18 August 2014

Up to a Point: Shrugging Our Way Back to War in Iraq

The Daily Beast


We’ve begun a new military adventure in Iraq, and Americans don’t seem to mind. Isn’t that, you know, kind of weird?

I was on the patio honoring the cocktail hour and reading the paper when my son, who was supposed to be mowing the lawn, said, “Dad, is America at war in Iraq?”

“Usually,” I said. “Let me check.” And, sure enough, there on page 5 of The Daily Bugle, “Obama Orders Airstrikes – Small Group of Military Advisors Deployed.”

Now, to a fellow my age, whose memory dates back to well before the Tonkin Gulf Incident, you’d think “airstrikes” and “small group of military advisors” would be cause for alarm. But this is Iraq. It was cause for a second scotch, which, to tell the truth, I was going to have anyway.

Aren’t we always at war in Iraq? Mightn’t the Bugle headline just as well have been “Cloudy in Seattle”?

War in Iraq is exciting the first few times but then begins to pall, the way sex, drugs, and rock and roll turn into marriage, Prilosec, and the One Direction concert I took my daughter to.

When I was a foreign correspondent, at the turn of the last century, it seemed like I was always rushing off to cover Desert Sword, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Desert Swipe, Desert Wipe-Up. Nowadays I wouldn’t even know where to rush. We seem to have “war in Iraq” automated.

Is war in Iraq one of those things that U.S. Presidents just do? Perhaps it’s among the arcane and incomprehensible routine Oval Office ceremonies such as photo ops in the Rose Garden with foreign leaders nobody’s ever heard of, or giving every member of congress a pen, all of which have been supposedly used to sign a pointless piece of legislation.

JFK’s C.I.A. was complicit in the February 1963 coup that overthrew Iraq’s dictator Abd al-Karim Qasim and killed 50,000 Iraqis.

Relations with Iraq were severed during the LBJ administration. That’s usually a prelude to war, and we might have had one if LBJ hadn’t been so busy in Vietnam.

Nixon armed Iraq’s Kurdish rebels. 

Ukrainians Preparing to Inspect Huge Russian “Aid Convoy” Halted at Ukrainian Border

Ukraine officials prepare to inspect disputed Russian convoy

Agence France-Presse, August 15, 2014

AFP / Dmitri Sharomov

Trucks in a Russian humanitarian aid convoy heading for Ukraine wait outside Voronezh, some 400 km outside Moscow, on August 13, 2014

Ukrainian officials were preparing to inspect a massive Russian “aid” convoy bound for the conflict-torn east on Friday after Russian armoured vehicles crossed the border, fuelling fears Moscow is trying to bolster the unravelling insurgency.

The Ukrainian military had announced that checks had begun on the near 300-truck convoy but later said only that 59 border and customs officials had arrived at a Russian border post to prepare to carry out the inspections.

Military spokesman Leonid Matyukhin told AFP that after the inspections the trucks would head to the rebel-held bastion of Lugansk, where local officials have warned of a humanitarian crisis with shortages of food, water and power.

"As for now the work by the Ukrainian officials has not begun as they do not yet have the documents from the Red Cross giving them permission," the military said in statement.

Map of eastern Ukraine and western Russia showing latest clashes and the position of a Russian aid convoy heading for Ukraine

Ukraine and Western powers suspect that Moscow could try to use the convoy as a “Trojan horse” bringing military help to pro-Russian insurgents, who have been rapidly losing ground to government troops in the industrial east.

On Friday, Ukrainian authorities confirmed British media reports that a small number of Russian armoured vehicles had crossed into Ukraine, not far from where the aid convoy was parked near the Russian town of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky.

"Intelligence has confirmed that a column of APCs and Ural military lorries has crossed the border and entered Ukrainian territory… intelligence also confirms that there were Russian number plates and insignia on the military hardware," the Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted the military as saying.

India-China Border Engagement


As India races to catch up on infrastructure, its military is increasingly engaged with the PLA.
By Nitin A. Gokhale
August 14, 2014

For the Indian military, this is a time of some fairly fundamental changes.

After decades of pursuing Pakistan-centric war planning, the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force are recalibrating their sights towards the hitherto neglected northern frontiers with China, giving a hard push to improving its war-fighting capabilities against its more powerful neighbor and at the same time, increasing on-the-ground interaction with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

This two-track policy, outcome of the experience of the past five years, is aimed at preventing any unnecessary flare ups along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), as the contested border between the two countries is known.

In July 2014, this writer has had the opportunity to undertake a rare tour of the border areas in Ladakh, a high mountainous desert that abuts the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). This remote region, rendered inaccessible by road for seven months a year because the passes leading to it are snow bound, is buzzing with an unprecedented military buildup. Consider this:

- A new Air Force Station to base fighter jets is coming up just 25 km from the Line of Actual Control

- For the first time since India’s independence in 1947, a full-fledged armored brigade of T-72 tanks will now be based in Ladakh.

- One more infantry brigade (3000 plus troops) is now moving closer to a crucial area where Chinese troops had intruded and stayed put for over three weeks in 2013.

- Work has been accelerated on at least 13 strategically important road projects in this region.


Mohan Guruswamy
August 15, 2014

Exactly thirty years ago, soon after I returned from Harvard, I undertook a long journey through Bihar and eastern UP to understand what the situation there was and why? This was “The Children of the Ganga: An Enquiry into the Poverty of the Gangetic Plains”. The study examined the distance of Bihar and UP on most major parameters from the average and the best. On all indices Bihar was way behind. That is pretty much the situation now, though the only index where it compares now with the best is in primary school enrollment.

But why was Bihar in this parlous condition was still the big question? How did the state, which the University of California Professor of Public Administration, Dr. John Appleby, had determined as the best-administered state in 1952 turn into a bureaucratic and administrative nightmare?

