7 October 2014

One Country, Two Systems

The Statesman
07 Oct 2014

Several years back, during an interview with the Dalai Lama, I questioned the Tibetan leader on the 17-Point Agreement signed in 1951 between the Lhasa government and Beijing. It seemed clear that whatever the Chinese then offered to the Tibetans was not implemented on the ground by Beijing. My question was therefore: “If tomorrow you [the Tibetans] signed an agreement with the Chinese, do you think that they will respect this agreement more than they did with the 17-Point Agreement?”

The Tibetan leader explained his views: “I think that there is more possibility today [that they will respect a new accord]; since the 17-Point Agreement was signed in 1951, the world has very much changed and China too has changed. Unless the clock is taken back, and China returns to what it was in 1950, I feel that there is more hope today.”

He added that he was quite certain that ‘international pressure’ could force China to keep its promises.

This statement is worth looking at in the perspective of the recent ‘pro-democracy’ incidents in Hong Kong. During the ongoing ‘Occupy Central’ movement, tens of thousands of Hong Kongers have taken to the streets of the former British colony to exert pressure on Beijing to keep what they perceive were the Communist regime’s promises. The BBC rightly questioned: ‘Hong Kong protests: Did China go back on its promises?”

The latest news is that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying refused to step down following an ultimatum from students demanding his resignation. Leung however announced that he had appointed his deputy, Carrie Lam to lead a team of senior officials to meet with student leaders. Though some students reacted angrily to the chief executive’s speech, others called for calm and asked for time to negotiate. But what will happen if the police uses riot gear, teargas and rubber bullets? It is difficult to predict. How was this point reached?

In 1997, after years of negotiations, the UK returned Hong Kong to China; the colony was promised ‘a high degree of autonomy’ for the next 50 years. It sounded similar to the ‘genuine autonomy’ asked for by the Dalai Lama. But in 2004 already, Beijing warned that it had to approve changes to Hong Kong’s election laws. Today, for the protesters, it is not a question of change, but of interpretation of the Basic Law. For the pro-democracy activists, in the scheme ‘One Country, Two Systems’, the second part was more important than the first. This is not the case in Beijing, which believes ‘One Country’ is the paramount feature.

On 31 August, the National People’s Congress (NPC) asserted that only after approving candidates, it would allow direct elections in 2017. The ‘Occupy Central’ movement brought the differences between the different parties to the fore. Alan Hoo, chairman of the Basic Law Institute, a well-known pro-Beijing lawyer told the BBC News that China had not broken any promise ~ “I think that its position is grossly misunderstood. Firstly, it’s not a promise. It is a legal obligation, a constitutional obligation that they put in the Basic Law.”

India no banana republic but treads fine line

Admiral Arun Praksh (retd)

MANY hubristic public figures who often proclaim, in the media, that “India is no banana republic”, may be less strident, if they learnt the actual implications of such a label. It is not merely a term used for small Central American dictatorships whose economies depend on export of bananas, but has a wider connotation. According to economic theory, a country qualifies as a “banana republic” if it is “operated as an enterprise, for private profit from the exploitation of its national resources, by collusion between ruling politicians and favoured monopolies.” While its “legislators are for sale,” government officials “exploit their posts for personal gain through bribery, corruption and nepotism”, the central government is so ineffective that “it cannot provide public services and has little control over much of its territory.”

FOR A MORE SECURE FUTURE: We neither have a national security doctrine nor a strategy. It should be a priority for the new government to bring sharp focus to security issues. PTI

Grim reminder

The uncanny familiarity of these attributes is a grim reminder of the snide aphorism that one hears from foreigners: “Everything that you hear about India is true; but so is the opposite.” India treads a thin line; a nuclear-weapon state and growing economy, aspiring to great-power eminence; it is, simultaneously, a nation negotiating a slippery slope from which it could easily plunge into the abyss of banana republic status. As we have seen in the past few years, all it takes for such a precipitous fall from grace (in the prophetic words of Winston Churchill) is for power to go “to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters... and men of straw”.

The test of a nation's mettle and the calibre of its leadership is a crisis situation. Whether it is a natural disaster, terrorist strike, hijacking or trans-border incursion, the Indian state's response to any emergency has followed a depressingly familiar sequence. The onset of a crisis finds the organs of state caught unawares and the leadership stricken with paralysis.

Pulling in different directions

Getting our act together


China remains inscrutable to India even after Xi Jinping’s visit
Kanwal Sibal

President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to India was intended to leave a trail of increased goodwill and understanding behind. Actually, it has left in its wake the impression that solving our problems with China will be very difficult and that its intentions towards India will remain unclear. Xi Jinping came with the declared agenda of focusing on what the two countries could do together in various areas, especially economic, for regional prosperity. Disavowing any warlike intention on China’s part, he sought to emphasize the peaceful and mutually rewarding civilizational contacts between the two countries since centuries. But all was contradicted on the ground by the recent armed confrontation in Ladakh’s Chumar area. It appeared odd that the Chinese president, who also heads his country’s all powerful military commission, should have permitted renewed military tensions on the border to vitiate his visit’s purpose of building greater trust with India by arousing anxieties here dating back to 1962.

The prime minister, Narendra Modi, we know, tabled the issue of the Ladakh stand-off with Xi Jinping quite forcefully. In his joint press conference with him, he did not duck the subject and stated with self-assurance that he had raised “our serious concern over repeated incidents along the border”, that “peace and tranquillity in the border region constitute an essential foundation... for realizing the full potential of our relationship”, and that “this is an important understanding which should be strictly observed”. This is not the language of an intimidated leader, but a confident one.

