5 August 2014

Will Modi-Obama Summit Succeed Despite the WTO Setback?

By TP Sreenivasan, Former Ambassador of India:
No one can be faulted for thinking that India-US relations has hit a historic low due to India's unique stand on the WTO food subsidy issue, that has annoyed America much. But TP Sreenivasan, former Ambassador of India, while writing exclusively for Seasonal Magazine, argues that neither WTO nor the nuclear liability act nor any other such issue would hinder the inevitable success of Modi-Obama summit scheduled in September. Sreenivasan is a noted foreign affairs expert, especially so in Indo-US relations. He served in Indian Foreign Service (IFS) in various roles during a 37 year old career, including as the Permanent Representative of India to the UN, as the Governor for India of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and as the Ambassador to Austria and Slovenia.
The only time I met Narendra Modi was in Washington, before he became the Chief Minister of Gujarat. His ambition to become the Prime Minister was not even a twinkle in his eye. I received him in my office and at my home for dinner the same evening. Those were the difficult days in India-US relations after our nuclear tests, but he shared his optimism about India-US relations with some of the World Bank officials he wanted to meet and the leaders of the Gujarati community, who were already his ardent admirers. He had no doubt that India and the US had much in common and that a partnership between the two countries was inevitable.
Sushma Swaraj had also visited Washington during my stint there and she had extensive contacts with the Indian community in the aftermath of the nuclear tests and she had stressed that the strains in India –US relations would disappear when the larger interests of the two nations came into play. Her optimism was based on her assessment of the evolving global situation at the end of the twentieth century.
Today, in positions of power to shape and conduct foreign policy, both Modi and Swaraj would naturally view India-US relations in the larger context of India's global interests and their immediate priorities. Having identified these in the early days of the Government, it is clear that the Modi Government will focus on extending and deepening relations with the United States. With foreign direct investment, strengthening of India's security and liberalization for the sake of "skill, speed and size" of the Indian economy as priorities, the US should be his prime destination and strategic partner.

The fact that the US has not been one of Modi's early destinations is partly by accident and partly because of the present state of relations, which he has inherited. Showing over-enthusiasm for the US is not fashionable for any political leader in India. When the then Prime Minister Inder Gujral decided to change his schedule of visit to New York to accommodate a meeting with Bill Clinton, he travelled via Africa for cosmetic reasons. Bhutan, Brazil, Nepal and Japan have both symbolic and substantive meaning. Meeting Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping before Obama, though by chance, gave a hint of his other options. Japan occupies a special place in Modi's global calculations.

The trough in relations that Modi has inherited is deep, but there is reason to believe that the relations will be on the upswing after the Modi-Obama summit. Neither the visa issue, nor the Devyani Khobragade fiasco will stand in the way. Even more substantial issues like WTO, the nuclear liability act, India-China relations, Ukraine, NSA snooping of BJP and the demand for further liberalization of the Indian market will not be insurmountable in the face of geopolitical and economic compulsions on both sides. The recent visit of Secretary of State John Kerry and the strategic dialogue have set the stage for a remarkable recovery, for which the credit must go to the principals. It would have been impolitic for Kerry and Swaraj to steal the thunder of their masters.

In one masterstroke, Kerry solved the highly emotive issue of the denial of visa by dismissing it as a decision taken by a previous Government, thus distancing Obama from any "Modiphobia".  Modi himself had never played it up as an impediment and now it has become a non-issue. The snooping issue was similarly dealt with in a forthright manner, with Swaraj insisting that it was not acceptable and Kerry giving assurances of non-intervention without discussing intelligence matters. Swaraj did not provide any alibi for the US in the name of ant-terrorism measures, as her predecessor did on an earlier occasion.

Kerrry may have hastened to visit India to see whether he could persuade India not to block the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement without reaching a permanent solution to the problems relating to food security in India. The strong message he got from the Indian Prime Minister himself may have disappointed him, but this was not entirely unexpected, as Modi is known to stick to his positions. But the unjustness of the insistence that the minimum support price for food grains should be only 10% more annually over the 1986-88 prices is evident. By speaking for the poor of India on this issue, Modi also tried to remove the impression that his Government was only for the corporate world.

This is not the first time that India has stood against a global consensus in order to protect its vital interests. The celebrated cases of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) show that bilateral relations would not be held hostage to our positions on the multilateral stage. The majority may employ its own devices to isolate India, but it will not hurt bilateral relations. The India-US nuclear deal is an example of a bilateral arrangement overcoming the disagreements in multilateral treaties.

The intractable nuclear liability act was a device used by the opposition in India, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to nullify the nuclear deal. The lawyers on both sides have not yet found a way to facilitate nuclear trade without amending the liability act. The grievance is clearly on the US side since the expectation of commercial deals of billions of dollars worth of reactors and nuclear material did not fructify. India, on its part, has designated sites and asked the Nuclear Power Corporation Ltd (NPCL) to get the preliminary work done with the US companies. It is believed that a lack of agreement on this issue would jeopardize bilateral relations.

Although the US Government has made this issue a litmus test of India's bona fides with regard to the nuclear deal, Obama may not, in his heart of hearts, consider it an obstacle to working with Modi. As a senior White House official told me in 2009, Obama will not be particularly unhappy if there is no nuclear trade with India because it goes against his own conviction that the US should not contribute to India's nuclear capability. The real reward he will seek is the massive arms deals under the agreement signed by Pranab Mukherjee, ahead of the nuclear deal. The key to a solution will be found when Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visits India shortly to seek more arms deals. Modi has emphasized the need for self-reliance in defense, but that is more a dream than a reality and it is possible that the US will bag defense contracts, which will be large enough to compensate for the loss of nuclear trade. The increase in foreign direct investment in the defense sector will be music to the American ears and the clamor against the nuclear liability bill will subside. The announcement of the India-US-Japan joint exercise in the Indian Ocean has already cheered up the Americans.

Would Modi's warming up to China, particularly in economic matters, and his affinity to China in the context of Asia's economic growth be an irritant in India-US relations? Would the BRICS Bank be seen as a challenge to the Bretton Woods institutions? These would definitely come up in Washington, but neither of these developments would match the mammoth Chinese involvement in the US economy. Obama is aware of the built-in distrust between India and China and the exploitative nature of China's trade with India. The massive Chinese investments expected in Indian infrastructure and other sectors may well turn out to be a pipe dream. The Chinese challenge may act as an incentive for the US to be more sensitive to India's aspirations.