The answer, it seemed, was not difficult to seek for those who believed that economic growth in India, then as it is now, is State driven. The money the central government spent had a direct bearing on the economic outcomes of states and on the well being of their people. The evidence was very clear. Right from the First Plan, Bihar and UP, suffered from underinvestment by the Central Government. If there was per capita development expenditure for each plan, Bihar was always furthest from it.

When I computed the investment foregone, by getting so much less in every consecutive Plan, in 1984 – thirty years ago – Bihar was shortchanged by as much as Rs.27000 crores. That number is now as much as ten times more. For a start the Plans have become bigger. Bihar is still last in terms of per capita development expenditure, and industrial and infrastructure investment. The highest-ranking states in terms of government investment get as much as six times more than Bihar in per capita terms.

Bihar was then the second largest state in India. It is in many ways the heart of India. It is certainly the cradle of Indian civilization, which evolved on the banks of the Ganges. And it is still very clear India cannot go forward leaving Bihar behind. But the question that still stays is whether Bihar would have done as well as the high fliers if the money were provided? This is what now requires study and I hope this institution will pioneer this.

In the years since I have done many more studies evaluating the performance of other states in India. Clearly there are high performers and laggards. But why are some this and others that is an answer that still eludes me. We seem condemned by our ways of comparison analysis to see things in terms of inputs and outputs, without ever really wondering if there are other processes at work which makes different states within one country, within one constitutional system, within one economic system and sharing a long and common ethno-cultural history which make a difference?

Now think of this, India is the third largest economy in the world in PPP terms and it is predicted that by 2050 it will be a $30-55 trillion economy, depending on whose projections is music to your ears. 2050 is just 36 years from now and in a nations lifetime that is a mere blink. This is not daydreaming. In 1990-91 when PV Narasimha Rao initiated the first dismantling of the centrally planned state the GDP of India at current US$ was a little over $200 billion. Twenty-three years later it is ten times that. Increasing twenty-fold in 36 years is really not a tall order.

India has grown at an average rate of over 7% since 2000. Between 208-11 it grew at more than 9%. In consonance with global trends India’s growth also has tapered off these past two years. Nevertheless overall the trends have never been like this before and there is optimism about the long term, despite recent troubles. It is a country where many state GDP’s are bigger than many countries.

The size of Maharashtra’s economy would place it just about alongside as Singapore and bigger than Hongkong or Nigeria. This overall performance however masks a diversity of performances. The HDI of Kerala is India’s highest 0.790, which would place it ahead of China, while the other end of the spectrum is Chhattisgarh with 0.358, which would place it just alongside Chad, one of the world’s poorest and most backward countries. At 0.790 Kerala would find a place in the high HDI list of nations.

**** If India and Pakistan Went to War: 5 Weapons Pakistan Should Fear

August 16, 2014 

If the unthinkable happened, India has quite the arsenal—including nuclear weapons—to cause Pakistan considerable trouble in a conflict.

Recently India alleged a series of ceasefire violations—in the form of automatic weapons fire—by Pakistan on the border between the two countries. According to India, it was the sixth attack in just five days. Such events are a reminder that tension remains high on the Indian subcontinent.

The nuclear arsenals of both sides—and the red lines that would trigger their use—have made conventional war much more risky to conduct. The 1999 Kargil War is considered the closest the world has come to a nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis. If India were to use its superiority in ground forces to seize a sizable amount of Pakistani territory, Pakistan could respond with nuclear weapons.

It’s distinctly possible that any future war between India and Pakistan would involve limited action on the ground and full-scale fighting at sea and in the air. India has the upper hand in both, particularly at sea where it would have the ability to blockade Pakistani ports. Pakistan imports 83% of its gasoline consumption, and without sizable reserves the economy would feel the effects of war very quickly. An economic victory, not a purely military one might be the best way to decisively end a war without the use of nuclear weapons.

With that scenario in mind, let’s look at the five Indian weapons Pakistan would fear most in a war.

INS Vikramaditya Aircraft Carrier

Commissioned in November 2013, INS Vikramaditya is the newer and more modern of India’s two aircraft carriers. In the event of war, Vikramaditya would lead an offensive at sea designed to sweep the Pakistani Navy from the field. The nightmare scenario for Pakistan would be Vikramaditya parked off the coast of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest port, enforcing a naval blockade.

Originally built for the Soviet Navy as the anti-submarine aviation cruiser Baku, Vikramaditya was mothballed in 1996 after it became clear post-Cold War Russia could not afford to operate her. The ship was purchased by India in 2004, to be upgraded by Russian shipbuilders to a true aircraft carrier complete with angled flight deck. The updated design deleted all cruiser armament, including two 100mm deck guns, 192 SA-N-9 surface to air missiles and 12 SS-N-12 Sandbox anti-ship missiles.

Vikramaditya is 282 meters long and displaces 44,000 tons, making it less than half the displacement of American supercarriers. Nevertheless Vikramaditya’s powerful air wing is capable of executing air superiority, anti-surface, anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare. The carrier air wing is expected to consist of 24MiG-29K or Tejas multi-role fighters and 10 anti-submarine warfare helicopters. India has ordered 45 MiG-29Ks, with the first squadron, 303 “Black Panthers” Squadron, stood up in May 2013.

Indian men joining Jihad in Levant: Why India needs to worry

By Shweta Desai
August 14, 2014 

 Earlier in July, a group of four young men from Mumbai- the urban metropolis of India-left their pilgrim troupe visiting religious shrines in Baghdad, Iraq and changed routes to the northern city of Mosul to join the Islamic State - the militant extremist group whose ruthless religious zealotry has fragmented Iraq and Syria to form Caliphate which submits to fundamentalist Islamic laws. The flight of the Indian men to the war ravaging in Levant points to a phenomenon which has already drawn in over 12000 fighters from 83 countries. It has however put India on a list of potential Jihadi risk that has intelligence and security agencies in Europe to Australia, America to Indonesia hitting the panic button, worrying on the threat that these radicals pose: inspired by weapons training and Jihadist acts and returning home to commit acts of terrorism.