Modi also observed, quite rightly, that the border related agreements and confidence-building measures, which have worked well — a point China repeatedly makes to avoid being pinned down on its reluctance to settle the border issue — are not enough and that the stalled process of clarifying the Line of Actual Control should be resumed. The implication of seeking a clarification of the LAC is that Modi is stepping back from the Special Representatives mechanism tasked to resolve the boundary issue based on the 2005 agreement on the political parameters and guiding principles, which does not include LAC clarification.

The 17 rounds of the SR talks having failed to produce a settlement, or a time-table for it. Modi is seeking a solution at least to the border stand-offs that periodically poison the atmosphere of India-China ties. His additional remark that the two sides “should also seek an early settlement of the boundary question”, confirms that he sees these two exercises as separate and wishes to give priority to LAC clarification. This might explain why the joint statement this time recognizes the utility and significance of the SR mechanism, but does not direct them to continue their work, as was the case during earlier visits.

Whether Modi’s call for LAC clarification with Xi Jinping by his side reflected some modicum of understanding with the Chinese president on the subject, or was a deliberate airing of differences in order to publicly press the latter on the point, is not clear. It is unlikely that the Chinese will agree to resume the process of LAC clarification after having walked out of it in 2002 without any cogent explanation. The considerations that made them end that exercise at the time of exchanging maps of our respective perceptions of the LAC in the western sector can hardly have changed in the last 12 years, especially as China has become much stronger economically and militarily and much more assertive on territorial issues in general.


October 6, 2014

The recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington must have come as a welcome reprieve for a White House consumed by chaos in the Middle East, Russian revisionism in Eastern Europe, and the spread of Ebola in Africa. Modi’s resounding electoral success in the May elections, his sterling pro-business credentials, and his reputation as a pragmatist fueled expectations that the visit would overcome the legacy of the 2005 U.S. visa ban for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, and reinvigorate a relationship that had grown stagnant in recent years.

For the White House, the objectives were clear: telegraph an exuberant welcome; signal that the President seeks to revitalize a critical economic and strategic partnership with India; build a personal relationship with Modi and his team; discern where and how India may be willing to join the United States in leading on pressing global issues like climate change and terrorism; and begin to flesh out shared priorities that the respective bureaucracies can pursue over the coming months. By these measures, the visit was undoubtedly a success.

Expectations were similarly high for what the visit would mean for cooperation on defense and security issues. The U.S.-India defense relationship has grown dramatically in recent years, measured both in terms of defense trade and exercises. India imported almost $2 billion of military equipment from the United States in 2013, up from $237 million in 2009. The increase has been so dramatic that the United States recently surpassed Russia as India’s largest supplier of arms. Defense cooperation is similarly robust: the Indian armed forces conduct more military exercises with the United States than with any other country in the world.

Between the Lines: Unpacking the Joint Statement

A close reading of the Joint Statement suggests that there was indeed progress in the U.S.-India relationship, both in tone and substance. Still, the statement suggests that there are areas of agreement that need to be clarified and a great deal still depends on implementation. The defense bureaucracies in Washington and New Delhi are both under strain, and it remains to be seen whether they can bring renewed energy to a relationship that has seen its share of aspirational declarations that eventually do not amount to much.

Kishan S Rana: How Mr Modi can revitalise the foreign ministry

October 4, 2014 


The prime minister has emphasised economic diplomacy, and the MEA's priorities and structure must reflect that

Travelling from Thimphu to Washington DC, besides other capitals, and meeting a clutch of foreign leaders in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has carved out a new template for India's external relations, in which economic and political objectives commingle with other goals. Together, they project a refreshed, dynamic image for India, even if one that runs the risk of running ahead of ground reality. Raising expectations overseas gives urgency to transforming the home situation, on which rest both our credibility and the country's future progress.

Governing India is a blended marathon-steeplechase, not an 800-metre run. Mr Modi's foreign policy actions now beg the question: what foreign-domestic policy priorities should figure in his 'Action Today' list, to borrow a Churchillian phrase (Churchill's personal office liberally used a large rubber stamp on which was emblazoned that memorable dictum.)?

One: Prioritise neighbours; eschew Pakistan-centrism. Inviting all Saarc neighbours plus Mauritius to the Cabinet's oath-taking on May 26 was a masterstroke. Keep up the momentum of subsequent visits to Thimphu and Kathmandu (the latter, the first bilateral journey by an Indian prime minister in 26 years, can it be believed?). For too long, our neighbours have felt that New Delhi is so overwhelmed with managing its Pakistan policy that it has little time for them. Yes, Pakistan obsesses with India, but we need not to reciprocate. Sushma Swaraj put it very well; there are no full stops in diplomacy. Might we add: pauses are permissible, at times even appropriate?

Two: Splendid new beginnings registered with Japan, China and the US, plus Australia; pursue these multiple poles. The coming months should see India reach out to Europe, Russia, plus Asia, in Southeast Asia (i.e., Asean), the Gulf and the Central regions. Foreign visits are inescapable leadership obligations in today's interdependent world; episodic bilateral discussions on the margins of multilateral meetings are a pale shadow of what a well-crafted journey produces, as PM Modi's personal experience demonstrates. And do not neglect either Africa or Latin America.