While Modi has tried to moderate India's position on Palestine to gladden the hearts of the US and Israel, he has shown no such enthusiasm in the case of Ukraine, where the US and the European Union is engaged in a struggle with Russia. He was more than friendly with Vladimir Putin in Brazil and he declared eternal friendship with Russia. But as long as these declarations have no substance on the ground, the Americans will take them in their stride.

John Kerry may have accomplished little during his visit, but the Joint Statement is a veritable list of the components of a strategic relationship in the making. The list includes counter terrorism, India's entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and related bodies, appreciation of the ratification of the Additional Protocol, space and nuclear cooperation, foreign investment climate in India, cooperation in Afghanistan, call for action against the Mumbai attackers in Pakistan, unity and integrity of Iraq, Violence in Gaza and Israel, UN Security Council reform and even capacity building in half a dozen African countries. They reflect the lowest common denominators in each of these issues, but they underline the potential for a truly strategic relationship, once the chemistry between Modi and Obama begins to work at the summit and dynamism is generated.

Modi and Obama are seen as men of destiny in their respective nations and both are determined to succeed. Obama is under extra pressure to contribute to his legacy, while Modi can ill afford to start on the wrong foot with the United States. Success is, therefore, imperative and inevitable when the two meet in Washington in the balmy September weather.

 Posted by  Seasonal Magazine

India’s objections at WTO valid Trade Facilitation Agreement tilts towards rich countries

INDIA'S stand at the WTO negotiations on signing up the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) may have greatly disappointed the US and during his recent visit to New Delhi, US Secretary of State John Kerry said so. The WTO was established in 1995 under the Marrakech Agreement and replaced the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) that began in 1948 in Geneva.
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo (centre) and delegates at a meeting in Geneva on July 31, 2014. AFP

While the logic behind setting up the WTO was to lay down rules of trade between nations, its main proponents — the US and the EU — wanted greater access to the markets of developing countries. The setting up of a ‘rule book’ unfortunately has been sabotaged by India but with perhaps good reasons. The WTO has claimed that with the TFA signed, there would be a big gain of $1 trillion for the world economy and 21 million jobs would be created — around 18 million jobs in developing countries. How such figures have been arrived at is not very clear.

India has been objecting to the TFA on the ground that it has to stockpile food grains to provide food for the very poor at lower-than-market prices. It also has to give production subsidies to poor farmers. In Bali in December 2013, it was agreed by the EU and the US that India could go ahead and stockpile food procured at subsidised prices and no legal actions or sanctions would be imposed on it till 2017 by which time a solution would have to be worked out.

The Modi government has rightly disagreed to sign the TFA on the ground that the 2017 deadline is too short a time for undertaking any significant adjustment. Basically, the whole TFA is tilted towards the rich countries and private sector traders.

India's food security law binds the government to provide food to its vulnerable and poor population. In order to do so, it buys grains from farmers at minimum support prices. The US and others argue that since India buys food grains from Indian farmers at administered prices, which are above market prices, it leads to a trade distorting agricultural subsidy

Published: August 5, 2014 

A European war, fought by IndiaShashank Joshi

If World War I resonates in such a weak, confused, and even negative way with Europeans, it is little wonder that young Africans or Indians see even smaller stakes in this year’s centenary ceremonies. This is why it is crucial to understand the war’s global scope and the role played by the British Empire and Commonwealth

Did you know that India fought against Britain in the First World War? That, at least, is the belief of over a quarter of Indians, according to a British Council survey earlier this year. It is no consolation that the situation is little better in Europe. Two years ago, another survey showed that over half of Britons didn’t know whether India had contributed over 1,000 troops. This might be a forgivable gap in knowledge, if the real figure were not well over a million.

As Commonwealth heads of state in Glasgow commemorated the First World War centenary on Monday, many in the nations of the Commonwealth — India above all — will therefore wonder why they should care about, much less commemorate, a war fought largely in Europe, led by European politicians, commanded by European officers, and resolved to the benefit of engorged European empires.War’s legacy

This uninterest is understandable. Even at home, in the war’s European locales, we are separated from its horrors not just by the chasm of multiple generations — the war’s last veteran, Florence Green, died in February 2012 at the age of 110 — but also a growing cultural gap. In a nation of immigrants, increasing numbers of children have grown up without the childhood visits to memorial-strewn French villages or classroom recitation of the war poets that were once ubiquitous. No surprise, then, that a survey in 2012 found that fewer than half of Britons aged 16 to 24 could identify the year that the war broke out.

The war’s legacy has also grown more complicated, as evidenced in the United Kingdom by last year’s political skirmishing among politicians and historians. The (now former) British Education Minister, Michael Gove, attacked the left-wing narrative of a cruel and futile war prosecuted by feckless generals. He argued, instead, “those who fought were not dupes but conscious believers in king and country, committed to defending the western liberal order.” Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, agreed, insisting, “German militarism was at the root of the First World War.”

Don’t lose hope just yet


Aug 05, 2014
There are two ways to bring the banks within the prescribed stress levels. The first is to increase the capital base of the banks. The other way to dress up the banks’ financials is to increase its deposit base.

The weeds of the old polity have begun to blight the crop sowed with great expectations. Two months after the Modi government was installed in Delhi, a widespread feeling has begun to creep in, and that too mostly among the believers, that the regime has lost its way.

The nature and direction of the first Modi-Jaitely Budget only served to accentuate that feeling. With August 15 nearing and Prime Minister Narendra Modi set to make his first Independence Day speech to the country, there is a buzz in Delhi that with the nation’s attention fully focused on him, Mr Modi will make some big announcements to signal major reforms and directional shifts.

The issue that is being talked about openly is a major initiative on greater financial inclusion. The first phase of this plan would be to bring in an additional 75 million households into the banking system. At present, India has about 310 million bank accounts.
According to the Census data, of a total of 192 million households in the country only 68 million households, about 35.5 per cent, avail of banking services. Of the 35 states and Union Territories covered, only eight reported that banking services were available to more than half its households.

