20 August 2014

Feeble fire in the big guns

Rahul Bedi 
Published: August 20, 2014 

PTISHORTFALL: The critical howitzer shortage and obsolescence of existing platforms is possibly the worst of the Army’s innumerable deficiencies. Picture shows a Light Field Gun-105/37 MME-2 and Bofors gun 155 MM FH-77 BO2 on display during Kargil Vijay Diwas celebrations in Jammu and Kashmir. 

The Indian Army is facing a critical shortage of effective artillery firepower, crucial in a limited war scenario 

The Indian Army is making incremental, but confused, progress in upgrading its depreciated artillery profile that has languished gravely since the import of Bofors howitzers in the late 1980s. It recently completed trials for two 155mm/52 caliber howitzer systems and is readying its report on the try-outs in Rajasthan last summer and in Sikkim in February, for presentation to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) by the year end.Howitzer shortage 

Depending on the trial reports of whether the howitzers have met the Army’s Qualitative Requirements (QRs), principally of reliably and consistently achieving a strike range of 42 kilometres, the vendors will be shortlisted or rejected. Ideally, thereafter the howitzer price bids submitted early last year ahead of field trials would be opened, cost negotiations launched and the procurement confirmed. But such a smooth and painless eventuality in India’s lugubrious MoD is still a long way off. 

Competing for the 155mm/52 caliber towed gun system (TGS) are France’s Nexter, with its Trajan gun, specially modified for the Indian tender, and Israel’s Elbit fielding the ATHOS 2052 howitzer. India plans on acquiring 400 towed howitzers and building an additional 1,180 guns via a technology transfer to the state-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). 

Vying alongside, in support of the Army’s initial requirement for 100 self-propelled tracked (SPT) howitzers are South Korean Samsung-Techwin’s K-9 Thunder and an upgraded version of Russia’s MSTA-S SP gun modified to 155mm/52cal standards and mounted on a T72 main battle tank chassis. 

All four competitors have technical agreements with local companies that are expected to extend beyond providing backup during trials, if any of the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are shortlisted for acquisition. While Nexter and Samsung are collaborating with Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Elbit has an arrangement with the Kalyani Group in Pune. Expectedly, the Russians are in a tie-up with the OFB. 

Defeating Pakistan’s proxy war

Rajinder Puri
The Statesman, 20 Aug 2014

During the election campaign, Prime Minister (PM) Mr Narendra Modi was asked by a TV interviewer whether he would hold talks with Pakistan amidst continuing terror attacks. Mr Modi said that one cannot talk under the sound of gunfire. Recently on a visit to Kashmir the PM told a gathering that Pakistan was conducting a proxy war through cross border terrorism. Despite this the government initiated moves for talks between foreign secretaries slated for 25 August.

Prior to the talks the Pakistan High Commissioner invited Kashmir separatist leaders for consultations. The government protested through cancellation of the foreign secretaries' meeting. Was the High Commissioner’s invitation to Kashmir separatist leaders a greater provocation than continuing cross border terror attacks ever since Mr Modi assumed office? The ways of this government are mysterious.

Pakistan Prime Minister Mr Nawaz Sharif reiterated his desire for peace. He also said that Kashmir remains the core issue for a final settlement. But cross-border terror attacks did not stop. Either Mr Sharif is double-faced or he is not in control. Neither fact should affect India’s approach to the problem. Pakistan is hostage to powerful foreign-backed elements 
that have infiltrated the government. They are supported 
by a madrassa trained underclass converted to anti-India hatred. Although the foreign 
secretaries’ talks are cancelled, it does not prevent the government from conveying an 
ultimatum to Pakistan demanding an end to the proxy 
war. What should that ultimatum be?

First, India must insist that Pakistan accept in principle joint defence against terrorism. That will commit the Pakistan government to a declaration of war against all pro-terrorist elements and their foreign backers. In addition, India should offer immediate full cooperation by its army and security agencies to jointly wipe out terrorism from the region. Together both armies can achieve this. There are more terror casualties in Pakistan than in India. Simultaneously, India should offer substantive peace talks on Kashmir. These commitments will affect both Pakistan and India in their relations with China. In Kashmir, Mr Modi referred to Pakistan’s proxy war but was conspicuously silent about Chinese incursions across the border. Why? This government continues with the stupid, sycophantic and self-destructive China policy of previous governments. To encourage Chinese investment while Beijing continues to arm Pakistan against India is sheer insanity.

If Pakistan does not accept this ultimatum it can face an existential threat. India can break all cultural and political contacts and reduce its embassy in Islamabad to an empty building. It can extend full moral support to Baluchistan independence. It can endorse the Durand Line Treaty by which Pakistan’s Pashtun territory reverts to Afghanistan. These measures could implode Pakistan. India’s diplomatic war can defeat Pakistan’s proxy war. How to deal with China requires separate treatment.
Will Mr. Modi walk the talk?

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist. He blogs at www.rajinderpuri.com

Not talking to Pakistan is a disservice

It is difficult to see how India and Pakistan can get out of this cul-de-sac we have designed. Coping mechanisms are not simply matters for discussion between Governments; they have to be translated urgently into the lives of villages in both countries
Satyabrata Pal

NAWAZ SHARIF seems to be drowning in the clutches of a giant squid, the COAS, Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri, the Taliban, the economy all tentacles wrapping themselves around him.