In less than two years, Syria has become number one jihadist destination and most prominent jihadist battlefield in the world, providing both a rallying point and a training ground for radical Islamists from other nations. This mobilisation of war volunteers remains one of the prominent features of the conflict in Syria as many Muslims feel exhorted to join the battlefield and liberate their brethren from the oppressors.

Until now there was an understanding that Syria is geographically far from India and the conflict does not have any impact on the domestic matters of the country, hence there is no real need to be involved. However, the presence of young men from Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in a transnational Jihadi organisation marks a radical shift in India’s strategic approach in West Asia. India’s concerns had widely remained on the peripheries of energy security, oil and natural gas deficit - as it continues to import 60 percent oil and gas from Gulf states - and the effect of the conflict on the 7 million labour force residing in the region that could impact the high remittances sent back home; but will now be forced to draw new counter indoctrination strategies to prevent people from volunteering in the war, engaging in terrorism and disseminating jihadist ideology.

The risk of foreign fighters first emanated in September 2013 when Syrian ambassador to India, Dr Riad Abbas disclosed that Indian Jihadists were fighting along with rebels. The case of Tamil Nadu-born Singapore resident Haji Fakkurudin Usman Ali who is suspected to have joined militants from Islamic State and radicalized by another man Gul Mohammad Maraikar was widely underplayed by Indian security agencies, as both fighters were non-resident Indians. But as recent details of 18 Indian men joining the ranks of ISIS as Sunni fighters emerge and one fighter reportedly dying in combat, the implications of the Islamic turmoil in Levant appear to have drawn closer home, which India can no longer afford to stay out of.

While there have been cases of home-grown radicals involved in terror and suspicious activities, the case of volunteers in Iraq is different in the context that until now such volunteers crossed over India’s border in the conflict ridden Jammu-Kashmir region to join militants in neighbouring Pakistan and infiltrated back in the valley to continue the offensive. This time, to consider some cases, around eight men are from the urban cities of Mumbai and Thane, parts of Kerala and also Tamil Nadu, regions with no any active military conflict. All in their 20s, the men have no combat experience nor have they been reported to be a part of proxy local groups like the Indian Mujahedeen, which has reportedly fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The narrative of how Indian fighters have been drawn in the conflict is remarkably similar to the enrolment of other foreign fighters with the Islamist rebel groups, where online propaganda has been pivotal. These fighters typically belong from outside Syria, have no direct connection to the conflict, are in the age range of 18-29 years, often teenagers and a fair percentage of them are converts to Islam from non-Muslim majority countries. The countries of origin of these fighters reveal high economic and social indicators and a higher variant of peace as compared to the turmoil in the Levant region. While ISIS is said to pay salaries to its militants, there are no direct benefits or visible material gains on offer for the Indian men to participate in the conflict.

Modi Bets the Farm Why Indian Agricultural Policy Might Unravel the WTO

AUGUST 12, 2014

Farm laborers in the western Indian state of Gujarat, October 2012. (Amit Dave / Courtesy Reuters)

Atrade spat with India is threatening to push the World Trade Organization, already suffering from flagging credibility thanks to a lack of concrete results, into irrelevance. At the end of July, in a move that startled the WTO’s 160 members, India blocked a landmark international agreement that would have streamlined trade across the world. India had already approved the deal, which was struck at a WTO summit in Bali last December, but suddenly refused to live up to the deal’s first step -- signing a one-paragraph accession protocol -- without simultaneous progress on another matter -- food security, specifically greater concessions that would enable India to continue to subsidize its poor farmers.

India’s decision was a disappointing blow for a vast majority of WTO countries. The Bali deal was meant to be a crucial breakthrough, simplifying customs rules and potentially expanding the global economy by as much as $1 trillion. It would have also given a new boost to multilateralism at a time when most key players (including the United States and the EU) are increasingly focused on negotiating more specialized trade agreements in smaller groups. And if implemented, it would become the first unanimous agreement to be carried out by the WTO’s members in its two decades of existence. Although the clash with India does not spell the end of the WTO -- it has missed deadlines before and has so far carried on with its negotiations -- it marks a new low in the perennial WTO debate on agriculture while raising the risk of isolating India abroad.

India’s decision to link its approval of the pact to an unresolved WTO disagreement on food security might appear to defy strategic logic. After all, its newly elected prime minister, Narendra Modi, rose to power as a pro-market reformer. And New Delhi’s position has historically favored multilateralism -- lending support to trade liberalization since 1991 and campaigning for freer trade in services -- a consensus that even the rise of Modi’s nationalist party has done little to weaken. Moreover, unlike in previous WTO disputes involving India, when the country took the lead in voicing concerns shared by many developing countries and enjoyed their overwhelming support, this time only a handful of states backed its posturing. In contrast, a group of 26 WTO members, including several small, low-income countries, expressed “dismay” at India’s position.

No matter how erratic New Delhi’s stance might appear, however, it is shaped by compelling practical concerns and by domestic politics. Two factors in particular are at play: the primacy of India’s farming sector in its trade policy considerations and the WTO’s poor track record in recognizing the pressing needs of its developing-country members. 

No politician in India would want to be perceived as being anti-farmer.

First, domestic politics are the primary, if not the most crucial, factor shaping India’s trade policies. And the farming sector is especially influential, accounting for almost 55 percent of jobs in the country and for over 42 percent of its land. This sector is also very fragmented: there are around 138 million farm units in India, and over three-fourths of them are tiny. Most Indian farmers are subsistence producers with low incomes and poor access to resources who depend on the government for subsidies and aid. Yet these farmers also display an impressive capacity for political mobilization, including such highly visible forms of protest as huge rallies and sit-ins.

South Asia: Echoes From Across a Century

By Ali Ahmed
August 15, 2014

India’s own “two front” doctrine could prove just as dangerous as Germany’s in WWI. 