There are some surprises here as well. Tamil Nadu, which has the highest credit/deposit ratio in the country, has a penetration ratio of just 22.8 per cent. While Bihar, which has the lowest credit/deposit ratio, has a penetration ratio of 21.3 per cent. India’s wealthiest state, Delhi, has coverage lower than that of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Relatively prosperous states like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka have a penetration rate of less than half. Clearly there is scope to do much better. Given this state of affairs, the target of 75 million is a huge effort.

**** Dabiq: What Islamic State’s New Magazine Tells Us about Their Strategic Direction, Recruitment Patterns and Guerrilla Doctrine

August 1, 2014 

Dabiq Magazine (Source: Twitter user @umOmar246)
Executive Summary

On the first day of Ramadan (June 28), the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) declared itself the new Islamic State and the new Caliphate (Khilafah). For the occasion, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, calling himself Caliph Ibrahim, broke with his customary secrecy to give a surprise khutbah (sermon) in Mosul before being rushed back into hiding. Al-Baghdadi’s khutbah addressed what to expect from the Islamic State. The publication of the first issue of the Islamic State’s official magazine, Dabiq, went into further detail about the Islamic State’s strategic direction, recruitment methods, political-military strategy, tribal alliances and why Saudi Arabia’s concerns that the Kingdom may be the Islamic State’s next target are well-founded.

Published in several European languages, including English, the magazine has a number of purposes. The first is to call on Muslims to come help the new caliph. Next, the magazine, comprising 50 vivid pages of color pictures, illustrations and artfully crafted text, tells the story of the Islamic State’s success in gaining the support of Syrian tribes, reports on the success of its recent military operations and graphically portrays the atrocities committed by its enemies, as well as vivid pictures of its own violence against Shi’ites. The premier issue also used classic Islamic texts to explain and justify the nature of the caliphate, its intentions, legitimacy and political and religious authority over all Muslims. Throughout its carefully constructed allusions, the magazine subtly appeals to the followers of other jihadist groups including the followers of the Islamic State’s foremost jihadist critics and potential followers in the Arabian Peninsula.

Another important purpose of Dabiq in the service of recruitment is to establish the Islamic State’s cosmic destiny by combining an eschatological account of coming battles gleaned from popular apocalyptic literature, the classical traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, prophecies and modern tactics taken from Salafi-Jihadist strategic literature. The strategic portion of this message is attributed to the original leader of the jihadist insurrection during the American occupation of Iraq, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi. Taken together this mix is intended to capture the imagination of young warriors and inspire them to come and fight for Islamic State. This presentation will not solve the array of challenges facing the Islamic State, but it probably will help attract more young adherents as well as prove that al-Baghdadi and his advisors have developed a serious plan. It is important for Western countries to appreciate the dangerous instability this new movement, despite its obvious flaws, is capable of generating if left to its own devices.


The hard part is just beginning for the Islamic State. Its predecessor ISIS swept across Sunni Iraq in a whirlwind of success it had prepared by using clandestine cells, terrorism and guerrilla tactics to harass, distract and exhaust the central government. In the north, the badly disorganized and dispirited Iraqi armed forces in Mosul panicked before the mere specter of ISIS shock troops. The tribes in the rest of the north became what Clausewitz referred to as the levee en masse (arming of the people) with ISIS suddenly in the lead role. Historically, the tribal leadership did not follow ISIS’ ideology, but the Islamic State now serves as the best organized and funded “enemy of my enemy” in both Iraq and Syria. It also has a windfall of money and arms to dispense to those willing to follow its lead.

In the long run the chips are stacked against the Islamic State. Hostile neighbors and other jihadists are determined to thwart its success; moreover, managing and governing territory requires a different skill set than conquering it. On the other hand, Islamic State guerrilla cadres and leadership have real world experience from both Iraq and Syria with sudden success followed by sudden failure. Its leaders’ ability to understand this reality and adapt to the challenges that are coming should not be underestimated, however. In addition to their own experience, the Islamic State's leaders are eclectically drawing on extensive Arabic literature on global jihadist theory of guerrilla war, politics and governance, such as the writings of Abu Bakr Naji and Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri. Thus, Islamic State leaders know they must learn the political game in this new environment and make use of the best practices in public relations, which have served them well despite the horrific violence they have inflicted on all those perceived as enemies.

Dabiq: Symbol of Armageddon

*** Terrorist armies fight smarter and deadlier than ever

By Robert H. Scales and Douglas Ollivant 
August 1, 2014
Masked Hamas supporters take part in a protest against against the Israeli offensive on Gaza strip, in the West Bank city of Nablus July 31, 2014. (Abed Omar Qusini/Reuters)

Robert H. Scales, a retired Army major general, is a former commandant of the U.S. Army War College. Douglas A. Ollivant is a fellow at the New America Foundation’s Future of War project. 

Military transformations can be hard to detect. They generally occur over decades, sometimes over generations. Soldiers are usually the first torecognize them, but for the perceptive, the signs of a sea change developing on today’s battlefields are there. Look carefully at media images of ground fighting across the Middle East, and you will notice that the bad guys are fighting differently than they have in the past. 

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the West confronted terrorists who acted like, well, terrorists. In Iraq and Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and other militant groups relied on ambushes, roadside bombings, sniper fire and the occasional “fire and run” mortar or rocket attack to inflict casualties on U.S. forces. 

When terrorists were stupid enough to come out of the shadows, they fought as a mob of individuals. One rip of a Kalashnikov or a single launch of a rocket-propelled grenade was enough. If they stood to reload, they risked annihilation at the hands of their disciplined, well-trained and heavily armed American opponents. 

Today, it’s different. We see Islamist fighters becoming skilled soldiers. The thrust of the Islamic State down the Euphrates River illustrates a style of warfare that melds old and new. U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq used to say: “Thank God they can’t shoot.” Well, now they can. They maneuver in reasonably disciplined formations, often aboard pickup trucks and captured Iraqi Humvees. They employ mortars and rockets in deadly barrages. To be sure, parts of the old terrorist playbook remain: They butcher and execute prisoners to make unambiguously clear the terrible consequences of resistance. They continue to display an eager willingness for death and themedia savvy of the “propaganda of the deed.” 