Three: Establish rigorous follow-up mechanisms to ensure that decisions produce action. Foreign ministries are built for the role of synthesisers, to generate whole-of-government action on external decisions, because they have no sectoral constituency. But they need the wherewithal. For instance, the strength of the East Asia division is exactly four executive-level officials, including the fine young joint secretary heading it. When I worked as an under-secretary in that same division led by K R Narayanan 49 years back, we had the same number. What has changed is that bilateral relationships with its three major countries, China, Japan and South Korea, are vastly deeper and demanding (the division also covers Mongolia and North Korea). Other territorial divisions in the ministry for external affairs, or MEA, face similar critical shortages. Implementing decisions covering all the recent summit discussions will need inter-ministry monitoring; the MEA will have to shift to a performance management culture. One option: bring in armed service officers to provide robust follow-up, like other units in the MEA (such as the UN and public diplomacy divisions). By the way, is a single-country priority, like a 'Japan Fast Track', a wise idea? Why not an 'India Fast Track' to benefit all foreign investors?

Four: Give a 'Make in India' focus to foreign direct investment promotion. Crucial actions are needed at home to turn the promise of welcome to foreign investors into reality. Embassies now also have a clear FDI target: foreign investors that will focus on India's labour strength and create jobs - such targeting did not exist earlier. Textiles, leather and a host of consumer industries should be a preference. (FDI in fast-moving consumer goods, for supply chains and even retail, is a logical consequence, even if this challenges the ruling party's doctrine.) Embassy commercial and economic sections, especially ambassadors, have to proactively reach out to potential investors, working with them to assist in their investment actions. New Delhi cannot do this; the embassy network needs the wherewithal for its promotional actions.

Premvir Das: How Mr Modi can revive security co-operation

October 4, 2014 


It is defence that can drive India's relations with the US, Japan and Russia

In the last five weeks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has interacted with heads of state of three important countries, Japan, China and the United States. He has visited two of them and hosted a third. There have been promises of substantial economic investment by Japan and China. In the US, the prime minister has been feted by the segment of Indian-Americans whose sympathies lie with him personally; but, at the governmental level, short of the usual rhetoric and proposals for cooperation that have already been on offer, there is not much to talk about. That notwithstanding, there can be no denying that India's prime minister has come out as a strong person with whom these countries can do business. A fourth summit, with an equally important country, Russia, is to follow.

The range of issues discussed between the dramatis personae in these visits has been wide-ranging. My focus is on India's security scenario, and the role and involvement of each of these players in it.

Clearly, our interface with China is at the top of this list. That country has been an adversary in a full-fledged military conflict with us, occupies several thousand square kilometres of land which is rightly ours, engages closely and proactively with a neighbour whose hostility towards this country needs no reiteration. The Chinese have challenged us through boundary incursions repeatedly, most recently in sync with the visit of President Xi Jinping.

India's desire to have the boundaries clearly defined is matched by the Chinese wish to continue with the status quo, which allows them to use the undemarcated border as leverage, which they have done more than once. China is now deploying submarines in the Indian Ocean and seeks to enhance its naval presence through overtures to littorals in the form of a Maritime Silk Route. Its military budget is more than four times that of India. These are not facts that an Indian government, of whatever hue, can afford to gloss over, all other issues regardless. So, any political strategy that does not recognise this ground reality is certain to act to our disadvantage. In short, even as economic and political, even military, engagement with China should figure in India's security calculus, there have to be to some fall-back positions built into it. For these to be meaningful, interactions with other players become necessary.

The US is one such. Frankly, it has not much in common with Indian interests, protestations of being the largest and oldest democracies regardless. It is a global power with related aspirations in which its own pre-eminence is the first prerequisite. Its involvement with India is primarily to further the interests of its own businesses and to have us on its 'side'. Whether on climate change issues or on economic policies like the Trans Pacific Partnership, or in trade-related matters, its priorities are not the same as our own. It has difficulties with our stand on Intellectual Property Rights and on subsidies; our geopolitical approaches in Iran, Afghanistan and West Asia are unlikely to converge. Yet, in the context of our relations with China, close engagement with the US gives us the leverage that no other interface can; for the first time, both countries have referred to their mutual concerns in the South China Sea. It is on security issues, therefore, that India and the US have the greatest synergies and it is not surprising that these are the areas in which maximum progress has been made in the last decade and will most likely be made in the years to come. Extension of the 10-year Framework of Defence Cooperation agreement concluded in 2005 is, therefore, to be welcomed.

Russia falls in a category of its own. It has no territorial issues with India and has been its most reliable supplier of defence hardware for close to five decades. At difficult times, as in 1971, it has stood in our support. It has played and is playing a significant role in this country's military modernisation. After decades of fairly insipid relations with India, Japan is now realising the important part that we can play in ensuring the safety of its long and exposed energy lifeline as it traverses from the Gulf across the waters of the Indian Ocean. It also sees this country as a positive player in the context of its equations with China. Japan's security policies are no longer just tied to the US, and India is increasingly being seen as a useful partner. The reverse is also true, as relations with Japan impact India's interfaces with China and its concerns in the Indo-Pacific.

In short, positive interfaces with the US, Russia and Japan are linked to India's security interests. It is desirable that these be further developed and defence cooperation can play a very important role in this process. While exchanges of personnel, joint exercises, maritime security cooperation, mechanisms for regular high-level engagement between the military and political leaderships et al have their own importance, there is need to supplement these with procurement of military hardware and technology transfers that can enhance our own indigenous capabilities. Acquisition of important weapons and strategic platforms must, therefore, be more than mere commercial transactions but also factor in the larger strategic interface for political gain.