The Government of India appears to have decided that sending the Foreign Secretary to Islamabad now would be a waste of time, but to use the Hurriyat as an excuse is not only unworthy, giving its worthies an importance they neither have nor deserve, it lays down a precondition for talks with which Pakistan cannot comply. When we reach a settlement over Jammu and Kashmir, which came agonisingly close during Musharraf’s tenure, Pakistan will abandon the Hurriyat, whose demand for azaadi is as much anathema to it as to us. Till then, though, it must maintain the fiction that it supports their aspirations; “consulting” them is a ritual of anticipatory expiation, a charade with which everyone has played along, until now.

Since Pakistan cannot give up its meetings with the Hurriyat without losing face, there will be no talks for the foreseeable future. We are sanguine about this because, even if the talks had taken place, we intended to talk only about terrorism. We have made this our core concern vis-à-vis Pakistan, and since the civilians with whom talks are held do not control the terrorists, a hiatus in talks is neither here nor there. A view seems to be gaining ground that there are more muscular options available, should terrorism again rise above a threshold. Are there, and should terrorism be our core concern with Pakistan? Data for the last five years, collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal, shows that in 2009, 721 Indians died in terrorist attacks, 759, 429, 252 and 304 in the next four years. These lives should never have been lost, but in 2013, when terrorism killed 304, the National Crime Records Bureau reported that 8,083 women were murdered for dowry. Terrorism is by no means the largest shadow looming over our lives.

The Portal’s figures also show that very few of the deaths from terrorism can be attributed to Pakistan. Of the 304 victims in 2013, 159 were killed by Left-wing extremists, 95 in Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland in the festering insurgencies that the rest of India ignores, and 30 in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. In J&K, where Pakistan’s terrorists operate, they killed 20 civilians. (The same year, they killed 3,001 innocent Pakistanis.) This pattern has held steady for five years.

The foreign policy report card

Published: August 20, 2014 
Srinath Raghavan

It is perhaps too soon to try and discern a distinctive ‘Modi doctrine’, but the wider arc of foreign and strategic policy is gradually coming into focus.

The 100-day honeymoon of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government will soon be at an end. Despite pressing challenges at home, external engagements have encroached on the government’s time and attention. The calendar has been packed with visits, meetings and negotiations. What has all this added up to? It is perhaps too soon to try and discern a distinctive “Modi doctrine.” But the wider arc of foreign and strategic policy is gradually coming into focus. The government’s early initiatives have been stamped with the Prime Minister’s style, yet the real challenges lie ahead.

Let’s start with South Asia. From the outset, Mr. Modi has sought to accord the highest priority to India’s immediate neighbourhood. The decision to invite for his swearing-in, leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries showed a subtle grasp of the importance of gestures and interpersonal equations in diplomacy. The subsequent visits to Bhutan and Nepal underscored his ability to project India’s leadership in the region without a hint of condescension. In his speeches, Mr. Modi has outlined a generous vision of shared regional prosperity.

Regional policy

All this has undoubtedly helped revivify India’s regional policy. Yet, the challenge for India has not been the absence of good intentions. Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr. Manmohan Singh shared these aims. Rather, it has been the difficulty of tackling underlying problems that has hobbled our regional policy.

For one thing, India has struggled to evolve a sustainable policy of engagement with Pakistan — one that is insulated from the pressures of predictable events. After a promising start, the government’s approach to Pakistan seems to be spluttering. Take the decision to cancel the Foreign Secretary’s visit to Islamabad. The government may be rightly miffed at Pakistan for meeting the Hurriyat leaders despite being warned of India’s displeasure. But it is not clear why a redline should have been drawn on this issue. At a time when the civilian government in Pakistan is on the back foot, New Delhi’s digging in of its heels will only comfort the military.

Of America, oil & Erbil

Shankar Roy chowdhury
Aug 19, 2014

There is a geo-strategic factor to maintain control over Kurdistan — to protect large financial investments made in the region by American oil companies, chiefly around the towns of Kirkuk and Erbil

Were the American airstrikes on the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — carried out in the Kirkuk-Erbil region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq — primarily a pre-emptive intervention on humanitarian grounds to protect Kurdish refugees on the run from the pursuing forces of ISIS? Or was the primary task of the two F18 aircraft that carried out the mission, the security and protection of the oil wells and refineries in Tawke, Taq Taq and around Kirkuk, with the humanitarian spin-off for refugees an added bonus? The difference is purely academic. But whatever may have been the actual intention, US President Barack Obama’s decision to launch American airpower in a pre-emptive intervention against the ISIS advance into the Kurdistan region of Iraq dovetails neatly into both options — killing multiple birds with minimum expenditure of ammunition.
The major humanitarian catastrophe that would ensue if the panic stricken refugees from the Yazidi tribes trapped in the Sinjar Mountains of Kurdistan were to be captured by the pursuing forces of the ISIS, has to be set off against the requirement to retain American control over the Iraqi oilfields in northern Iraq.

Yazidis are considered apostates by ultra orthodox Islamists and their end at the hands of the ISIS would have been short, brutal and bloody. On the other hand, Kurdistan lies in the oil belt of Iraq and its control has always been disputed between Iran, Iraq and Turkey. This also reflects the geopolitics of the ideological divides between Shia and Sunni Islam, and the political rivalries between their respective principals Iran and Saudi Arabia. The ISIS also faces opposition from the Kurdish tribal confederacy in Iraq, whose chief Masoud Barzani has mobilised the peshmerga, the traditional Kurdish tribal levies to protect the local population against the intruders.

There is also the purely geo-strategic factor to maintain control over Kurdistan, for protection of the large financial investments made in the region by American oil companies, chiefly around the towns of Kirkuk and Erbil.