Recent commentary on the outbreak of the First World War has highlighted the link between the political and military spheres, in which military mobilization timetables exercised a negative influence over the political positions of governments. Interestingly, there are echoes of the same phenomenon in South Asia today. Moreover, India’s “two front” problem is similar to the problem faced by Germany when it felt the need to first defeat France, before turning its attention to the slower and more removed mobilization of Russia. Could the dangers of South Asia today be echoes of those a century ago?

First, consider the issue of mobilization schedules. With Serbia and Austria-Hungary squaring off, their respective allies, Russia and Germany, went into a competitive mobilization that culminated in the outbreak of war. South Asia is presently experiencing some aspects of this narrative. India is today looking to review its conventional doctrine adopted a decade ago. The doctrine called for swift mobilization in order to be able to react to terrorist threats from Pakistan, as in the case of the attack on Parliament in December 2002. On that occasion, India was not able to respond swiftly – its strike corps took three weeks to get into position. So India chose to go in for coercive diplomacy rather than attacking Pakistan militarily. The latter would have proven costly and there was also the nuclear threat to consider.

This led to the “cold start” doctrine, in which India shifted its reliance from strike corps to smaller, swifter formations closer to the border that could react quickly. A critique of this doctrinal innovation was that it reduced the time window for crisis diplomacy, a harkening back to the Guns of August, which expertly describes the political-military gap leading to the Great War.

The problem, as it was a hundred years ago, remains the military’s interest in full preparedness. For instance, if India was to launch a portion of its combat-ready integrated battle groups into Pakistan in response to a terror attack, they could face a piecemeal response from Pakistan’s army. For that reason, the troops cannot be sent across the line of control in isolation, but would require at least partial mobilization from the rear so as to either deter or respond to Pakistan’s military counter. In light of this mobilization, the Pakistanis, uncertain as to India’s intent, would likely race to follow suit, leading to a national mobilization of both sides quite in the tradition of the First World War. During the Kargil War, though it remained localized, the Indian army partially mobilized and kept a portion of its troops at the border elsewhere, in a defensive position.

Internal Security: The Maoist Dimension

Date : 13 Aug , 2014

The Maoist rebellion is a phenomenon, an adverse one of course, in which bands of armed local inhabitants, led by firebrand ‘area commanders’, assume a role that should truly lie within the constitutional mandate of the state. The role of the third element of this phenomenon, the far-ensconced communist ideologues, is limited to legitimising the rebellion with a political, if rabid, cause for the rebels to indulge in societal mayhem. The rhetoric of installing a ‘people’s government’ over the country through armed revolution apart, their interim objective is to impose their ‘system’ over such territories where the state administration has nothing more than a notional presence. In this, the Maoists have succeeded in establishing a fair degree of control, mainly over economic activities in areas remote, sparsely inhabited and undeveloped but endowed with mineral and forest wealth; the void of state administration makes it relatively simple to do so.

The Maoist rebellion is a ‘phenomenon’ which may not be ‘defeated’ in the true sense of that expression…

One is often confronted with the query, “How can the Maoist problem be solved? After all, we have done so much to control it and yet nothing seems to work!” This question is rooted to a perception among the policy makers that there is a popular demand to stamp out the Maoist rebellion, and that it is possible to achieve that end in a matter of few years through application of some formulae.

As with all simplistic questions, this one too is difficult to answer. Indeed, the simplicity of the query itself betrays a superfluous understanding of the fundamental characteristics of the Maoist rebellion. Resultantly, notions of certain ‘formulae’ that would supposedly bring remedy in quick time are entertained. Factually, to chart a course towards ultimate relief from this violent rebellion, policy makers have to de-link it from their election cycle and appreciate the conditionalities and complexities that overarch the gamut of the problem. Therefore, in our quest to find the appropriate answer to the query, it is proposed to discuss two propositions. First, that the Maoist rebellion is a ‘phenomenon’ which may not be ‘defeated’ in the true sense of that expression; second, the goal should be to ‘address’ this phenomenon in a manner as to ease it into irrelevancy and subsume it over time within a benevolent, fair realm.

What It Takes to Win the World’s Highest Computer Science Honor


One summer afternoon in 2001, while visiting relatives in India, Subhash Khot drifted into his default mode — quietly contemplating the limits of computation. For hours, no one could tell whether the third-year Princeton University graduate student was working or merely sinking deeper into the living-room couch. That night, he woke up, scribbled something down and returned to bed. Over breakfast the next morning, he told his mother that he had come up with an interesting idea. She didn’t know what it was, but her reserved older son seemed unusually happy. 

This article is part of a five-part series on the 2014 Fields Medal and Nevanlinna Prize winners, reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent division ofSimonsFoundation.org whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research developments and trends in mathematics and the physical and life sciences. 

Khot’s insight — now called the Unique Games Conjecture — helped him make progress on a problem he was working on at the time, but even Khot and his colleagues did not realize its potential. “It just sounded like an idea that would be nice if it was true,” recalled Khot, now a 36-year-old computer science professor at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. 

When Khot returned to Princeton, he mentioned the idea to Sanjeev Arora, his doctoral adviser, who advised him to hold off on publishing it. “I wasn’t sure it was going to be a good paper,” Arora said. “I thought it was maybe a little premature, that it was just a month since he had the idea.” 

Khot wrote the paper anyway. “I was just a graduate student,” Khot said of the decision. “I wasn’t expecting anyone to take me seriously to begin with.” 

In a sense, Khot’s insight completed an idea set in motion by another mentor, Johan Håstad of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. But even Håstad ignored Khot’s conjecture at first. “I thought it might get proven or disproven in a year,” he said. “It took us awhile to realize it had all these consequences.” 

Over the next several years, what seemed a modest observation — that a particular assumption could simplify certain approximation algorithm problems — grew into one of the most influential new ideas in theoretical computer science. Today, for his “prescient” assumption and his subsequent leadership in “the effort to understand its complexity and its pivotal role in the study of efficient approximation of optimization problems,” Khot was awarded the 2014 Rolf Nevanlinna Prize, widely considered one of the top honors in his field. 