Hand In Hand On A Steep Hillside

Test ahead President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai interacts with students


Rivals join in coalition in the fraught politics of Afghanistan

There is rarely a glut of good news coming out of Afghanistan, but of late optimism has been in particularly short supply. On Monday, Hamid Karzai handed over the reins of power. The good news is that the transition has been relatively peaceful, indeed the first peaceful handover of power in Afghanistan for many decades. The bad news is that what replaces Karzai is a deeply unstable coalition, led by two men who do not like each other, and whose interests are in many cases directly opposed. Few in Kabul give the new arrangement any staying power, for almost as much divides the coalition partners as brings them together.

The new president, Dr Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, is a remarkable man: a PhD from Columbia, an ex-World Bank official, a John Hopkins professor and former chancellor of Kabul University as well as minister of finance. He has a quick wit and a penetrating and formidable brain. When I was researching my book on the First Afghan War, Return of a King: An Indian Army in Afghanistan, Ashraf was one of the first men I visited in Kabul and the hours I spent with him in his austerely beautiful library house, filled with books, good rugs and beautiful Nuristani furniture, were probably the most revelatory of any in the whole five years’ research project. Although his specialisation in history lies well down his list of interests, coming well after anthropology and economics, in a two-hour tutorial, he gave me a long list of all the principal Persian sources for the war, many of which he was able to take down from his own shelves. He was also able to point me towards a book-dealer in the old city who had bought up many of the old princely and aristocratic libraries when many Afghans began to flee into exile in the 1970s.

On subsequent trips to Kabul, he sent round any other books or snippets he had found, always refusing any sort of payment. Yet the same straightforwardness, which makes him such a generous host and dedicated scholar, can also cause him to be irritable and irascible. When he disagreed with some remarks I had made in an Aspen lecture in Delhi last year, he steamed straight up to the podium at the end and told me I was speaking “Bullshit! Bullshit!” He is recently said to have thrown an ashtray at a female journalist, and a Farsi video of him describing the writer and British Tory MP Rory Stewart as the “son of a donkey” is still doing the rounds in Kabul. The last one dates back to a decade-old spat stemming from Ghani accusing Stewart’s Turquoise Mountain Foundation of lifting furniture designs from those developed by his wife, the new First Lady, Rouyla Ghani, a formidable Lebanese designer and activist, and a major force in her own right. Ghani’s emotional mention of her at his inauguration is evidence of their closeness and his willingness to break conservative taboos by placing her very publicly in the media spotlight.

When Ghani first stood for election in 2009, he lost so badly he was dismissed as almost a joke by the media. But he learned from his campaigning errors, and has worked hard to make himself more appealing. He already had strong support among the new urban youth vote, and in the east, so he concentrated on winning over rural areas in the south and west. He added the tribal suffix Ahmadzai to his name, stressing his Ghilzai background: the Ahmadzai are one of two rival Ghilzai clans; the other, the Hotaki Ghilzai, are led by none other than Mullah Omar.

ON TARGET: Afghanistan still ruled by bickering warlords while Taliban eludes defeat


October 5, 2014 

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, centre, speaks during the Eid al-Adha prayer ceremony at the presidential palace as former President Hamid Karzai, left, listens in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday. (Massoud Hossaini / The Associated Press)

With the eyes of the world focused on the brutal violence of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and the power play of international brinkmanship in eastern Ukraine, the recent dramatic developments in Afghanistan have been given rather short shrift in the western media.

Last Monday, a ceremony in Kabul inaugurated new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the same time they hailed Abdullah Abdullah for becoming that nation’s first-ever chief executive officer. Putting a bold spin on this, American Secretary of State John Kerry described this occasion as a “triumph of statesmanship and compromise … marking the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan history and the first peaceful leadership transition in more than 40 years.”

If any of what Kerry had claimed were actually true, it may indeed be something to celebrate. However, despite the brave-sounding words, Kerry’s statement is an admission that after 13 years of international occupation, Afghanistan never accepted democracy.

The initial round of presidential elections happened last April. There was a record voter turnout, and a commensurate record number of electoral fraud allegations. When the dust settled, neither of the two leading candidates, Ghani nor Abdullah, had the necessary majority. Thus, a run-off vote between these two was conducted on June 14.

Since those ballots were cast, there has never been an official tally released to the public. Instead, there has been months-long backroom negotiations presided over by the United States.

As it seemed clear that Abdullah had finished second at the polls, the Tajik warlord threatened to denounce the results and proclaim himself president. Such a move would certainly spark hostilities anew between those Afghan factions now in a loose alliance against the Taliban.

To placate Abdullah, the U.S. dreamt up the position of CEO for him to fill. When this idea was first floated a few weeks ago, Abdullah noted that under the newly drafted job description, the president could terminate the CEO position at any time. Being a wily survivor, Abdullah said “no dice” to the Americans and threatened again to pull out of the process and plunge Afghanistan into civil war.

After more backroom wheeling and dealing — called “statesmanship and compromise” by Kerry — Abdullah now feels that the CEO post will grant him enough security and authority to assuage his ego. The decision was also taken not to release the actual election results.

Just to recap then: What Kerry described as a “democratic transfer of power” and a “peaceful leadership transition” was, in fact, a process in which the actual votes didn’t matter and the constitution was altered to create a CEO post under threat that a candidate would start a war. That is one hell of a spin, even for an American secretary of state.

Want to beat Islamic State? Try the Afghan model, circa 2001


CAPTIONBattling Islamic State militants

Carsten Koall / Getty Images

Tanks from the Turkish armed forces are dispatched to the border with Syria as clashes intensify between ethnic Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants on Sept. 29. 