*** Learning from the Summer Wars of 2014

By Major Matt Cavanaugh
August 17, 2014/ Matt Cavanaugh

*Note: This essay is based on remarks to be delivered on Tuesday, 19 August 2014, at the Defense & Strategic Studies War Council event, "Summer Wars: ISIS, Ukraine, and Gaza."

The Oxford historian Margaret McMillan recently related a story taken from the opening scenes of World War I: 

"The leading newspaper editor in Berlin took his family to Belgium on July 27, 1914. Before he went, he checked with the German Foreign Secretary. He asked, 'There’s a bit of a crisis developing – do you think it’s safe to take my family to Belgium?' The German Foreign Secretary responded: 'oh yes, don’t worry, it’ll all be over by next week.'"

Unfortunately, we can see the same complacency today. The New York Times recently described an analysis of campaign advertisements from July 2014. Of the 1,155 ads, only 49, or about 4%, were about any subject even remotely resembling foreign policy. Despite all that is happening in Iraq and Syria, Ukraine, and in Gaza - on some broad level - what happens beyond the water's edge is for someone else to care about.

Thankfully, anyone reading this essay is cut from a slightly different bolt of cloth. There's interest in what goes on overseas, or, in seeing the world as it is. Any reader on War Council is naturally inclined to study the use of force, particularly warm and hot battlefields. Like storm chasers, often, the closer you get the better you’ll understand the wind patterns and trends. However, if you can’t get to the precise center (or vortex), what follows are some things I think you might deem important to consider in your observations of Iraq (and Syria/ISIS), Ukraine, and Gaza from afar – so you can better understand the environment we live (and may fight) in.


With respect to Iraq, did the U.S. "win" or "lose" there? Does that even matter? Consider the complexity, the many sides, which I've referred to previously as a Rubik’s cube war. ISIS defies definition. I've heard former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morrell refer to the group as a "terrorist army," typically a contradiction in terms.  

Some suggest that airpower is the solution to stopping ISIS. But we should start by asking what airpower can do. Simply put, airpower is great at engagement, but provides no sustained commitment - as Eliot Cohen of Johns Hopkins has put it, airpower is kind of a one-night stand in that respect. Moreover, one should ask: when is airpower effective? Since November 1911, when an Italian pilot dropped three hand grenades out of his monoplane at some Turks in Libya, there have been two general conditions for success in airpower:

1. If the enemy moves in open terrain; no cover or concealment (i.e. desert).

2. If the enemy has no air force or useful anti-aircraft weapons to speak of.

*** Why We Fight Wars

AUG. 17, 2014

This story is included with an NYT Opinion subscription.

A century has passed since the start of World War I, which many people at the time declared was “the war to end all wars.” Unfortunately, wars just kept happening. And with the headlines from Ukraine getting scarier by the day, this seems like a good time to ask why.

Once upon a time wars were fought for fun and profit; when Rome overran Asia Minor or Spain conquered Peru, it was all about the gold and silver. And that kind of thing still happens. In influential research sponsored by the World Bank, the Oxford economist Paul Collier has shown that the bestpredictor of civil war, which is all too common in poor countries, is the availability of lootable resources like diamonds. Whatever other reasons rebels cite for their actions seem to be mainly after-the-fact rationalizations. War in the preindustrial world was and still is more like a contest among crime families over who gets to control the rackets than a fight over principles.

If you’re a modern, wealthy nation, however, war — even easy, victorious war — doesn’t pay. And this has been true for a long time. In his famous 1910 book “The Great Illusion,” the British journalist Norman Angell argued that “military power is socially and economically futile.” As he pointed out, in an interdependent world (which already existed in the age of steamships, railroads, and the telegraph), war would necessarily inflict severe economic harm even on the victor. Furthermore, it’s very hard to extract golden eggs from sophisticated economies without killing the goose in the process.

We might add that modern war is very, very expensive. For example, by any estimate the eventual costs (including things like veterans’ care) of the Iraq war will end up being well over $1 trillion, that is, many times Iraq’s entire G.D.P.

So the thesis of “The Great Illusion” was right: Modern nations can’t enrich themselves by waging war. Yet wars keep happening. Why?

** The coming disintegration of Iraq Inside the legacy of Nouri al-Maliki

By Joel Rayburn 
August 15

Iraq has experienced civil strife and sectarian violence since 2003, when this cemetery worker in Baghdad returned a casket to storage, to be used again. 

Army Col. Joel Rayburn, a senior research fellow at the National Defense University, is a historian who served as an adviser to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq. He is the author of“Iraq After America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance.” The views he expresses here are his own and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of Defense. 

Nouri al-Maliki may have agreed to step down as prime minister of Iraq on Thursday, but the damage he has wrought will define his country for decades to come. The stunning collapse of the Iraqi state in its vast northern and western provinces may be Maliki’s most significant legacy. After nine decades as the capital of a unitary, centralized state, Baghdad no longer rules Kurdistan, nor Fallujah, nor Mosul, and might never rule them again. 

** Are the Dollar's Global Currency Days Numbered?

August 18, 2014

This analysis first appeared in El Espectador

It's not going to happen tomorrow, in a year or even five years. But it's conceivable, even likely, that within ten years, the U.S. dollar will cease to become the reference currency for international transactions. The reason for this is that the U.S. government and American judges have politicized the dollar to an extreme in a world where the country backing it is no longer as dominant as it once was.

The United States is an arrogant power, which, like many other empires (and people), is witnessing its influence decline. Indeed, it is hastening this degeneration by wasting its political and symbolic capital, expending it as if the country still stood at the zenith of its glory.