We see these newly formed pseudo-armies emerging across the Levant as well. The Darwinian process of wartime immersion has forced them to either get better or die. 

Some observers of the transformation admit that Hezbollah now is among the most skilled light infantry on the planet. And now there is Hamas. Gone are the loose and fleeting groups of fighters seen during Operation Cast Lead in 2008. In Gaza they have been fighting in well-organized, tightly bound teams under the authority of connected, well-informed commanders. Units stand and fight from building hideouts and tunnel entrances. They wait for the Israelis to pass by before ambushing them from the rear. Like Hezbollah and the Islamic State, they are getting good with second-generation weapons such as the Russian RPG-29 and, according to as-yet-unconfirmed reports from the fighting in Gaza, wire-guided anti-tank missiles. 

These fighters are now well-armed, well-trained and well-led and are often flush with cash to buy or bribe their way out of difficulties. While the story of the disintegration of the Iraqi army is multi-causal, the fact that it was never trained to face such an opponent as competent as the Islamic State was certainly a factor. 

This frightening new age is emerging due to several factors that neither the United States nor Israeli forces anticipated. First is the influence of foreign fighters. Iranian advisers throughout the Middle East are getting better at their craft. Radicalized fighters from the Chechen and Bosnian conflicts serve Islamic State forces as mentors. The terrorists of the last decade generated one-shot suicide bombers of little strategic consequence. Now they have learned to build fighting units and teach weapons and tactics very well. 


This is an article in our first “Non Navies” Series.

Nearly six years ago, Pakistani terrorists from Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT, meaning Army of the Righteous) launched a sophisticated raid on the Indian port of Mumbai. Ten LeT operatives held the city captive from 26-29 November 2008, killing 164 people and injuring more than 300 others. Fascinating in its counterterrorism aspects, the Mumbai attack is particularly noteworthy for those of us in maritime professions because of how they got there: by sea. LeT highlighted in detail how an irregular organization can circumvent landward control measures by turning to the maritime environment.

A pre-26/11 U.S. Department of State fact sheet on Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Violent extremist organizations (VEOs) such as LeT succeed in irregular warfare by going where government authority is absent or insufficient. The Indo-Pak coast is no exception. The expansive region has supported the livelihood of fishermen and merchants for centuries, making it a permeable environment where minimal government presence was (and remains) tolerant of transient craft. Such an environment offers myriad advantages compared to overland routes where government checkpoints and patrols are far more rigorous. VEOs continue to pursue these overland routes for infiltration or smuggling, but LeT minimized the chance of their high-stakes attack being interdicted by Indian authorities when they chose to come by sea.

The raid itself wasn’t the first iteration of LeT’s maritime infiltration. For example, in late-2006/ early-2007 eight operatives rendezvoused at sea with Indian LeT members aboard an unidentified fishing vessel and returned with them to reconnoiter Mumbai. This gave them ample opportunity to assess the coastal pattern of life, including security presence and traffic density, as well as to gather imagery of everything from landing sites to target location from the perspective of the raiding party. Once ashore they split into two-man teams, just as the raiding party would do, observing the area by travelling from safehouse to safehouse. They were not discovered during the seaborne infiltration nor during the reconnaissance of Mumbai. However, two of the eight were arrested in March 2007 by the Jammu & Kashmir police (Jammu & Kashmir being a state in northern India). During interrogation the two suspects gave specific information about their infiltration of Mumbai as well as LeT’s desire to use the sea as a routine ingress. Neither this shot-across-the-bow nor corroborating intelligence provided by U.S. and Indian agencies proved sufficient to energize India’s maritime security agencies.

After more than a year of training on the Mangla Dam reservoir in Kashmir, the raiding party departed Karachi on 21 November 2008 aboard motor vessel HUSSEINI. They spotted the Indian fishing vessel KUBER two days later in Pakistani waters. Though their plan had been to hijack a Mumbai-based craft in Indian waters, KUBER’s Indian registry enticed them to seize it as an early opportunity. They were able to come alongside, possibly by feigning distress, and quickly commandeeredthe fishing boat. The raiding party embarked KUBER and transferred all of her crew except the master to HUSSEINI. The raiders started towards Mumbai after the equipment was moved aboard and HUSSEINIreturned to Karachi. The four fishermen taken from KUBER were executed, their bodies left adrift on the sea.

Four weaknesses India needs to overcome to build a strong foreign policy

Jul 31, 2014

This weekend Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Nepal on his third foreign trip in ten weeks. By the end of September he will also have taken in Japan and the United States. Looming large on his itinerary will be China, which he visited four times as Gujarat's chief minister in his quest for investments. On his last trip to China he went armed with red business cards bearing his name in Chinese and played a key role in securing the early release of several Indian prisoners, mostly Gujaratis, accused of smuggling diamonds, and lighter sentences for the others.
Modi's early visits as prime minister to Bhutan and Nepal and his overtures to Bangladesh are part of a careful strategy, not unlike in the Chinese game of Go, to gain elbow room in a neighbourhood that Beijing has worked hard to coopt. That is why India is stepping so carefully on issues like Chinese violations of the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, or the runways and military infrastructure that China has apparently built on Myanmar's Coco Islands, adjacent to the Andamans. After all it was George Fernandes, defence minister in the Atal Behari Vajpayee cabinet, who said in May 1998 that China was encircling India with access to ports and surveillance posts in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar. Fernandes said China posed a greater threat to India than Pakistan. That was just eight days before India detonated three nuclear devices at Pokharan, stunning the world and sending a clear message to the P5 - the nuclear-armed permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

There is a discernible quickening of pace in China's courtship of Modi.

Vice-President Hamid Ansari travelled to Beijing at the end of June for the 60th anniversary anniversary of the Panchsheel Treaty (violated just eight years after it was signed when China fought a brief war with India) and met both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. Xi told Modi when they met at the BRICS summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, in mid-July that the neighbours were strategic partners and not rivals.

Significantly, Xi urged progress on the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor. It is not surprising that despite his campaign noise on illegal immigration from Bangladesh, Modi was quick to despatch Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj to Dhaka for early talks, and India responded very mildly when a U.N. tribunal awarded Bangladesh with nearly 20,000 sq km of territorial seawater in the Bay of Bengal in early July.