CAPTIONBattling Islamic State

Matthew Bruch / U.S. Air Force

Two U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle jets fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in neighboring Syria. 

CAPTIONProtests against aistrikes

Justin Tallis / AFP/Getty Images

An antiwar protester holds a placard outside the British Parliament, where lawmakers approved plans to join U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq on Sept. 26. 

China's Deadly Missile Arsenal Is Growing: What Should America Do about It?

October 5, 2014 


The debate over how to respond to Beijing's mighty missiles continues. 

Russian violations of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) should push the United States to reconsider the continued value of the agreement for global security. Abrogating or modifying the treaty to allow the deployment of INF-class weapons to Asia, however, would bring with it substantial political, military, and budgetary risks while producing benefits that are murky at best. Evan Montgomery—a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments—in these digital pages has made one of the stronger cases for the United States acquiring forward-deployed intermediate weapons in Asia. However, even putting aside the potential for unintended consequences for security in other regions and for broader nonproliferation norms associated with renegotiating and modifying the INF, it is unclear if intermediate-range weapons could overcome the shortcomings of forward-based military forces or produce sufficient benefits to justify their costs.

One can agree with Montgomery that land-based missiles can be survivable and stabilizing, but only if the right investments are made to address the inherent vulnerability of basing forces within range of China’s extensive missile arsenal. Hardened launch facilities could address this vulnerability, but the United States has displayed a persistent unwillingness to harden forward bases in both Asia and the Middle East, despite growing threats from adversary missiles. While the Pentagon may treat missiles differently than other forces, it may be a wiser investment to harden bases to protect preexisting forward forces in Asia, rather than to acquire new weapons in hopes that they will provide sufficient impetus for necessary investments in passive defenses.

Intelligence: China Wisely Goes After Logistics


October 6, 2014: The United States recently revealed that during 2012-13 China based hackers got into networks of at least twelve commercial firms involved with moving equipment, personnel and supplies for the American military. It was implied that such covert Internet based surveillance of American logistics efforts was still a problem. This despite efforts to improve the network security of the firms involved over the last two years. China, as is their custom, denies everything.

All this was made public to make the public more aware of the extent, persistence and skill of Chinese Internet based espionage efforts. This apparently is apparently being done so that that if and when the U.S. does strike back, with sanctions or Internet based mischief, it won’t come as a shock to the public and there will be more appreciation for how widespread this sort of thing is and how long it has been going on.

While the logistics hacks appear to have been commissioned by the Chinese military (who take a keen interest in developing ways to understand and interfere with the enemy logistics efforts) even Chinese freelance spies are using hackers to get specific data. These freelancers put together collections of stolen data they feel will be attractive (and worth paying a lot for) to Chinese intelligence agencies or commercial firms. Thus in Mid-2014 the U.S. charged a Chinese citizen (Su Bin), based in Canada, of just that kind of espionage against the United States. Su Bin was working with two Chinese hackers to steal technical data for American military aircraft (especially the C-17, F-22 and F-35). The thefts took place between 2009 and 2013. These three appear to be freelancers, although Su Bin had plenty of contacts with Chinese aviation firms and thus had no problem finding buyers for whatever the trio obtained. Su Bin was arrested in Canada and is being extradited back to the United States for trial.

In the last few years more American officials have come to openly admit that a whole lot of American military and commercial technical data has been stolen via Chinese Internet (and more conventional) espionage efforts. The Americans are not providing details of exactly how they collected all the evidence, but apparently it is pretty convincing for many American politicians and senior officials who had previously been skeptical. The Chinese efforts have resulted in most major American weapons systems having tech details revealed to the Chinese, in addition to a lot of non-defense technology. It’s not just the United States that is being hit but most nations with anything worth stealing. Many of these nations are noticing that China is the source of most of this espionage and few are content to remain silent any longer.

It’s no secret that Chinese intelligence collecting efforts since the 1990s have been spectacularly successful. As the rest of the world comes to realize the extent of this success there is a growing desire for retaliation. What form that payback will take remains to be seen. Collecting information, both military and commercial, often means breaking laws and hacking back at the suspected attackers would involve even more felonies. China has already broken a lot of laws. Technically, China has committed acts of war because of the degree to which it penetrated military networks and carried away copies of highly secret material. The U.S., and many other victims, has been warning China there will be consequences. As the extent of Chinese espionage becomes known and understood, the call for “consequences” becomes louder. So far, it’s not loud enough to produce any Western response, at least nothing that is visible to the general public.

China has tried hard to conceal its espionage efforts. Not just denying anything and everything connected to its hacking and conventional spying but also taking precautions. As their success continued year after year, some of the Chinese hackers became cocky and sloppy. At the same time the victims became more adept at detecting Chinese intrusions and tracing them back to specific Chinese government organizations or non-government hackers inside China.

Undeterred, China has sought to keep its espionage effort going and has even expanded operations. For example, starting in 2008 China has opened National Intelligence Colleges in many major universities. In effect, each of these is an "Espionage Department" where, each year, several hundred carefully selected applicants are accepted in each school, to be trained as spies and intelligence operatives. China has found that espionage is an enormously profitable way to obtain valuable military and commercial secrets and rewards those who have talent and make a career of it. The Internet based operations, however, are only one part of China’s espionage efforts.