In announcing the prize on its website, the International Mathematical Union also credited Khot’s work for generating “new exciting interactions between computational complexity, analysis and geometry.” 


Khot, who tends to keep his thoughts close and acknowledgment of his achievements even closer, was as surprised as his colleagues by the success of the Unique Games Conjecture. “I definitely didn’t expect that this small proposal would go so far,” he said. 

Border Management: Guarding the Frontiers

July 17, 2014 


A seminar on “Border Management: Guarding the Frontiers” was conducted on 17 July 2014 by Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS). The seminar was attended by officers from Indian Armed Forces, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), research faculty from think tanks and academicians. Conducted over two sessions, the seminar focused on the existing challenges to border management and a future integrated model for effective management. The panellists for the seminar were:- 

Shri GK Pillai- Former Home Secretary. 
Lt Gen Mukesh Sabharwal, former Adjutant General. 
Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, Former DG MO. 
Maj Gen Umong Sethi, Former MGGS, Northern Command. 
Shri DK Tripathi, DIG (Operations), BSF. 
Brig Narender Kumar, DDG, Army HQ. 
Cdr Raghvendra Mishra, Research Fellow, National Maritime Foundation 

India shares 15,106.7 km of its boundary with six nations, Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Its coastal boundary of 7,516 km includes 5,422 km of coastline in the mainland and 2,094 km of coastline bordering the islands. The border runs through 92 districts in 17 states and the coastline touches 13 states and union territories. The complexities of guarding our borders are further enhanced due to varying degree of ground realities and a number of agencies guarding the borders.

Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in Siachen glacier, Line of Control (LC) in J&K, International Boundary (IB) with Pakistan from J&K to Gujarat, Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China are the varying nomenclatures based on the ground situation as well as different claim lines. There are various forces looking after the border that include the Indian Army, Assam Rifles, Border Security Force (BSF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB). The Indian Navy and the Coast Guard looks after the maritime frontiers. The dynamics of the border and the forces deployed keeps changing with the place and with time. Each border has its own nuances based on perceived threat, terrain and local population. The approach to border management must vary from one border to other.


Border Management Policy

India needs to formulate and promulgate its policy on border management. The policy must enunciate clear cut response mechanisms and issues of command and control. The border management policy must take into account the peculiarities of each border and evolve a comprehensive strategy to amalgamate all available resources for effective border management.

The management of disputed and unresolved border must be the responsibility of Indian Army functioning under the MoD. The management of other borders must be with the CAPFs, functioning under MHA. All organisations involved in border management must seek directions from and be accountable to one nodal agency during peace and war. In event of more than one force on a particular border, the chain of command must be clearly laid down. 

Pakistan is a rogue country and should be treated accordingly

14 Aug , 2014

Pakistan is at it again. Five soldiers have lost their lives. Indian leadership appears unfazed and wants to continue dialogue with Pakistan. One of the greatest misfortunes for India is the fact that no political leader or bureaucrat sends his progeny to the armed forces. As loss of soldiers’ lives does not impact them personally, they remain unconcerned. They do not realise that every life lost means ruination of a family – loss of a son for the parents, widowhood for the wife and orphans’ lives for the children.

India’s policy of extending a hand of friendship and accommodation has been a total failure. On the contrary, it has emboldened Pakistan into considering India to be a soft state…

It was reprehensible to see the leading spokesperson of the ruling party laughing and joking when discussing such a grave issue on TV. For him, it was nothing more than a debating matter to score points over the opponents. These insensitive people make all Indians hang their heads in shame. They do not realise that an uncaring and callous government is the worst demoralizing factor for the armed forces.

India’s policy of extending a hand of friendship and accommodation has been a total failure. On the contrary, it has emboldened Pakistan into considering India to be a soft state and increased its intransigence and hardened its anti-India attitude. How to deal with an unreasonable and hostile neighbour continues to be a convoluted dilemma for India.

Every nation has certain core values. These are fundamental traits that provide sustenance to it for its existence. Normally, these are positive attributes which are considered non-negotiable and unalterable. In India’s case, it is to secure for all its citizens justice (social, economic and political); liberty (of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship); equality (of status and opportunity); and fraternity while assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.

Pakistan’s core values are based on the warped political principles of ‘hate and hurt India at all costs’. Pakistan was created on the ideology that the ‘pure’ cannot coexist with the infidel. A nation born out of hatred needs hatred to feed itself on for continued sustenance and to justify its existence. Anti-India stance fulfills this need and cannot be shed.

A few years ago a group of Indian ladies visited Pakistan under a social exchange programme. One of the ladies sustained a wrist fracture in an accidental fall and was taken to the nearest medical facility. The orthopaedician on duty treated the lady diligently and to the best of his ability. While bandaging the wrist, he engaged the lady in small talk. When the lady referred to commonality of Indian and Pakistani cultures, the doctor flared up and blasted the lady for her ‘flawed views’. “What is common between us? We eat cows and you worship them. We asked for a separate nation only because we are totally different in all respects. I suggest you Indians should stop fooling yourselves”, he thundered.

India-Sri Lanka Relations and China: Q & A

By Col. R. Hariharan

(Answers to some of the questions on India-Sri Lanka relations and China raised by an international news agency answered on August 11, 2014 are given here.)

How do you see the diplomatic, economic, political relationship between Sri Lanka and India before the end of the war and after the end of the war?

The multifaceted India-Sri Lanka relationship has undergone subtle changes after the Eelam War ended in triumph for Rajapaksa. The main reason for this is President Rajapaksa’s failure to implement 13th Amendment to the Constitution and trigger the political process with Tamil minority as promised to India. His act of political expedience not only destroyed the Indian leadership’s credibility in him but also the public credibility in the Manmohan Singh coalition’s ability to handle the relations with India’s neighbours.

Its tectonic effects in Tamil Nadu politics saw the end of the Congress party’s fragile relationship with the DMK with disastrous results in the parliamentary poll for both the parties. It provided a fillip for anti-Sri Lanka lobbies in Tamil Nadu to gain strength particularly after Sri Lanka continued to dither on carrying out impartial probe into allegations of human rights violations towards the end of the war.

