 lives, four of them from friendly fire.

And that’s despite the remarkable protection provided by Iron Dome, which was still under development during Cast Lead.

According to the latest data from the IDF, Gaza militants launched more than 2,670 mortars and rockets at ranges that threatened most of the country.

Only three Israelis were killed.

Iron Dome intercepted more than 510 rockets. The rest, according to the IDF, fell in empty areas, into the sea or failed to cross the border, as was the case in July 28 attacks on a hospital and refugee camp in Gaza.

In Cast Lead, four Israelis were killed from 750 Gaza-launched mortars and rockets. At the time, the range of rocket arsenals in Gaza did not exceed 40 kilometers.

As for deaths in Gaza from Protective Edge, the latest July 29 data from the Palestinian Ministry of Health cites 1,210 “martyrs.” That marks a drop from the 1,440 reported killed during Cast Lead.

Recent Trends in the South China Sea and U.S. Policy

JUL 29, 2014 

Tensions in the South China Sea have continued to build over the last year, with the Philippines submitting its evidence against Chinese claims to an arbitration tribunal, Beijing parking an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam, and Malaysia growing increasingly anxious about Chinese displays of sovereignty at the disputed James Shoal. These and other developments underscore just how critical managing tensions in the South China Sea are, for the region and for the United States. Recent Trends in the South China Sea and U.S. Policy, informed by CSIS’s conference of the same name on July 10-11, 2014, offers an overview of the latest developments in this potential flashpoint and provides recommendations for the United States and its partners. 

Publisher CSIS 

Japan’s Reactors Are Holding Trade Underwater

July 28, 2014

The impact of a non-nuclear Japan will be a significant drag on the economic recovery. 

A report by the Japanese Institute of Energy Economics has highlighted the economic impact of keeping the country’s nuclear reactors offline. Bringing fewer than half of Japan’s 48 reactors would make a significant difference, specifically in the balance of trade. Meanwhile, health precautions are being taken in the areas surrounding what is likely to be the country’s first nuclear power plant to come back online, after it passed a safety inspection by the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority. And even as Japan considers how many of its reactors can be safely restarted, the U.S. is attempting to apply the lessons of the 2011 nuclear disaster.

The IEE found that bringing back just 19 of Japan’s nuclear reactors by fiscal 2015 (the number of reactors the NRA is currently inspecting) would have a large effect on Japan’s trade deficit. Its report found that the trade deficit of 13.8 trillion yen ($135 billion) in fiscal 2013 could be reduced to 7.2 trillion yen in fiscal 2015 if these 19 reactors are restarted. The number of nuclear reactors online will also affect consumer energy prices. Restarting 19 reactors would likely price energy at 11.2 yen per kilowatt hour, while no reactors would drive energy prices to 13 yen per kilowatt hour, 60 percent higher than the price of 8.2 yen in 2010.

As the final approval by local communities is negotiated near Kyushu Electric Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant, the NRA is following through on additional safety measures implemented in 2012. The authority distributed iodine tablets to 4,700 residents within five kilometers of the plant, in accordance with guidelines that those living within a 30 km radius of a disaster on the scale of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown “should be given iodine as quickly as possible” in order to protect against radiation affecting the thyroid gland. However, there has been little mention of how discussions with local communities and the plant’s operator have been progressing.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences is meanwhile attempting to draw lessons from Japan’s nuclear disaster in 2011 for the American nuclear industry. Its report focuses on highly unlikely natural disasters and how to properly deal with them. Interestingly for Japan, the report found (much like a similar Japanese independent investigation) that the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi should not have been unexpected. Onagawa nuclear power plant in Miyagi prefecture was actually closer to the earthquake’s epicenter, but Onagawa incorporated better safety features that allowed for a safe shutdown; including building on higher ground to avoid the worst of a tsunami larger than the one Fukushima Daiichi experienced, and having better emergency electricity available.

As Japan’s local communities begin considering nuclear restarts in their areas, many factors will be taken into account. Safety is likely to be their chief concern, as energy companies and the government will seek to show every precaution is now being taken. Making a culture of safety and preparation like that displayed at Onagawa’s plant an integral part of each reactor’s restart will be crucial, as Japan’s ballooning energy imports begin to have a significant impact on the country’s economic growth prospects.

What Is Life Like in Mosul Under the Control of ISIS

Jenna Lefler
Institute for the Study of War
July 28, 2014

Life Under ISIS in Mosul


Over a month has passed since ISIS launched an operation that resulted in its seizure of Iraq’s northern capital of Mosul. In the wake of the offensive that led to the fall of Mosul and several other northern Iraqi cities, ISIS announced a new Islamic caliphate led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - styled as “Caliph Ibrahim.” Baghdadi later delivered a sermon in one of his first public appearances at Mosul’s Nur ad-Din al-Zengi Mosque. Although ISIS only recently exerted full control over the city of Mosul, the militant organization has had a palpable and steadily increasing presence in the city since its regeneration in 2010. Now operating as the legal, security, and judicial authority in one of Iraq’s largest cities, ISIS has begun imposing a particularly strict version of Shari’a law and crafting a society in Mosul modeled after the version of Islam that it envisions for its Islamic state. At the same time, it has been working to carry out basic government functions, such as collecting taxes, imposing security measures, and providing water, electricity, and social welfare services. However, ISIS is not operating in Mosul without opposition. Processes aimed at eliminating potential resistance movements in Ninewa have taken shape and they closely resemble ISIS activities in its neighboring Syria stronghold, ar-Raqqa. Recent developments in Mosul allow one to extract a picture of how life has changed or remained constant in Mosul under ISIS rule and to draw conclusions regarding ISIS’s plan to maintain control and crush its remaining opposition.