Because of France, the first steps toward the beginning of the end of the dollar's hegemony could begin at the next G20 summit. Here's why: On June 30, the U.S. Federal Reserve backed a Justice Department and New York district court decision to punish the French bank BNP Paribas, one of Europe's biggest, for routinely violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, Sudan and Cuba. Besides fining the French bank almost $9 billion, the U.S. also suspended approval of its dollar transactions.

French President Francois Hollande is one of several heads of leading economic powers who believes that the United States has gone too far in politicizing the dollar, and he favors putting the topic on the G20 agenda. To punish those who violate U.S. economic sanctions exploits the fact that the dollar is an inevitable part of international transactions. It is one of the few subjects on which France, Germany and Russia publicly agree.

Taking its ball and going home

The United States is actually shooting itself in the foot and isolating its allies. Ironically, President Barack Obama, who pledged to reconcile the White House with the world, has barely managed to make a dent in the isolation his predecessor George W. Bush created.

The United States developed intelligent sanctions as a means of exerting pressure on foreign countries and institutions without resorting to military force. One maneuver it can use - and has with BNP Paribas - is to forbid banks from approving dollar transactions, which is otherwise just a formality in the normal process of international finances.

U.S. judges and government officials who are using this to punish those who defy their sanctions have a right to do so, of course. But it's a short-sighted tactic. To describe the problem simply, if the rich kid doesn't want his buddies to play with his new football, they will eventually look for another one - perhaps less fancy - and leave the rich kid to nurse his top-of-the-line toy alone.

India’s Quest for Energy in Central Asia

By Richard Wallace
August 18, 2014

Modi has an opportunity to make inroads into the energy-rich region, but will need some clever diplomacy. 
The domestic political scene in India has been electrified with the arrival of the “Modi-wave,” which swept the reformist former chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power as the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy. As yet, much remains to be known about the direction in which Modi will steer India in on the international stage, and his foreign policy posture towards Central Asia remains particularly undefined.

Under the previous Congress-led government there were few successful attempts to engage in the geopolitical arena of Central Asia. However, the young BJP government now has the opportunity to assert India’s influence in Central Asia and secure greater access to the region’s abundant natural resources. This would mean re-invigorating a diplomatic activism with the CARs, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which never quite got off the ground under the last government.

India is the world’s fourth largest energy consumer, with its energy demand perpetually rising in parallel with national power shortages and an insufficiently developed energy infrastructure. There has been a recognition in New Delhi’s diplomatic circles of the need for greater energy diversification and Central Asia, with its abundant oil, gas, and uranium reserves as well as hydroelectric potential, is key to reducing its energy dependency on the Middle East.

India has made some important strides in the right direction recently. They can be encapsulated in its “Connect Central Asia” policy, launched in 2012 with a focus on promoting cooperation in education, medicine, IT and, crucially, energy. Prior to this in 2006, India announced the provision of a $17 million grant to assist in the development of the recently inaugurated Varzob 1 hydropower station, in the hope of tapping into Tajikistan’s hydroelectric potential.

Yet India’s energy footprint is barely visible in the region. India’s trade with its CAR neighbors stands at a paltry $500-760 million. Its flagship investment in Kazakhstan’s Caspian Satpayev field (a 25 percent stake controlled by India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation), whilst in some ways a geopolitical success in showcasing a growing presence in the region, will yield limited dividends and is estimated to hold only 3 percent of Kazakhstan’s known reserves.

Unending Violence in Pakistan Analysing the Trends

Pakistan Project Report

Publisher: Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

About the Book
The Pakistan Project of IDSA consists of a dedicated group of scholars studying Pakistan and watching the unfolding events and analysing the trends from the perspective of its implications for India and the region. “Unending Violence in Pakistan: Analysing the Trends, 2013-14” is the third report published by Pakistan Project. This report examines political violence, sectarianism, insurgency, militancy and terrorism in Pakistan, approaches of political parties and government and its implications for the society and polity of Pakistan. The report focuses on a one-year period after the May 2013 general elections, which saw the PML-N assuming power in Islamabad with the Provinces being led by other national and regional parties.




Chapter I 






Our attention these days is torn between violent conflicts and graphic imagery from eastern Ukraine, western Iraq and the Kurdistan region, and the rubble of Gaza. Informed readers could be excused for forgetting about the International Security Assistance Force’s mission in Afghanistan or Pakistan’s daily struggle to keep violent extremism from taking root inside its borders. The notion that we live in an age of unmatched peace is rendered moot by the front page of any newspaper or website. The tides of war are not receding.

The release of Hassan Abbas’s The Taliban Revival is very timely. As a former police officer and accomplished scholar, Abbas has an informed grasp of his subject formed by intimate contact over an extended time. He has remained current with events through well-placed contacts and annual field visits. He warns the reader not to expect an upbeat story about the plot since “ignorance and bigotry, the two fundamental planks of the Taliban ideology,” are the constant undercurrent and substantially influence his subject.

The author addresses the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban separately, while noting the sometimes interactive nature between the two. He warns that “A newer generation of military operating in the field defines the ethos of the Taliban today; and it is more uncompromising than the older generation.” Yet the Afghan Taliban, despite its fissures between hardline and moderate leaders, is chiefly concerned with matters internal to its homeland. “The Pakistani Taliban, on the other hand, is more audacious and dangerous,” Abbas observes. He detects legitimate grievances, and ideology as motivation. However, he thinks that:

Genuine political and economic grievances, coupled with Pakistan’s controversial role in the ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan have turned out to be the defining impetus. Gradually they have openly started challenging the very idea of Pakistan. It is not their goal to take over Islamabad and govern there: their preferred path is to make Waziristan the capital of their cherished Islamic Emirate.