China has always denied these espionage activities, even in the face of copious details revealed during the trials of Chinese citizens, or non-Chinese giving details of who in China was buying what had been stolen. Recently the Chinese have tried to deflect attention from their spying by claiming they are the victims of massive American espionage efforts. These claims gloss over the fact that the United States has a lot more stuff China wants than is the case with U.S. seeking Chinese secrets.

Chinese and Russian Militaries Increasingly Challenging U.S. Military Activities in the Far East

Craig Whitlock
Washington Post
October 5, 2014

China, Russia flex muscles in increasing number of close calls with U.S. aircraft

A recent spate of dangerous midair encounters between American military aircraft and Chinese and Russian planes in the Pacific is the result of increasingly assertive strategies by both U.S. adversaries to project power far beyond their borders, according to the top U.S. Air Force commander in the region. 

Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, said China’s naval and air forces in particular are “very much continuing to push” and becoming more active in international waters and airspace in Asia. 

“They still talk about the century of humiliation in the last century. They still talk about this as the rise of China,” Carlisle said in an interview. “They still talk about this as their great nation. And they want to continue to demonstrate that.” 

Carlisle said U.S. and Chinese forces are frequently encountering each other in parts of the East China and South China seas where they rarely came into contact in the past. Since commissioning its first aircraft carrier two years ago, China’s navy has conducted more exercises farther away from its shores and is closely patrolling areas in disputed waters where Chinese companies are drilling for oil. 

Those movements have prompted the U.S. military in turn to deploy its ships and reconnaissance aircraft to keep a close watch. China’s military usually responds by conducting intercepts of U.S. aircraft as the two sides jockey for position, Carlisle said. 

“All of that makes their tension go up a little bit,” he added. 

U.S. officials said one such encounter got out of hand in August, when a Chinese J-11 fighter jet flashed past a Navy Poseidon P-8 patrol aircraft, performing a “barrel roll” at close range and bringing its wingtip within 20 feet of the U.S. plane. That incident occurred in international airspace about 135 miles east of China’s Hainan Island. 

At the time, Pentagon officials protested publicly and released photos of the near-miss, which they cited as evidence of rash and irresponsible behavior on the part of the Chinese pilot. They said the same Chinese military unit had conducted three other risky intercepts of U.S. aircraft earlier in the year. 

Carlisle was more measured in his assessment, saying that there has always been “an ebb and flow” in the number of Chinese intercepts and that he didn’t think China’s military leadership was looking to provoke a conflict. 

“I personally don’t think it needs to get too much hype,” said Carlisle, who will leave his post in the Pacific this month to take a new assignment as chief of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton, Va. But he acknowledged that “the opportunity for something to go wrong” will likely increase as China’s military gathers strength and moves farther afield. 

To prevent such incidents, the Pentagon has tried to enhance communications channels and expand formal ties with the People’s Liberation Army in recent years. Although U.S. officials said progress has been made, they added that they didn’t expect to solve the issue overnight. 

“I am disappointed. Am I surprised? I’m not necessarily surprised,” Adm. Samuel Locklear, the chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, said at a Sept. 25 news briefing at the Pentagon, when asked about the close calls. He added that the “vast majority” of interactions between U.S. and Chinese military aircraft and ships resulted in no problems. “It’s those outliers that concern us.” 


October 6, 2014 
In the opening days of America’s ongoing air campaign in Iraq, many critics and pundits decried the admitted absence of a strategy guiding the Obama administration’s response to the emerging threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). However, in the last two weeks there has been a rapid evolution towards the development of both a policy, and an ensuing strategy, to apply American (and allied) military power to the aim of degrading and destroying ISIL. President Obama has now announced a coalition strategy, premised largely on the support of NATO allies and key partners in the region such Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar – who have sent warplanes to bomb ISIL in Syria.

Before we can talk, however, about the strength, weakness, existence, or nonexistence of American strategy we must first correctly describe its character. Strategy is defined and disciplined by the various possibilities, which the political process sets through policy. Specifically, we argue that limitations on war make American strategy one of “control,” and analyze both positive and negative implications of trying to achieve control over ISIL.

The Finite Spectrum of Policy

As this spectrum of acceptable policy options is finite, it follows that the range of possible strategies permitted by that spectrum are similarly limited. Hence we can learn much about American strategy simply through a process of elimination. We cannot take bellicose language about the “degradation and destruction” of ISIL at face value. To understand why, one need only look at all of the options the Obama administration has excluded.

First, it seems obvious that another large-scale counterinsurgency campaign is, at the moment, out of the question. While the military wants to preserve the option of medium to large-scale ground operations, Obama does not want to“eat soup with a knife.” Even as policymakers use extremely bellicose rhetoricwhen talking about ISIL, American actions do not suggest President Obama truly believes ISIL is the worst of the worst.

ISIS enters Kobani, city's defenders see 'last chance to leave,' sources say


By Ralph Ellis, CNN
October 5, 2014 

Kurds battle ISIS in key border town

NEW: Source says "It's the last chance to leave" for Kobani defenders
ISIS fighters have taken part of a strategic hill near Kobani, sources say
ISIS fighters have entered the southeastern edge of the city, the sources said
Pakistani Taliban issues statement supporting ISIS

(CNN) -- ISIS moved closer to seizing Kobani on Sunday as militants entered the southeastern edge of the Syrian city and street-to-street fighting began, a fighter and a media activist inside the city told CNN.

The city's defenders were looking for ways to escape the Kurdish stronghold strategically located near the Turkish border, the fighter said.

"It's the last chance to leave," the fighter said. The fighter and media activist requested their names be withheld for security reasons.