At the same time, Modi is savvy enough to know that relations with Washington and Tokyo are key counterweights to Beijing. On Wednesday, US, Indian and Japanese warships completed a week of the annual Malabar maritime exercises in the Western Pacific. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been eager to welcome Modi to Tokyo in pursuit of his 'confluence of two oceans' theory where India keeps a sharp eye on the Indian Ocean and Japan on the Pacific. And it is no coincidence that US Secretary of State John Kerry and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker are in Delhi for the fifth US-India Strategic Dialogue today - July 31 is also the deadline for global trade talks in Geneva that a newly stubborn India is threatening to scuttle.

The trade facilitation agreement brokered by the World Trade Organization in Bali last year is seen by the Modi administration as hobbling India's freedom to subsidise its farmers through minimum support prices - a policy that has built abundant food stockpiles. India is the lone holdout at the Geneva talks, and if it caves in, the Bharatiya Janata Party is bound to pay a steep price in rural votes in key states like Maharashtra and the Hindi belt. If the Geneva talks collapse, India could face isolation in other trade forums. Undaunted, Modi's government has also put on hold the field trials for 13 genetically modified crops.

The BJP government's foreign policy and ideology intersect in interesting patterns with realpolitik and national interest. To look outward more confidently, we have to overcome four weaknesses. One, despite its size and growing influence India has one of the world's smallest corps of diplomats; we need more envoys and less politesse. Two, for nearly all of the UPA's decade in power we had to suffer a string of vapid and decorative foreign ministers who pushed a spineless agenda; we need to see and hear Sushma Swaraj more. Three, we cannot seem to decide whether it is time to give our non-aligned fence-sitting a deep, deep burial - we should. And four, we have toyed with but shied away from projecting ourselves as a muscular regional power armed with nuclear weapons and a blue-sea navy; we need to stop being a tentative sparring partner to more aggressive pugilists. By the time he meets President Barack Obama at the end of September, Modi will have demonstrated that he will keep his friends close, and his enemies closer still. That is how it should be.

John Kerry Just Visited. But Should We Just Forget About India?

Here’s how bad things are between Washington and New Delhi these days: It’s news that Kerry even made the trip. Why this reluctant partnership might be best left to wither.

So low is the bar in U.S.-India relations right now that the best thing that can be said about John Kerry’s two-day hop-over to New Delhi was that he went there at all. A relationship that burst into true blossom under George W. Bush, one that held for many Americans the promise of a mold-breaking alliance for the 21st century, lies shabbily dormant. Indeed, the only memorable episode in Kerry’s visit was his scolding by India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, for the NSA’s spying on her political party.
Should America care? India has little or nothing to contribute to American efforts to tackle the crises in Gaza, Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq. It is a reluctant partner, at best, in Washington’s efforts to rein in Iran and will have no truck with the West in any showdown with Vladimir Putin and Russia. Its incessant push for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council, while understandable for a country that is the world’s second-most populous, isn’t exactly in America’s interests: New Delhi and Washington frequently find themselves on different sides of votes on U.N. resolutions.
The two countries converge in their legitimate fears of Chinese aggression and expansion in Asia, but even here, India has been loath to embrace any formal alliance that would act as a check on Beijing, for fear of provoking the Chinese into military incursions into Indian territory that New Delhi is shamefully unprepared to counter. Besides, in recent weeks, India has been party to the setting up of a BRICS Bank, with Brazil, Russia, China, and South Africa. This institution was conceived as a way to break America’s global financial hegemony—a word beloved in bureaucratic Delhi, where America is still regarded with a suspicion that is as potent as it is irrational. The BRICS Bank looks, for all its founding rhetoric, like a platform for Chinese hegemony instead. Once more, China appears to have taken India for a ride. But that is another story.
India offers America nothing of concrete strategic value that Washington cannot, currently, live without. Not only does it balk at an alliance of any kind, its political and intellectual elites are wedded still to nonalignment, that antediluvian credo from the years of the Cold War. Intellectual worthies in New Delhi have cooked up something called “Non-alignment 2.0,” by which “India must remain true to its aspiration of creating a new and alternative universality.” For those masochists who want to acquaint themselves better with this Cold War mummy come to life, I suggest a visit to this website. It will swiftly become clear that there is no room in this starry-eyed arrangement for a compact with Washington.

America gets neither strategic comfort nor a fair economic opportunity from India. Perhaps it’s time for Washington to shrug its shoulders and move on. Forget matters strategic, you may say; banish from your head all thoughts of a military or security handshake. What about economics? Doesn’t India matter to America as a market, a place for wise and profitable investment? Here again, Americans must resign themselves, for the moment, to disappointment.
For all Narendra Modi’s free-market rhetoric in the run-up to the elections, for all the assurances given to investors in back rooms, he has offered scant evidence, in his two months in power, of being the man who will shake up the Indian economy and make his country a more rational place in which to do business. His national budget was only marginally less squishy and Fabian than other, recent Indian budgets, and Thursday’s capricious scuttling by India of a World Trade Organization deal that would have vastly streamlined the global trade system calls into question Modi’s professed ardor for free trade.
American private enterprise has always tread cautiously in India, and there is every indication that it will have to continue to tiptoe its way through, around, and over the cactus grove of Indian regulations. The job of the Obama administration (and that of a likely Hillary administration) will be to persuade India to change its ways. That will be immensely difficult if Mr. Modi continues to backtrack on economic reform. (Why is he doing so? Is it his belief that, having won an emphatic but contentious election, he needs to “buy” social harmony by embracing the sops and subsidies he inherited from the previous quasi-socialist government of Manmohan Singh?)
So, as things stand, America gets neither strategic comfort nor a fair economic opportunity from India. Perhaps it’s time for Washington to shrug its shoulders and move on, leaving a warmer relationship with India to a time when Indians have made up their muddled minds about the kind of country theirs is—or ought to be. - See more at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/03/john-kerry-just-visited-but-should-we-just-forget-about-india.html#sthash.Lqinhgtn.dpuf

Russia’s Strategic Pakistan Play

By Saurav Jha
July 31, 2014

It decision to end its embargo on weapons sales to Pakistan could have multiple benefits for Moscow. 
Russia’s decision to go ahead with the sale of Mi-35 attack helicopters to Pakistan, even in the face of official Indian concerns, is being seen by some quarters as evidence of a “major” regional re-alignment in the wake of the American drawdown in Afghanistan.