At the diplomatic level, the impact was seen in hesitant swings in India’s support for Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Commission sessions on Sri Lanka’s accountability. However, at the functional level both India and Sri Lanka seem to be keen to maintain some balance in their responses to acts of political and public provocation on both sides.

China’s entry in a big way in Sri Lanka is dislocating India-Sri Lanka relations on the strategic and trade fronts. Strategically India has been put on the defensive after Sri Lanka signed the Strategic Cooperative Partnership (SCP) agreement with China and welcomed China’s initiative in promoting ‘Maritime Silk Route’ (MSR) through the Indian Ocean. India is likely to factor these developments while moving forward in its relations with China, set to take off shortly.

Sri Lanka’s scant recognition of India’s valuable economic and development assistance at a much lesser cost in public pronouncements show that Sri Lanka is taking India for granted. This belief is further reinforced by its skewed trade policy changes giving advantage to China over India show that pro-Chinese lobbies in Sri Lanka are firmly established. We can expect China to gain further advantage when it signs the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China by the end of the year, we can expect Indian trade to be affected further. 

Do you really see Sri Lanka neutralizing Indian influence using China time to time or as a balancing act?

India is physically too close and too big for comfort for a small country like Sri Lanka. So it has always to factor India while mapping its relations with any other country. At the same time it makes sense for Sri Lanka to develop a parallel relationship with a big power like China to derive some comfort from its support. 

Modi's Visit to Nepal: An opportunity lost by Nepal

By: Hari Bansh Jha

As per the media report, India was prepared to announce a huge economic assistance package for Nepal during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nepal. Nepal also reciprocated and expressed desire to receive Indian assistance, particularly in such development projects as hydropower, Kathmandu-Terai fast-track road, Hulaqi Sadak (postal highway), Mahakali bridge and a cricket academy.

Expectations were quite high that the Indian companies like the GMR Consortium and the Sutlej Jalavidyut Nigam might sign power development agreements with Nepal in hydropower sector, which might enable them to work smoothly in this country. For some time, the GMR is working on the 900 MW Upper Karnali hydro power project and 600 MW Upper Marsyangdi-2 project in Nepal; while the Sutlej Jalavidyut Nigam has been working on 900 MW Arun 3 project.

In addition, Nepal and India wanted to have free energy trade for which they wanted to have agreements for harnessing Nepal's hydropower projects. In the absence of such trade, the two countries failed to tap this sector in the past. So the two countries wanted to go ahead and sign power trade agreement with a view to creating foundation for hydropower development. With this respect, Dhalkebar (Nepal) –Muzzafarpur (India) transmission line is already under construction to facilitate the trade in energy sector. Also, a study for the construction of Bardaghat (Nepal) - Gorakhpur (India) cross-border transmission line is in progress.

Against this backdrop, the power trade agreement between the two countries could have helped Nepal to emerge as a significant power market for India. Foreign financial institutions from India and other countries could also have been attracted to make their investment in hydropower sector in Nepal.

During Prime Minister Modi's visit to Nepal, a 600 MW hydropower project was expected to be signed between Nepal and India. The two countries were also expected to work on details for conducting joint study on Saptakoshi High Dam Project in Koshi River. Expectations were high that the two countries could give a new lease of life to 6000-MW Pancheshwar Multi Purpose Project. It was as far back as in 1996 that the two countries signed Treaty for the implementation of this project, which was ratified by over two-thirds members of Nepalese parliament. They were expected to make equal investment in the project and share power equally in their common interest. The Detailed Project Report of the Pancheshwar Project was expected to be finalized within six months of the signing of the Treaty in 1996, but for the reasons unknown the two sides have not been able to make any headway even after 18 years of the signing of the Treaty. The only development that was made was to establish the project implementation office at Mahendranagar, the headquarters of Kanchanpur district in Nepal.

Other than the above deal in hydropower sector, Nepal and India were expected to sign another accord with a view to increasing Indian scholarships for Nepali students from 3,000 rupees to 5,000 rupees. Many of the Nepalese students who could not afford to receive education due to resource crunch were likely to benefit from the scholarships provided by India to Nepal.

Modi's visit to Nepal was also expected to give the Indian investment projects a new lease of life. Until a few years ago, India was the largest investor in Nepal. But China has left India far behind in investment in this country. Recent data indicate that the Chinese investment in Nepal was three times more than the Indian investment. In 2013-14, as many as 108 Chinese aided projects worth 29.80 billion Nepalese rupees came to Nepal; while during the same period only 10 Indian-aided projects worth 8.22 billion Nepalese rupees made their inroads in this country.

Yarsagumba: Biological Gold

By Gemima Harvey
August 15, 2014

A gold rush mentality has attached to a fungus known as the ‘Himalayan Viagra,’ to the detriment of local communities. 

In Nepal, caravans of people can be seen climbing higher up the snow-capped Himalayas, carrying blankets, tents and cooking materials. Schools are closed and entire villages are emptied, aside from the elderly and the sick who cannot handle the harsh, steep and long trek thousands of meters above sea level. When the annual yarsagumba harvesting season hits, all available hands and eyes become engaged in the lucrative hunt.

Yarsagumba is a unique caterpillar-fungus fusion that occurs when parasitic mushroom spores (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) infect and mummify a ghost moth larva living in the soil. A spindly fungus later sprouts from the dead caterpillar host’s head. Two to six centimeters long, the fungus shoots above the soil, acting as a tiny, finger-shaped flag for harvesters to find. This peculiar hybrid is the world’s most expensive biological resource. Yarsagumba thrives in the picturesque peaks of the Himalayas, at altitudes of between 3000 and 5000 meters, in Nepal, India and Bhutan, and also on the “roof of the world” — the Tibetan Plateau. In Tibet, it’s called “Yartsa gunbu,” which translates to “summer grass winter worm.”
Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for 2000 years, the caterpillar fungus is a highly prized tonic, touted for its ability to increase energy and vitality, strengthen lung and kidneys, treat cancer and asthma, and, perhaps most famously, cure impotence and boost libido — its supposed aphrodisiac effects earning it the nickname “Himalayan Viagra.” A 15th century Tibetan medical text also mentions the “faultless treasure,” which, “removes prana diseases, cures bile diseases, and does not raise the phlegm: a marvelous medicine. In particular, it especially increases semen.”