As night fell, the city grew quiet.

Members of the Kurdish People's Protection Unit, called YPG, and other groups defending the city were unable to move because ISIS snipers were equipped with night vision equipment, the fighter said.

The fighter said many city defenders close to the Turkish border attempted to cross into Turkey, while other fighters closer to ISIS positions were waiting until the morning to make a move.

The importance of Kobani

ISIS has been trying to seize Kobani for weeks. The city is significant because ISIS wants to claim a swath of land running from its self-declared capital of Raqqa, Syria, on the Euphrates River to the Turkish border, more than 60 miles away.

On Sunday, ISIS fighters overpowered Kurdish forces to take the top and the eastern side of Meshta Nour, the strategic hill overlooking Kobani, said the sources, who both requested their names be withheld for security reasons.

Syria: The Long War


October 1, 2014: So far over 70 percent of the air strikes against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in Iraq and half of those in Syria have been carried out by American warplanes. The rest have been flown by NATO and Arab countries. There have been about 300 air strikes against ISIL so far but only about a quarter of them have been in Syria. That’s largely because the strikes in Iraq began in early August while those in Syria did not begin until late on September 22nd. Moreover most NATO nations prefer to restrict their operations to Iraq, so only the U.S. and five Arab nations are bombing in Syria. Britain and France have expressed willingness to operate in Syria. But will have to wait until more targets are identified. The strikes in Syria are limited by the lack of reliable people on the ground to confirm targets. This is less of a problem in Iraq where there are Iraqi air controllers and some Iraqi army units that are reliable enough to assign American controller teams to. Then there are the Kurds (in Iraq and Syria) where Special Forces controllers can operate with Kurdish militia groups they know (and often trained over the years). The trained Kurdish fighters are spread thin, trying to protect long borders and widespread Kurdish civilian populations. As more American controller terms get into Iraq and Syria, the air attacks against ISIL combat forces will become more common and effective. Many of the older ISIL fighters, with experience fighting American air power in Iraq (and, for a few ISIL men, Afghanistan) know that with enough controllers on the ground and enough bombers in the air, ISIL will no longer be able to take and hold ground. This explains the ISIL offensives going on now, because ISIL leaders know that in a month or so they will not be able to travel easily by road or even cross country on foot. Syrian civilians have also gotten the word and air reconnaissance shows civilians fleeing residential areas where ISIL has sought sanctuary from the air strikes. ISIL will be forced to follow the Taliban practice of forcing (at gunpoint) civilians to stick around to discourage the warplanes above.

The first few dozen air strikes in Syria hit the obvious targets like buildings taken over by ISIL (especially in the eastern city of Raqqa which has become the ISIL capital) as well as large storage areas for captured vehicles, weapons and housing for ISIL fighters. Also hit were large ISIL checkpoints that controlled traffic on the few major roads in eastern Syria. As expected ISIL, under the direction of Iraqi ISIL men who had experienced American air power in Iraq from 2003-2008, quickly began to disperse. Headquarters were moved to residential areas, large permanent checkpoints were abandoned (replaced by temporary ones set up by ISIL fighters travelling in vehicles equipped with baggage on the roof, to look like civilians) and all vehicles and equipment was also dispersed to residential areas. Schools, hospitals and mosques now have to provide some space for ISIL men and equipment. ISIL personnel have been warned to use cell phones and radio communications carefully because the Americans are probably listening. The Americans are listening and they have proven tactics to defeat the dispersal tactics ISIL is using to avoid air attack. Dispersal will not make ISIL safe from attack bur it will slow down the rate of loss to air attack. The attacks in Syria have killed about 240 people so far, that’s about three deaths (and over a dozen wounded) per strike. The attacks so far have concentrated on things like command and control (headquarters and communications) and logistics (fuel, vehicles and stockpiles of food and equipment). This causes ISIL long term problems right away and killed or wounded several senior people. Soon the attacks will concentrate on combat forces. This is already happening in Iraq where Kurdish forces, long comfortable working with American troops and air power) are pushing back ISIL in the north and inflicting (with the help of air strikes) lots of ISIL casualties. Because of the threat of air strikes ISIL has to be careful concentrating forces to push back the Kurdish advance.

In response ISIL is, as expected, claiming massive civilian casualties from the air strikes. Again, as expected, the U.S. is ready with video and eyewitness evidence that the ISIL claims are false. Since the wide use of smart bombs in the 1990s civilian casualties have plummeted over 80 percent compared to the pre-smart bomb era. This sort of thing does not make good headlines, but false accusations from Islamic terrorists, who regularly use civilians as human shields, do. Another non-news event is the large number of smart bomb strikes that are called off to avoid civilian casualties.

The anti-ISIL rebels are complaining that many Syrians are blaming the rebels for the damage and disruption caused by the coalition (of NATO and Arab states) air strikes. Given how few strikes there have been so far and the fact that most of them were very precise and often in remote areas, these complaints are seen as an attempt to pry more aid out of NATO and Arab counties. The Arabs are rethinking their support for Islamic terrorist rebels groups and NATO is again trying to find non-terrorist rebels to train and support. The main problem with the rebels has always been lack of unity and a sharp division between the secular (or non-fanatic Moslem) groups and the radicals. Unfortunately the Islamic terrorist groups have the widest appeal to the young Moslem men most likely to join the armed rebel groups. This is made worse by the religious divisions in Syria. The ruling Assad family are Shia, a minority in Syria and the Moslem world in general. The Shia and other minorities (Christians and other small Islamic sects) are a quarter of the population and they have dominated the Sunni majority for decades. So it’s not just a rebellion against a dictatorship but part of the centuries old hostility between Sunni and Shia. It doesn’t help that the Assads have been financed and armed by Shia Iran since the 1980s. Religious radicalism has been a problem in the Islamic world for over a thousand years. While most other religions have found ways to tame the fanatic fringe problem, Islam has not. This fanaticism is a key component in the Syrian civil war and cannot be ignored or avoided.