China Reportedly Operating urveillance Drones in Restive Xinjiang Province

China Said to Deploy Drones After Unrest in Xinjiang

Didi Kirsten Tatlow

New York Times,August 19, 2014

Uighur children playing in the streets of Kashgar, in southern Xinjiang. Xinjiang has seen growing ethnic and religious tensions in recent years.Credit Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Three days after an eruption of violence in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang this summer left nearly 100 people dead, the region’s “antiterrorist command” asked the country’s biggest space and defense contractor for help. It wanted technical experts to operate drones the authorities in Xinjiang had ordered last year in anticipation of growing unrest. The target was “terrorists,” according to the online edition of People’s Daily, a Communist Party media outlet.

On Monday, the Uyghur American Association, a Washington-based advocacy group for Uighurs, the mostly Muslim ethnic group native to Xinjiang, said the use of drones pointed to the further militarization of the region and warned that the drones could be deployed against people as well as for surveillance and intelligence-gathering mentioned by Chinese media.

According to a report in People’s Daily this week, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the main contractor for the Chinese space program, responded swiftly to the July 31 request by the Xinjiang authorities.

A worker preparing to pack a model of the Chinese-made Wing Loong, or Pterodactyl, drone at an expo last year in Beijing. Drones are being increasingly used in China.Credit Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times

The Great Chinese Exodus Many Chinese are leaving for cleaner air, better schools and more opportunity. But Beijing is keeping its eye on them.

Andrew Browne
Aug. 15, 2014 

A recent report showed that 64% of China's rich are either migrating overseas or have plans to leave the country. Political scientist James To, who has written a book on the subject, tells the WSJ's Deborah Kan how the Chinese government is using propaganda campaigns abroad to ensure loyalty from overseas Chinese. Even when the emperors did their utmost to keep them at home, the Chinese ventured overseas in search of knowledge, fortune and adventure. Manchu Qing rulers thought those who left must be criminals or conspirators and once forced the entire coastal population of southern China to move at least 10 miles inland.a
But even that didn't put an end to wanderlust. Sailing junks ferried merchants to Manila on monsoon winds to trade silk and porcelain for silver. And in the 19th century, steamships carried armies of "coolies" (as they were then called) to the mines and plantations of the European empires.

Today, China's borders are wide open. Almost anybody who wants a passport can get one. And Chinese nationals are leaving in vast waves: Last year, more than 100 million outbound travelers crossed the frontiers.

Most are tourists who come home. But rapidly growing numbers are college students and the wealthy, and many of them stay away for good. A survey by the Shanghai research firm Hurun Report shows that 64% of China's rich—defined as those with assets of more than $1.6 million—are either emigrating or planning to.

To be sure, the departure of China's brightest and best for study and work isn't a fresh phenomenon. China's communist revolution was led, after all, by intellectuals schooled in Europe. What's new is that they are planning to leave the country in its ascendancy. More and more talented Chinese are looking at the upward trajectory of this emerging superpower and deciding, nevertheless, that they're better off elsewhere.
Visitors to Tiananmen Square struggle with Beijing's polluted air, Nov. 5, 2013. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images The decision to go is often a mix of push and pull. The elite are discovering that they can buy a comfortable lifestyle at surprisingly affordable prices in places such as California and the Australian Gold Coast, while no amount of money can purchase an escape in China from the immense problems afflicting its urban society: pollution, food safety, a broken education system. The new political era of President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, has created as much anxiety as hope.


By P. Stobdan,Eurasia Review

It seems Prime Minister Narendra Modi is drawing his strategy from Kautilya’s “Rajamandala” for visualizing circles of friendly and enemy states. Both his Bhutan and Nepal visits were in line with the ancient Indian political discourse and they were undoubtedy a grand success. Modi is on the reawakening drive with vengeance and his sifting through ancient tracks might simply work for his foreign policy pursuit. However, how Modi visualizes Pakistan and Bangladesh that have long drifted away into a different axis will remain a test. So far, failing to conceptualize India’s geographic continuum as a whole rather than a set of small neighbours rendered space for others to maneuver the region.

However, the bigger challenge is conceptualizing China in the ancient idiom. The Mandala (circle of sacred and friendly space) encompassed or overlapped both Indian and Chinese space. In fact, historians acknowledge China-de’se as a constituent component of Indian political and spiritual disposition at least until the Harsha period.

The epicenter of this sacred circle was ironically in the Himalayas where both ancient nations today find themselves locked in a boundary dispute. The axis had drawn in India-China congruencies and they were mostly in non-territorial sense. The Indian Mandala revolved around the core (center) rather than on periphery (boundary). China built its own federation of tributaries around the Middle Kingdom precept.

The Islamic invasion however flattened the Mandala and India-China axis but the distortion began after Western science of cartography presented reality on a flat surface and demolished the conceptual circle of unity and infinite relations in cosmic sense under the Asian thought. Cartography conformed to linear line, fixed boundary and bureaucratic apparatus; together they pierced borderlands and split nationalities. The linearity of divide though illogical for people living in the interlaced flow of history came to knock down India-China confluence, sparked off conflicts and entailed a string of crises. However, linearity still guides today’s foreign affairs and policy prescriptions – call it geopolitics.