Reportedly, demand for the tonic skyrocketed after the 1993 World Championships in Athletics, when the manager of a group of dominant Chinese female distance runners, who would go on to smash world records, announced that his athletes had been fed a soup of yarsagumba and turtle blood. Daniel Winkler, an ecologist who has done extensive research on the fungus, explains in one of his articles that, “Among the wealthy and powerful in China,” yarsagumba, “has come to rival French champagne as a status symbol at dinner parties or as a prestigious gift.”

Locally in Nepal, harvesters get the equivalent of about $18 per gram (a single dried specimen weighs less than half a gram). But by the time yarsagumba is sold in China, the major international trade destination, it’s worth as much as $100 per gram. Gram for gram, that makes it more expensive than gold. The global market value has been assessed at between $5 and $11 billion.

Obama's China Strategy Is Doomed

August 16, 2014 

As Beijing’s power grows, it will become more and more difficult for Washington to continue its strategy of trying to enjoy the fruits of all possible approaches to dealing with that country. There could be other options.

The Obama administration’s policy toward China is either a clumsy attempt at deception or an extraordinary case of self-deception. The United States has steadily built the components of a containment policy directed against Beijing, while steadfastly denying that it is pursuing any such policy. Washington has worked assiduously to strengthen and update its Cold War-era alliances with Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines and to forge new security partnerships with countries such as Vietnam and India that previously had rocky relationships with the United States. All of the U.S. moves have a common denominator: they involve significant security ties with countries that are hostile to China or at least worry greatly about the growth of Chinese power in East Asia.

Yet U.S. leaders seem reluctant to face either the logic or probable consequences of the policy they are pursuing. Secretary of State John Kerry epitomized that approach earlier this month when he finalized arrangements to station 2,500 U.S. Marines in Australia while reassuring the Chinese that the move was not directed in any way against their country and that Washington actually welcomed China as a “cooperative partner” in security affairs. Chinese leaders likely regarded that assurance with the same skepticism that they have viewed official U.S. statements contending that Washington remains neutral regarding the substance of Beijing’s dispute with Tokyo over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands or the equally acrimonious feuds between China and its neighbors over the South China Sea. In both cases, U.S. actions belie protestations of impartiality. 

The principal area of uncertainty is whether U.S. officials believe that they are cleverly deceiving the Chinese or whether they have succumbed to their own propaganda. The former explanation is the more likely one, but some U.S. actions indicate the latter may be true. At least some policymakers apparently believe they can simultaneously weave a web of containment around China’s power and still enjoy an economic relationship with Beijing worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually. That approach is captured by the term “congagement”—a blend of containment and engagement—that became popular in foreign policy circles a decade ago. It was a clever term, but at heart it was, and remains, little more than a cutesy equivocation.

U.S. leaders need to confront the reality, unpalatable though it might be, that their current strategy is not only internally contradictory, it is unsustainable over the long term. Given the emerging strategic developments in the Western Pacific and East Asia (China’s rising power combined with growing hostility and resistance to that power by the United States and Beijing’s neighbors), Washington will have to adopt a more coherent approach in the relatively near future. That requirement means choosing among three rather stark options. Each one has major advantages and disadvantages.

Semiconductors in China: Brave new world or same old story?

 by Gordon Orr and Christopher Thomas

China is stepping up efforts to become a major player in semiconductor design and manufacturing. If it succeeds, integrated-circuit companies around the world could face significant risks and opportunities.

Executives of global semiconductor companies have had their eyes on China for many years, primarily as a customer-rich end market and a source of innovation. But now they will need to take an even closer look. Government stakeholders in China have been reconsidering the risk posed by the country’s heavy reliance on others for semiconductor components and capabilities, and they are carrying out policy changes that could correct for this dependence. Pair these policy efforts with private-market forces that are slowly but surely strengthening the capabilities of mainland semiconductor companies and multinational chip makers competing in China will likely face a very different operating environment—one with new risks and opportunities.

What’s changing?

China is by far the largest consumer of semiconductors; it accounts for about 45 percent of the worldwide demand for chips, used both in China and for exports. But more than 90 percent of its consumption relies on imported integrated circuits. Integrated-circuit companies in China entered the semiconductor market late—some two decades after the rest of the world—and have been playing catch-up ever since in an industry in which success depends on scale and learning efficiencies. The Chinese government made several attempts to build a local semiconductor industry, but none really took hold. Now, however, things are changing on both the business and policy fronts.

Low-cost smartphones designed in China are flooding the market. For instance, Android phones designed in China now represent more than 50 percent of the global market, compared with their negligible presence five years ago. Lenovo’s significant deals early in 2014—first acquiring IBM’s low-end x86-based server business for $2.3 billion and then buying Motorola from Google for almost $3 billion—further suggest that the customer base for hardware is moving to China. Meanwhile, Beijing and Shenzhen have become innovation hotbeds for wearable devices and other connected consumer electronics. Technology companies in these regions are not trailing others in this area of innovation; they are running neck and neck with other early entrants.

Multinational corporations in every industry—from automotive to industrial controls to enterprise equipment—increasingly are establishing design centers on the mainland to be closer to customers and benefit from local Chinese talent. McKinsey’s proprietary research indicates that more than 50 percent of PCs, and between 30 and 40 percent of embedded systems (commonly found in automotive, commercial, consumer, industrial, and medical applications), contain content designed in China, either directly by mainland companies or emerging from the Chinese labs of global players. As the migration of design continues, China could soon influence up to 50 percent of hardware designs globally (including phones, wireless devices, and other consumer electronics).