In fact, the Russia-Pakistan dialogue for regional integration has been underway for some time now and beyond security cooperation, it is more fundamentally driven by Moscow’s push towards ‘southern” markets and Pakistan’s need for a capable yet politically “manageable” strategic sector trade and investment partner. The Mi-35 sale (if it does materialize) reflects the fact that the geo-economic stakes for both sides are now high enough for them to make a concerted push towards a long term compartmentalized working relationship in a manner not dissimilar to the way in which their more traditional partners – India for Russia and America for Pakistan – deal with each other. Indeed, in a world characterized by both competition and cooperation the heady rhetoric of “strategic partnership” means little and it is the transactional content that weighs on any relationship. Far more than cooperation in counter-terrorism, Russia and Pakistan will have to move forward quickly on Putin’s commitment to invest in the latter’s energy and metallurgy sectors for their relationship to be meaningful.

It could be argued that it was actually America’s entry into the region a decade ago that ultimately accentuated the circumstances that impel Russia and Pakistan closer to each other. Pakistan’s counter-terrorism cooperation with America salved with military aid has been toxic for domestic stability, as the situation in FATA andWaziristan reveal. As the tempo of internal stability operations has increased, Pakistan is keen to diversify away from America for certain classes of weaponry to a source that can supply cheaper and more rugged alternatives with a much smaller political price on the domestic front. The Mi-35 fits that bill and is likely to prove useful for Pakistani operations against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in mountainous areas, given its pedigree from the Afghan theater. At the moment Pakistan is using AH-1 Cobra Gunships that were originally obtained from America for use against Indian armoured formations in the plains and are proving expensive to use in operations against the TTP. Pakistan may not wish to be saddled with too much expensive American equipment that it can”t afford without generous aid.


This is an article in our first “Non Navies” Series.

Historically, weapons disparities with conventional forces has driven terrorists, insurgents, and other non-state actors towards asymmetric fighting tactics. But as with most long term trends, arms gaps tend to be cyclical as each side’s relative combat power waxes and wanes. For example, pirates in the 19th Century used pretty much the same artillery as their naval counterparts, albeit on smaller ships. Now, pirates relying on small arms and skiffs are countered by an international armada of heavily armed frigates and destroyers. The suicide improvised explosive boat attack on USS Cole was another example of David versus Goliath tactics. In the realm of Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) though, we are witnessing an upswing in the conventional capabilities of non-state actors. The mix of regular and irregular tactics is sometimes referred to as hybrid warfare. The proliferation of modern precision-guided weaponry is once again changing the balance of lethality between state navies and para-naval forces. Regardless of whether these weapons are acquired from state sponsors or captured on the battlefield, the threat posed to regular naval forces is similar. As demonstrated in recent air and ground engagements, non-state actors can field weapons on par with their conventional counterparts. Ukrainian separatists with Soviet-era SA-11 missiles shoot down jet fighter (and civilian!) aircraft and Islamic terrorists in Iraq destroy American-made main battle tanks with advanced Russian-supplied Kornet missiles. Advances in non-state naval weaponry are a natural evolution of these trends.

With a rash of recent fighting in the Levant and the potential for Western Naval intervention in various forms, it’s worth taking a look at the sea denial capabilities of one of the region’s more potent non-state actors, Lebanese Hezbollah (LH). However one wants to characterize LH – shadow government, proto-state, or simply non-state actor – their ability to contest the littorals in the Eastern Mediterranean has grown tremendously in the past decade. Despite a number of interdictions by Israeli Defense Forces – some high profile and others intentionally less so – a nearly constant pipeline of increasingly advanced Syrian and Iranian weapons has resupplied LH by air, ground, and sea. The most noteworthy display of LH’s A2AD network was the C-802 missile attack on INS Hanit in 2006. Subsequent to that engagement, LH’s anti-ship cruise missile inventory has advanced significantly. Among these stockpiles is the supersonic 300 km range P-800 Yakhont. LH possibly acquired 12 P-800s from Syria, who received a shipment of 72 missiles and 36 launcher vehicles from Russia in 2011. Over-the-horizon weapons are important, but without an adequate targeting mechanism, they are more of an indiscriminate terror weapon than a precision A2/AD tool. A variety of means exists to target enemy ships, to include the surface search radar systems normally accompanying the missile batteries. More crudely, third-party cueing could be provided by simple fishing vessels or UAVs. Since at least the early 2000s, LH has flown mostly Iranian-manufactured Mohajer-4 unmanned aerial vehicles over Israel along with over-water transits.
The Yakhont ship killer

Beyond Sanctions: What's the West's Strategy on Russia?

August 2, 2014

Western sanctions against Russia appear to have a fairly narrow, tangible goal: to punish Moscow for supporting pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. But to what end? Sanctions need to reinforce a wider strategy designed to change Moscow's behavior so that it starts respecting the sovereignty of all post-Soviet states.

Ukraine is just the latest example in a long series of attempts by Russia to control its neighborhood and to reduce the sovereignty of countries that were controlled by Moscow in Soviet times. The conflict did not start in Ukraine, and it will not end there. The tensions that have erupted in Ukraine will subside only if Russia finally understands that it can have a prosperous future as a nation-state alongside others when it respects the rules of the post-World War II and post-Cold War international system.

Changing Russia's Behavior

The West's larger strategic goal must be to change Russian behavior in the post-Soviet space, including Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus, and elsewhere. Russia needs to accept that principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty apply to all members of the United Nations, not only the powerful ones.

In the society of states designed by the UN charter in 1945, sovereignty depends on the mutual recognition of states as equals. This is also one of the principles of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, which the Soviet Union signed and now binds Russia as its successor state. In a wider sense, Russia must accept that the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 is definitive, and that there is no way back to the times of empire.

Bhutan and the Great Power Tussle

By Brian Benedictus
August 02, 2014

Both China and India recognize Bhutan’s strategic value, but their approaches are very different. 