Is Modi preparing to view China in nonconventional sense? Perhaps it is difficult but not impossible. The pulls of Asia have not disappeared. It depend how he will stir India innovatively that will weigh the power of politics ultimately. Drawing from Modi’s momentous speech in the Nepali Constituent Assembly, the Himalayas holds the keystone for Asian culture, environmental, political and regional security. His speech was remarkable and if expounded it could change the Asian context.

The key issue still remains stalemated are over Tibet. The Dalai Lama who professes Lamaist Mandala accepts neither radicalization nor reconciliation. He seeks no linear equation either separation or independence. He has even dropped the “greater autonomy” demand and now willing to settle for living under the Chinese constitution, if it guarantees space for Tibetan culture. A sensible proposition though.

While India dozes, China is modernising its military

17 August 2014

Though it has been more than six decades since we attained Independence, securing our nation and its inhabitants remains an overwhelming concern. 

Security threats, external and internal, have dogged us through our history, and even though we are stronger than we have ever been - indeed a nuclear weapons power - the sense of insecurity remains. 

It is not surprising, therefore, that the Narendra Modi government has made it clear that when it comes to security, terrorism remains a major concern. 

Caught lying down: There remains complacency in India about the growth of China's military capabilities. Pictured is Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) with Chinese President Xi Jinping

Rejecting Pakistan's criticism of Modi's "proxy war" remarks during his visit to Ladakh, the Indian official spokesman said last Thursday that terrorism was not only a "core concern in our relations with Pakistan" but that it remained a "real and present danger" to the country. 

We may not have had a major terror attack since 2008, but terrorism remains an issue that worries people. 

This was brought out by a Pew Global Attitudes poll earlier this year which revealed that while people were concerned about economic, political and corruption issues, nearly nine in 10 respondents, some 88 per cent, said that terrorism was a "very big problem," and that Pakistan (47 per cent) and the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (20 per cent) posed the greatest threat to India. 

Nineteen per cent said the Maoists were a threat, but just six per cent chose China.

The low figure for China is a measure of the Indian complacency about not just the rise of China, but the growth of its military capabilities - some of which are aimed at us. 

China's Crafty South China Sea Gambit

August 17, 2014 

While Asia was concerned over tensions between Beijing and Hanoi involving an oil rig, China had bigger plans in mind.

In a recent piece for China US Focus, Zhai Kun, director of the Institute of World Political Studies at CICIR, described the South China Sea as “a chessboard of international politics.”

Noting the sea’s fluctuating role in relations between China and its neighbours, Zhai then claimed that the current focus on the South China Sea (SCS) followed a July 2010 speech by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which she asserted that it was a US “national interest.”

At that moment, Zhai says, it became a key stage for Sino-US competition and the rivalry between the various claimant states to the disputed Paracel and Spratly island chains was renewed. This chimes with a recent Xinhuaeditorial that blamed the US pivot for “emboldening” countries such as Vietnam and Philippines to more forcefully assert their claims to “sovereign Chinese territory.”

These are interesting assertions, but they don’t stand up to much scrutiny. The most recent changes in the SCS have occurred independent of U.S. actions; in fact it is more persuasive to argue that U.S. inaction - through its refusal to move away from its longstanding impartiality regarding territorial disputes - has emboldened Beijing to assert its claims more forcefully than it has for years.

In the past 2 years China has effectively taken control of Scarborough Shoal(sometimes referred to as Scarborough Reef), intimidated Philippine marines and partially blockaded on Second Thomas Reef, and most recently, moved a massive CNOOC oil rig to within 120 nautical miles of the Vietnamese coast.

Can America "Just Say No" to China?

August 17, 2014 

Why Washington should avoid cooperation with Beijing for cooperation’s sake.

“One of America’s clearest and most compelling interests is to develop a positive and constructive U.S.-China relationship.”

Secretary Kerry’s statement at the recent U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) is consistent with President Obama’s priority for the United States to make a military, diplomatic, and economic rebalance to Asia. And while the President and his administration have taken great strides to improve ties with regional partners Japan and Korea and serve as an arbiter of maritime and territorial disputes, the U.S.-China relationship has emerged as the United States’ highest priority. President Obama said in March 2014 “that this bilateral relationship has been as important as any bilateral relationship in the world,” aspiring to realize Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposition of a new type of major power relations.

China has taken advantage of this dynamic: undermining U.S. credibility in the region with allies and partners, successfully advocating for imbalanced cooperation efforts, and derailing progress on more substantive issues by putting the United States on the defensive in order to prove its priorities in the region.

The United States has overemphasized the engagement aspect of the U.S.-China relationship and has disregarded what Kerry referred to as the “constructive” part of the picture. Absent reciprocation or behavior modification from China, however, a true major power relationship is an unattainable goal.

As it reassesses its priorities for the bilateral security relationship, the United States should also ensure its messaging to China is consistent and resilient. The United States should be selective on issues of engagement: prioritizing substantive, productive issues such as cybersecurity and eschewing counterproductive, incongruent agendas such as counterterrorism cooperation. The United States cannot forgo consideration of larger strategic interests (such as protecting intelligence and military capabilities) or avoid contentious but important issues (such as tensions in maritime Asia, avoiding conflict escalation) so that it may engage with China. It runs the risk of cooperating for cooperation’s sake.