Fabless semiconductor companies are also emerging in China to serve local customers. For instance, Shanghai-based Spreadtrum Communications, which designs chips for mobile phones, and Shenzhen-based HiSilicon Technologies, a captive supplier to Huawei and one of the largest domestic designers of semiconductors in China, are among the local designers that have shown rapid growth over the past few years.

China's Credit Slowdown Raises Concerns About Overall Economic Health

August 13, 2014

New economic data released by China's National Bureau of Statistics on Aug. 13 shows the supply of credit to the Chinese economy expanded by only $44.3 billion in July, the slowest pace in almost six years. To be precise, credit expanded at the slowest pace since October 2008, the month after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and the month before the Chinese government launched an economic stimulus program that sheltered China's economy from the worst effects of the global financial crisis. That program also locked China into a growth model grounded in the intimate bond between government-led credit expansion and housing and infrastructure construction -- one that the Chinese government is now struggling, against time and at the risk of crisis, to escape.

The dramatic and widely unexpected drop in Chinese credit supply in July has raised concerns that the economic "recovery" China seemed poised to make starting in June -- when aggregate financing in China hit a whopping $320 billion, which was more than seven times greater than July's figure -- has been nipped in the bud. There are also concerns that the coming months will bring even worse news from the world's second-largest economy. These concerns are aggravated by anecdotal reports repeated in mainstream news media saying July's decline is the result of the policy-driven credit tightening by the government and also reflects a drop in Chinese enterprises' demand for new loans. If the latter is the case, it raises important questions about the underlying health and trajectory of China's economy.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

Declines in demand for loans are nothing new; they have been cited in the past to explain temporary drops in Chinese credit growth. This time around, however, these declines come against a backdrop of several months of sustained and decidedly not policy-driven declines in home sales, home prices and housing construction activity across major Chinese cities. That context -- the inevitable slowdown of China's once frenzied property markets that consumed the lion's share of China's post-2008 lending -- adds a new dimension to reports of a slowdown in loan demand.

In short, it raises a question: Is what happened in July merely another turn in the cycle of credit expansion and tightening that has come to characterize China's economic policy of gradually reining in the investment boom of 2009-2010 that has been in place since late 2011? Is it the beginning of something different? In other words, has something in China's underlying economic conditions changed, now forcing a more fundamental shift in the Chinese government's core economic policy?

The answer, as with most things in China, is that it's complicated. At least one reason for the decline in July's credit growth seems to be a dramatic contraction in shadow loan devices such as banker's acceptance notes and trust loans, perhaps emblematic of greater traction in authorities' ongoing efforts to crack down on lending off the balance sheet by banks and informal lending by non-bank entities. This suggests the slowdown is at least partly driven by government policy rather than by a major drop-off in loan demand. Also, it supports expectations, fostered by China's central bank itself, that the government's overall policy on credit has not changed and that with shadow lending now under better control, China's normal credit supply from state-controlled banks will pick back up in August. This expectation for August is supported by the Chinese government's recent moves to relax lending controls on regional banks in an effort to reverse the ongoing downturn in the housing sector.

Can China Stomach an Independent Kurdistan?

August 15, 2014

Beijing may have to make some tough choices when it comes to Kurdish independence. 

Given fast-moving events in northern Iraq these past few weeks, the prospect of an independent Kurdistan emerging from the rubble looks increasingly likely. For the Western powers, there are several good reasons to support an independent Kurdistan: the region would likely be a relatively well-governed, stable, pro-Western ally (Amitai Etzioni makes this argument in greater detail elsewhere on The Diplomat). However, for China, which has remained mostly on the sidelines of this conflict so far, an independent Kurdistan would be a step too far. Since Mao and the Communists united China in the 1940s, a mainstay of Chinese communist foreign policy has been an opposition to separatism at all costs. Beijing does this not only due to its own Taiwan situation, but also because of fears that witnessing successful separatist movements elsewhere in the world could galvanize separatism in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia.

Beyond mere philosophical opposition to an independent Kurdistan, China has important economic stakes in the region. Since 2009, when Sinopec acquired Addax Petroleum, which was developing the Taq Taq oil field in Iraq’s Kurdish region, Kurdish Iraq has become a major economic nexus for China. In recent years, Chinese investment in Kurdish oil fields and infrastructure has been rising rapidly, and several Chinese citizens live and work in the region. Following the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi government formalized Kurdistan’s post-1991 high degree of autonomy within the Iraqi state, allowing the region to effectively conduct itself as a state (i.e. set its own foreign policy, manage its own defense, etc). The reason the region isn’t a country yet is because of a convoluted oil-sharing agreement between the government in Baghdad and the Kurds.

One can imagine a situation where Beijing permits the emergence of an independent Kurdistan, but remains rhetorically opposed as it does so. In such a scenario, Beijing would reap the benefits of continued economic cooperation with Iraq’s Kurds, access to northern Iraq’s bountiful oilfields, and still come off as appearing as “hard on separatism.” Given the trajectory of current events in Iraq, including the Western intervention to stop the progress of ISIS, it looks increasingly likely that China will have little say in the final outcome of Kurdish independence. Additionally, while the Kurds are under threat from ISIS, they could end up emerging from this crisis with a major ace up their sleeve: Kirkuk. Kirkuk sits on 10 billion barrels of oil and should it come under autonomous Kurdish control, it could embolden the Kurds to finally declare independence. The status of Kirkuk has been a constant issue between the Iraqi government, which claims it is outside of Kurdistan in the interest of keeping the oil revenue from the fields there, and the Kurds, who claim that it is a part of Kurdish territory.

What makes Kurdistan different from Kosovo and other separatist movements is that China has strong economic stakes there. So far, China has been able to do business with Kurdistan without having to implicitly back the Balkanization of Iraq. Depending on how the current conflict with ISIS plays out, Beijing might find that its national interest is best served by backing an independent Kurdistan.