At first glance, the Kingdom of Bhutan would not seem to be a country that would factor heavily in the calculus of regional powers. With a land mass smaller than that of the Dominican Republic and with fewer people than Fiji, this landlocked Himalayan country has nonetheless become increasingly important strategically to both New Delhi and Beijing. The reason for this interest is not untapped mineral riches or a large consumer class, but Bhutan’s geographical location. As the Kingdom has only in recent years begun to open itself up to the outside world (only legalizing television and the internet in 1999 ), it finds itself caught up in a discreet but high stakes diplomatic battle being waged between India and China.

The centerpiece of this issue is territory. Between China and Bhutan there are three territorial areas of dispute: The Jakarlung and Pasamlung valleys on the Bhutan-Chinese north-central border, and the Doklam plateau in Eastern Bhutan. While the two territories to the north are of interest to China due to their proximity to Tibet, as well as what it perceives as its “historic claims” to the areas, the Doklam Plateau is what it covets most. That claim is of grave concern to New Delhi. India’s Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) aptly describes the strategic value of the region:

“The Doklam Plateau lies immediately east of Indian defences in Sikkim. Chinese occupation of Doklam would turn the flank of Indian defences completely. This piece of dominating ground not only has a commanding view of the Chumbi Valley but also overlooks the Silguri Corridor further to the east.”

The Silguri Corridor (described by some analysts as a “Chicken’s Neck”) is a narrow stretch of land that connects India’s northeastern states to the rest of India. If the Chinese were to gain possession of the Doklam plateau, in the event of hostilities it would have the ability to essentially “cut-off” India’s land access to 40 million citizens in its northeast territories. In 1996, China was believed to have come close to acquiring the plateau; as it was willing to renounce 495 square kilometers of territorial claims in the northern valleys in exchange for the 269 square kilometers that constitute much of the Doklam plateau. The likelihood of such an agreement being finalized in the near future is slim, as the area is the constituency of Bhutan’s current Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay.

India does maintain an advantage over China in that it has a deep and long-standing relationship with Bhutan, giving it a wide array of diplomatic options. In 1949, The Treaty of Friendship Between India and Bhutan was signed. Article 2 states that ”On its part the Government of Bhutan agrees to be guided by the advice of the Government of India in regard to external relations.” India was Bhutan’s primary force in foreign affairs until 2007, when the treaty was altered during Bhutan’s transition from an absolute monarchy to a parliamentary government, and the clause that provided India’s guidance on external affairs was not retained. Judging by recent visits of Indian officials to Thimpu, however, it would appear that India still expects to play a significant role in shaping Bhutan’s decision-making process in sensitive areas of its foreign affairs. On August 9 last year, it was reported by the media in Bhutan that then Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh came to Bhutan to “congratulate the new Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay on assuming the office.” It is also likely that the primary purpose of their visit was to brief the new prime minister on Bhutan’s upcoming talks with China over territorial disputes that were to take place in two weeks later.


August 3, 2014 · 

But, with some 200 Palestinian children killed by Israeli strikes, the “cost” of this endeavor is very high.

 state television late Friday, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, leader of Israel’s oldest and most implacable foe, called the Hamas-Israel war in Gaza a “collective massacre” caused by Hamas.

It is just the latest signal in a tectonic shift in Middle East geopolitics that has been largely overlooked by Western media seemingly still committed to building upon its decades-old narrative that Israel remains the united enemy of the Arab world.

In the 75 year history of conflict between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East, no state has been more consistently intransigent against the very notion of a sovereign Jewish presence in the region than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, founded by Abdullah’s grandfather, Ibn Saud, in 1923.

Just weeks ago, before Hamas’ current war against Israel, it would have unthinkable to suggest that a Saudi King would even hint that any entity other than Israel bore any responsibilities for actions perceived as harmful to Palestinians.

Abdullah’s statement, read by a news anchor on behalf of the ailing 90-year old Monarch, that the violence in Gaza has led to “various forms” of terrorism, whether from groups, organizations, or states, is seen in the Middle East and Arab states as a flat-out repudiation of Hamas.

Perhaps even more remarkable, while King Abdullah condemned the consequences of a war he termed “devastating” to Palestinians, he issued no demands upon Israel.

As has been pointed out numerous times by Breitbart contributors, Saudi Arabia’s now open disavowal of any common cause with Hamas reinforces an emerging and wholly improbable new alliance uniting every Arab state save Qatar together with Israel and against the United States.

As remarkable as was King Abdullah’s statement by itself, it pales in comparison with the transformation of the relationship between Egypt and Israel. From cold no-belligerents under President Mubarak, to near antagonists under the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Morsi, today Israel and Egypt are tightly cleaved military allies.

In the harshest words ever used by a Saudi King to condemn any Palestinian “resistance” to what is routinely called “Zionist aggression,” King Abdullah’s statement said, “It is shameful and disgraceful that these terrorists are doing this in the name of religion, killing the people whose killing Allah has forbidden, and mutilating their bodies and feeling proud in publishing this.”

The king went on to say of Hamas’ war against Israel, “They have distorted the image of Islam with its purity and humanity and smeared it with all sorts of bad qualities by their actions, injustice and crimes.”

Unlike President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, the guardian of Islam’s holy places and thus the putative leader of the entire Muslim world, King Abdullah did not call upon Israel to meet any Hamas demands. He made no calls for “opening up border passages” between Gaza and Israel/Egypt– thought by many to be the primary strategic objective of Hamas’ war.

He issued no demands that Hamas be permitted to build a seaport, let alone that Israel and Egypt be required to help fund it. Nor did he petition Israel or the Palestinian Authority to resume cash payments to the more than 44,000 Hamas “civil servants” in Gaza rendered jobless as a result of the recent PA-Hamas unity government agreement.

The End of Vladimir Putin Could the war in Ukraine bring down the Kremlin?

July 31, 2014

When rebel crosshairs fixed on Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 30,000 feet above the sunflowers of Eastern Ukraine, they had no idea what they were about to blow up. No clue they were about to incinerate hundreds of Dutch holidaymakers. None whatsoever they were about to wreck a decade of the Kremlin’s finest diplomacy—years of cleverly preventing the Americans from building a united Western front by playing divide and rule amongst the Europeans.