Unify U.S. Officials’ Messages to China

US Fighter Bombers Attacking New Set of ISIS Targets Around Mosul Dam in Northern Iraq

Helene Cooper, Mark Landler and Azam Ahmed
Troops in Iraq Rout Sunni Militants From a Key Dam
New York Times, August 19, 2014

Kurdish pesh merga fighters near the Mosul Dam on Monday. President Obama said Iraqi and Kurdish forces quickly took advantage of American airstrikes.Credit Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Iraqi and Kurdish ground troops overran Sunni militants and reclaimed Iraq’s largest dam on Monday, President Obama said, as American warplanes unleashed a barrage of bombs in an expansion of the limited goals laid out by the president in authorizing the military campaign in Iraq.

Mr. Obama, who interrupted a family vacation on Martha’s Vineyard to meet Monday with his national security team in Washington, maintained that the airstrikes around the Mosul Dam were within the constraints of what he initially characterized as a limited campaign meant to break the siege of stranded Yazidis on Mount Sinjar and protect American personnel, citizens and facilities in Iraq.

Administration officials repeatedly painted that second directive — the protection of Americans in Baghdad, 290 miles away — as the justification for the intense air campaign over Mosul Dam, seized two weeks ago by militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

But such a definition gives the White House wide latitude to support Iraqi forces in a sustained military offensive against ISIS across the country. The president hinted that more help from the United States and international partners would come if Iraq’s Shiite majority governed in a more inclusive way.

In announcing the seizure of the strategically critical dam, Mr. Obama mixed his message with a warning to Iraqi leaders not to use the heightened American military support as an excuse to slow down political reconciliation.

Kurdistan Is Considered the "Success Story" of the Iraq War. Not So Fast.

In late June, days after his battalion had helped secure Kirkuk from Sunni militants with what is now referred to as the Islamic State (IS), commander Sherko Fatih returned to the nearby Mullah Abdullah area to patrol. The battle in Mullah Abdullah had been the hardest in his 25 years as a peshmerga, he told me when we met in a military outpost outside of Kirkuk city. But that day, Mullah Abdullah had been calm, which the commander saw as a victory for his unit. 

"What [the peshmerga] have is like a religion," he told me, implying that the nationalism among Kurdish fighters was motivating enough to overcome the actual religious extremism of IS. It was a good line and I heard variations of it often, from officials in Erbil, local and foreign journalists, and petrified citizens. Shopkeepers in Kirkuk declared their willingness to dust off Kalashnikovs and join the fight, and a pride spread throughout the region, particularly among those many Kurds who have long felt ignored or misunderstood by the rest of the world. Unlike IS, the peshmerga were an institution. Unlike the Iraqi Army, the peshmerga had high morale and something worth fighting for. "That's why we're stronger," Fatih's colleague Latif Sabir said.

Since then IS has pushed further into the autonomous northern Iraq, targeting communities of Christians and Yazidis, a long-persecuted religious minority. Trapped on Mount Sinjar, the Yazidis appeared to tip the scales for the Obama administration, which authorized the delivery of humanitarian aid as well as military strikes against IS that are intended, Obama said in a speech, to stop the militants from advancing on Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. The U.S. sent small arms and ammunition to the peshmerga, and when U.S. bombs exploded in Makhmour, a small city about thirty miles southwest of Erbil that is home to a refugee camp for Turkish Kurds, it sent a message of American might. For Kurds, and the peshmerga, it was also a long-awaited message of American friendship. The battle in Makhmour was broadcast on television in Kurdistan, breathing new life into the morale that both Faith and Sabir had compared to a religion. It seemed a stroke of good luck that Iraq's strongest military power was also a U.S. ally. 

But Kurds are not a monolithic group with a single ambition, and the peshmerga have not always represented a unified Kurdistan. Still today, the Kurdistan they protect is a work in progress, and so are the peshmerga. Since 2003, when Iraqi Kurdistan was deemed the "success story" of the war, the region has been propped up as an example of the U.S.’s good intentions by those trying to rationalize military force, particularly conservative American policy makers. This has largely crafted the region's image. Because Kurdistan was doing so well relative to the rest of Iraq, it was mostly spared scrutiny from watchdog groups and journalists, who often romanticize the region, obscuring its failings and depriving large populations of alienated Kurds a role in shaping Kurdistan's future by criticizing the present. 

Kurdistan is booming on the promise of oil wealth, and their security—maintained by the peshmerga—has enticed investors to the region. But progress has come alongside reports of rampant corruption, a widening gap between the rich and poor, and increasingly authoritarian tendencies in a government still dominated by family names. Disenfranchised Kurds find little hope of influencing the authorities or benefiting from the oil wealth. Perhaps nothing in Kurdistan illustrates its internal fissures more than the peshmerga themselves.

The Kurdish peshmerga began as a guerrilla army rising up against a string of oppressive central governments. Kurdish leaders like Massoud Barzani (his son, Massoud, is the president of Iraqi Kurdistan) and Jalal Talabani were were leaders in the fight against Saddam Hussein, whose attacks in the north culminated in what many Kurds call a genocide. From their base in the mountains, the peshmerga were at the heart of the Kurdish dream of independence, and often the population's only defenders. Most older Kurdish men will readily identify themselves as a peshmerga, even if they had never fought. A word that translates to "those who face death" had come to symbolize a collective nationalism that didn't necessarily have anything to do with armed struggle. 

But in the mid-1990s a civil war between the two major Kurdish political parties split the region, pitting fighters loyal to specific parties against one another, and it left a wound on Kurdish society. A no-fly zone had been established over the Kurdish north in 1991, and "Saddam was mostly contained," Ali Khedery, a former adviser to U.S. forces in Iraq (who went on to negotiate Exxon Mobil's entry into Kurdistan), told me. "But in the north there were deep fissures between the two political parties." 