Previous presence in Mosul

Since August of 2013, ISIS has carried out precisely targeted assassinations in Mosul against government employees, particularly Sunnis, members of the Iraqi Army (IA), Iraqi Police (IP), and Sahwa (“Awakening” members that work with the government), as well as against tribal leaders and religious figures. ISIS also launched small-scale attacks on civilians using Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and small-to-medium arms during the same time period. The strategy at this point was for ISIS to conduct enough attacks to generate fear and undermine public confidence in Iraqi Security Forces’ (ISF) ability to provide security. ISIS simultaneously worked to cut off Mosul from Baghdad by targeting ISF along the northern portion of the Mosul-Baghdad highway in Sharqat, Shura, and Qayara in early August 2013. The fighting force that was present in Mosul prior to June 10thwas also responsible for the extortion of businessmen and others who appeared to be wealthy enough to pay for “protection money.” Before ISIS took full control of Mosul, the commander of Ninewa Operations Command (NOC), Lieutenant General Mahdi Gharrawi, said that the Second Infantry Division arrested eighteen “terror” suspects some of whom belong to ISIS and were responsible for collecting “royalties” from Mosul residents. During this time period ISIS effectively drove a wedge between the ISF and Mosul’s inhabitants.

Response of Mosul Citizenry

Chaos Triumphant: Libya Coming Apart at the Seams

Kareem Fahim
New York Times
July 28, 2014

Still Torn by Factional Fighting, Post-Revolt Libya Is Coming Undone

Black plumes of smoke on Saturday after clashes among militants, former rebel fighters and government forces in Benghazi. Credit Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters

CAIRO — For weeks, rival Libyan militias had been pounding one another’s positions with artillery, mortar rounds and rockets in a desperate fight to control the international airport in the capital, Tripoli. Then suddenly, early Saturday morning, the fighting just stopped.

The pause came as United States military warplanes circled overhead, providing air cover for a predawn evacuation of the American Embassy’s staff. Apparently fearing the planes, the militias held their fire just long enough for the ambassador and her staff to reach the Tunisian border — a reminder to Libyans of how even their most powerful allies were incapable of putting out their incendiary feuds.

American officials said the evacuation was a temporary measure after fighting drew too close to the embassy. But, coming so soon after the withdrawal of other diplomatic missions, including the United Nations, the moment appeared to signal a defeat — for Libyans who had convinced themselves that the country would band together to save the revolution, and for the country’s Western allies, who sometimes acted as if Libya’s stability would take care of itself.

“No one in Libya can win,” said Mahmoud Okok, 33, a civil engineer who lived near the airport and the United States Embassy, and who abandoned his apartment because of the shelling. A cousin who also lived near the airport was killed when a rocket landed on his home. Now Mr. Okok was moving, with his wife and young son, overseas.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “I have lost hope in Libyans.”

Three years ago, the United States and its NATO allies used air power to propel the Libyan rebels to a sweeping victory over Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, bombing government troops so that rebels could advance on cities, and even the colonel himself, when he tried to flee.

But after the revolt, as Libya’s government struggled and violence spread, the Obama administration and its allies failed in their efforts to help Libyans achieve either democracy or security. Now, with diplomats escaping and neighborhoods becoming battlefields, Libyans have been left to wonder whether there is anyone left to broker the endless fights.

The country is coming undone. Relentless factional fighting in Tripoli and in the eastern city of Benghazi has left dozens of people dead. Well-known political activists have been killed, diplomats have been kidnapped, and ordinary citizens fear bandits on the roads.

Water and electricity shutdowns have become more frequent than at any time since the chaos after Colonel Qaddafi’s fall, and fuel has disappeared from Tripoli’s gas stations. On Sunday, several Western nations advised their citizens to leave immediately. Gunmen attacked a convoy of British diplomats.

Like Mr. Okok, many are leaving, mostly over land: The battle for the airport has left it a gutted symbol of a disintegrating state. Lost in the rubble of the airport was the sense of collective purpose that seemed to unite Libyans not so long ago, during the revolt.

“If you’re willing to destroy your airport — that idea of national sovereignty, that we’re all in this together, then the issue of national identity is simply not as important as everyone thought it would be,” said Dirk Vandewalle, an associate professor at Dartmouth College and an expert on Libya who has visited regularly since the revolution.

Everyone seems stunned at the ferocity of the country’s arguments: divisions of ideology and identity that mask deeper struggles, over authority and wealth. Violence that was once sporadic now seems impossible to stop. Libya’s fighters, evenly matched with apparently limitless supplies of weapons and ammunition, appear unlikely to stand down on their own.