The rebels blew up more than a plane. They blew up Russia’s winning position in Brussels against sanctions. Europeans like to think they play games with others, but the truth is that for years Russia has been pulling strings inside the European Union. The boys in Brussels like to boast about the EU. But they are ashamed to admit how far the Kremlin had gamed them: playing them off each other with energy, armaments and oligarchs.

None of the heavy hitters in Europe were willing to give these up big, juicy bribes for Ukraine. This is why serious sanctions have taken so long. Because for all the fighting talk from the Eurocrats, Russian money has run rings around its interests, its cash aiming to cripple any common foreign policy. Russia is Europe’s third-biggest trade partner. Moscow’s investments in the continent are enormous: Russia does over 40 percent of its trade with the European Union, supplying the bloc with roughly a quarter of its gas, while receiving more than $310 billion in loans from its banks.

Kremlin tactics were simple: use this money to divide and rule. That’s why Russian diplomats no longer sound like KGB agents. They never talk ideology; they always talk about money. Putin’s best diplomats now sound like clever businessmen: Does Germany want its own personalized pipeline? Excellent. Now, we only want Berlin to be a little more understanding on human rights… Would France, or Italy, like special military and energy deals? Fabulous. This could be arranged, but please, no more lectures on how to behave. Would Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania or perhaps Austria like our latest pipeline routed through sovereign territory? Wonderful. But remember, we need you to stand up for us in Brussels. Would London like to be the destination of choice for our lovely oligarchs? Superb. Now, let’s not look too closely at offshore finance.


Russian diplomats have been creating covert allies, especially out of the weaker Eurozone states such as Italy, Portugal and Spain. These recession-battered governments wanted nothing more than millions more Russian tourists or cheaper energy discounts. In exchange, they have been more than happy to make the case for Moscow inside the EU. They were not alone. Russian diplomats went shopping around southeastern Europe with the proposed South Stream pipeline – using the proposed route to buy friends and favors in Brussels out of Austria, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia. These crafty games have stymied hopes of the bloc ever forming an energy union to conduct gas deals with Russia. Instead states still deal individually.

In Gaza and other war zones, how neutral is the United Nations?

By David Bosco 
August 1, 2014

A child inspects the damage at U.N.-run school in Gaza that was struck on Wednesday. (Max Becherer/Max Becherer/Polaris Images For The Washington Post)

David Bosco is an assistant professor of international politics at American University. He is the author of “Five to Rule Them All: The UN Security Council and the Making of the Modern World” and “Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics.”

The mortar shells that struck a United Nations-run school in Gaza on Wednesday, killing at least 20 Gazans — including children — and injuring dozens of others, marked the sixth time that U.N. facilities have been hit during this conflict. U.N. officials have presented these incidents as attacks on the international community as a whole. “This is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame,” said Pierre Krähenbühl, a senior U.N. refugee official. “Today the world stands disgraced.” 

While Israeli officials have never admitted intentionally targeting the United Nations, many Israelis contest the notion that the United Nations is a benign and impartial actor in Gaza, devoted only to ensuring the well-being of refugees in the territory. The Israeli government and the U.N. refugee organization for Palestinians — the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) — regularly trade accusations: U.N. officials have criticized Israel’s economic blockade of the territory, while Israeli officials have routinely accused UNRWA of parroting Hamas’s arguments and even being complicit in some of its activities. 

The United Nations’ struggles in Gaza are an extreme version of a dilemma the global body faces in hot spots around the world: how to preserve its prized neutrality as it becomes involved in bitter conflicts with very little middle ground? 

Africa Military Moves by U.S. Reflect Iraq, Afghan Wars

By Gopal Ratnam 
Aug 1, 2014

A poster displayed along the road shows photograph of the leader of the militant...Read More

More than three years after killing Osama bin Laden and claiming that the core of al-Qaeda had been decimated, the Obama administration is waging a protracted war with his disciples across north and sub-Saharan Africa.

The enemy isn’t a nation or an alliance, but a diverse, mobile and adaptive collection of groups loosely united by the goal of overthrowing the region’s governments and replacing them with strict Islamic rule.

Militants returning to the continent after fighting in the Middle East are linking up with local groups and attacking governments in the continent already struggling to control their territories, says retired U.S. Army General Carter Ham, the former head of the U.S. Africa Command.

“Those borders might as well not exist,” Ham said of the porous region abutting Libya, Tunisia, Niger and Algeria. Militants are thriving in northern Africa’s “weak, ungoverned spaces,” and more of them are returning from Syria and Iraq “with battlefield experience and credibility.”

African governments don’t want American combat troops any more than the U.S. wants to deploy them after losing more than 6,800 lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, the U.S. military is training governments across the continent to confront militant groups.
A soldier takes position in Abuja, Nigeria. 

A City Divided Over an Occupation Without End

AUG. 3, 2014 

Independence Square in Kiev has become a living monument and is hallowed ground for many. CreditSergey Dolzhenko/European Pressphoto Agency

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KIEV, Ukraine — The summer tourists, in shorts and sundresses, walk the steep slope of Institutska Street, toward Independence Square, pausing to snap pictures of themselves in front of the fortresslike mounds of tires, cobblestones, twisted metal and hunks of wood that still stand as barricades, as if the riot police could return at any moment.

As they descend, they peer closely at piles of debris that contain the detritus of months of civil disobedience: rusting metal body shields, orange plastic construction helmets, fading bandage wrappers and scraps of bloody clothing. Some move in for a closer look at the photos of dead protesters that line the streets, surrounded by flowers and candles.

While a war against Russian-backed insurgents rages in eastern Ukraine, the capital, Kiev, is serene. Yet as the tourists reach the square, the monuments to the Ukrainian uprising known as Euromaidan come back to life.

Hundreds of people live in tents staked on and around Khreshchatyk Street, once a main thoroughfare traversing the city center. They cook in huge caldrons over wood fires and collect donations for the volunteer battalions helping to fight the separatists in the east. They even play basketball on a fenced-in court recently installed by Cossacks.

A poster there depicted President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia alongside Hitler and Stalin.CreditSergei Supinsky/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images