"The tension in that civil war, which was very violent and very brutal, as civil wars tend to be, is still fresh in a lot of minds," Khedery continued. "They remember it like it was yesterday." 

Allegations of nepotism and corruption—like those that have plagued the Kurdish government and alienated swathes of Kurdish society—have also fractured the peshmerga. Some fighters profited more, and the romance of revolution has long faded. "They say we were all peshmerga and poor together in the mountains," Denise Natali, a fellow at the National Defense University, told me. "So why now do some have villas, exorbitant wealth, while others do not?"

Middle East That France and Britain Drew Is Finally Unravelling And there's very little the U.S. can do to stop it

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) publishes a weekly webzine, The Islamic State Report. The latest issue is headlined “Smashing the Borders of the Tawaghit.” (“Tawaghit” are non-Muslim creations.) ISIS, citing the Sykes-Picot Treaty of 1916 between the British and French, boasts that it is destroying the “partitioning of Muslim lands by crusader powers.” That may seem like a quixotic task for a relatively small band of irregulars, but in trying to redraw the map of Iraq and Syria, ISIS has hit upon a weak link in the chain holding the nations of the Middle East together.

It is easy to blame what is going on in Iraq or Syria on dictators and terrorists, but these various bad actors are bit players in a drama that goes back at least to World War I. What is happening is that the arrangements that the British and French created during and after World War I—which established the very existence of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan, and later contributed to the creation of Israel—are unraveling. Some of these states will survive in their present form, but others will not. The United States may, perhaps, be able to slow or moderate the process, but it won’t be able to stop it. 

If you look at a map of the Middle East in 1917, you won’t find Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, or Palestine. Since the sixteenth century, that area was part of the Ottoman Empire and was divided into districts that didn’t match past or future states. The British and French created the future states—not in order to ease their inhabitants’ transition to self-rule, as they were supposed to do under the mandate of the League of Nations, but in order to maintain their own rule over lands they believed had either great economic or strategic significance.

In 1916, as The Islamic State Report indicates, the French and British agreed to divide up the Ottoman Middle East in the event that they defeated Germany and their Ottoman ally. The French claimed the lands from the Lebanese border to Mosul; the British got part of Palestine and what would be Jordan and Southern Iran from Baghdad to Basra. After the war, the two countries modified these plans under the aegis of the League of Nations. At San Remo in 1920, the British got the territory that in 1921 they divided into Palestine and Transjordan and all of what became Iraq. (France gave up northern Iraq in exchange for 25 percent of oil revenues.) The French got greater Syria, which they divided into a coastal state, Lebanon, and four states to the east that would later become Syria.
These lands had always contained a mix of religions and ethnicities, but in setting out borders and establishing their rule, the British and French deepened sectarian and ethnic divisions. The new state of Iraq included the Kurds in the North (who were Sunni Muslims, but not Arabs), who had been promised partial autonomy earlier by the French; Sunnis in the center and west, whose leaders the British and the British-appointed king turned into the country’s comprador ruling class; and the Shiites in the South, who were aligned with Iran, and who had been at odds with the Sunnis for centuries. After the British took power, a revolt broke out that the British brutally suppressed, but resentment toward the British and toward the central government in Baghdad persisted. In the new state of Transjordan (which later became Jordan), the British installed the son of a Saudi ruler to preside over the Bedouin population; and in Palestine, it promised the Jews a homeland and their own fledgling state within a state under the Balfour Declaration while promising only civil and religious rights to the Palestinian Arabs who made up the overwhelming majority of inhabitants.

Is There a Crisis in Pakistan?

By Hamza Mannan
August 18, 2014

Opposition leaders threaten the new government, while the military balances against Sharif. 

Pakistan’s last election brought Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to power with a sweeping mandate. That was supposed to consolidate the democratic process for the country. This was the first time one civilian government had passed power onto another democratically elected government. The oft-repeated claim was that the hangover from past military rule had burdened civil-society just enough to prevent a regression. Most people today would share that sentiment, however reluctantly.

That reluctant strain has only found more space to ruminate in the past three weeks, as the central government ties itself up in knots of mismanagement, following an almost ritualistic script from the past. There are several threads to this story that are all intersecting at the wrong time for the Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.

Two months ago, following an attack on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi that left 30 dead, the military launched a major offensive — dubbed Zarb-e-Azaab, or “Sharp Strike” – against militants in North Waziristan. Though details on the progress of the operation are murky, what is clear is the displacement of over a million people with no place to reside besides poorly resourced government shelters and camps. Pakistan’s past patterns of migration would suggest that many of these internally displaced people (IDPs) will find their way to urban centers such as Karachi, which is already grappling with conflict between competing ethnic groups. The inadvertent consequences of this operation will inevitably produce greater unrest in Pakistan’s financial capital, which is already distraught with problems of gang violence and political turmoil.

The second line running through this narrative is the story of Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan-Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), who claims that his third place finish in the last election was due to electoral fraud. Khan’s allegations of election rigging however, have no basis: of the 58 petitions filed by his party members requesting an audit of various constituencies, 70 percent have been decided, with not one in favor of PTI. Secondly, Khan’s party, which formed the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, continues to struggle with governance, having achieved little during its term despite riding high into office on a wave of populism. Having failed on both accounts, Khan has found a path by playing opposition politics through his “Million Man Freedom March,” with the goal of wringing a mid-term election from the central government so that seats can be reallocated on the basis of those results. Until this demand is met, Khan vows to remain encamped in the capital of Islamabad.