Mixed Success of US Air strikes in Iraq and Syria Confirms That Struggle Against ISIS Will be Long and Difficult

U.S.-led Airstrikes Disrupt Islamic State, But Extremists Hold Territory

Nour Malas, Dion Nissenbaum and Maria Abi-Habib\

Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2014
U.S.-led airstrikes designed to serve notice on Islamist extremists in Iraq and Syria have also delivered a sobering message to Washington and its allies: Breaking the militants’ grip will be every bit as difficult as they feared.

As the U.S. prepares to launch a ground war by proxy forces in Syria and Iraq, there are signs that the air campaign is disrupting militant group Islamic State. Fighters are fleeing their bases, they travel at night and in smaller units and are cutting back on cellphone and radio communications to evade detection, according to U.S. officials and opponents of the group on the ground.

However, Islamic State appears to have largely withstood the airstrikes so far and with scant pressure on the ground in Iraq and Syria, the militants have given up little of the territory they captured before the campaign began.

“The strikes are useless so far,” said Mohammad Hassan, an activist in eastern Syria battling the regime of Bashar al-Assad. “Most of the training camps and the bases were empty when the coalition hit them.”

Islamic State fighters have reacted swiftly to the threat of airstrikes over the past weeks, moving out of captured military bases and government buildings in Syria, relocating weapons and hostages, and abandoning training camps, according to residents and rebels in the areas the militants control. In Syria and Iraq, they took down many of their trademark black flags, and camouflaged armed pickup trucks. They also took cover among civilians.

They also have maintained much of their financing and recruiting capability and continued to crack down on local populations, anti-regime activists and rebels in Syria said. At the same time, they publicized a series of beheadings of Western hostages.

In addition to holding territory after they came under attack, they pressed on with an ambitious offensive on the Syrian city of Ayn al-Arab, also known as Kobani, close to the border with Turkey.

Analysts said the U.S. is having a hard time getting intelligence to act on, and, as a result, a fraction of sorties flown have resulted in bombings. However, U.S. officials disputed that notion.

“We still have no shortage of targets,” said a senior defense official.

All indications are that the upcoming job on the ground will be complex. The U.S. must arm and advise the Iraqi military as well as forces from Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region, who view each other with suspicion. The Americans will also have to work with Sunni tribes in parts of Iraq controlled by Islamic State.

In Syria, the U.S. will have to train and arm thousands of anti-regime rebels to eventually challenge Islamic State fighters there. They will also selectively aid loosely organized forces in Iraq and Syria, some of whom are linked to groups considered terrorists by the U.S. and Turkey.

The challenge, in some ways, is more daunting than what the U.S. faced previously in Iraq or in Afghanistan. This time, the U.S. has to work with a broader patchwork of often competing, non-state forces who may be looking to use American military power to their own advantage.

Since strikes began in Syria two weeks ago, U.S. defense and Arab officials said they have seen a shift in Islamic State’s tactics. The U.S. has been tracking movements of the militants with drones and other surveillance craft and has seen the fighters operating in smaller groups than before the strikes began.

Smoke billows from the al-Hara hill in Syria, the result of the fighting between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army and Syrian rebels. U.S.-backed rebels are expected to ask the U.S. to provide close-air support for Free Syrian Army ground forces fighting the militants. EPA

ISIS Fantasies of an Apocalyptic Showdown in Northern Syria

William McCants | October 3, 2014 3:11pm


The meadow outside the small village of Dabiq, Syria is a strange setting for one of the final battles of the Islamic apocalypse. Although close to the Turkish border, “Dabiq is not important militarily”observed a leader in the Syria opposition. And yet the Islamic State fought ferociously to capture the village this summer because its members believe the great battle between infidels and Muslims will take place there as part of the final drama preceding the Day of Judgment. 

In a prophecy attributed to Muhammad, the Prophet predicts the Day of Judgment will come after the Muslims defeat Rome at al-`Amaq or Dabiq, two places close to the Syrian border with Turkey. Another prophecy holds that Rome’s allies will number 80. The Muslims will then proceed to conquer Constantinople (Istanbul).

The Dabiq prophecy has not figured prominently in the Islamic State’s propaganda until recently. Abu Mus`ab al-Zarqawi mentioned it as the ultimate destination of the spark that had “been lit here in Iraq.” The first head of the Islamic State, Abu Umar al-Baghdadi, quoted the prophecy in one of his statements. But it was not until this year that the Islamic State really began to focus on the Dabiq in its propaganda. An Islamic State spokesman mentioned the ill-fated village in a statement in April, and in July the Islamic State released an English-language magazine named “Dabiq.” The editors, calling themselves the “Dabiq team,” explain why they adopted the name for their magazine: “The area will play a historical role in the battles leading up to the conquests of Constantinople, then Rome.” But first the Islamic State had to “purify Dabiq” from the “treachery” of the other Sunni rebels who held it and “raise the flag” of the Caliphate over its land.

A few weeks later, Islamic State fighters took the village from Sunni rebels, killing forty and capturing dozens. Setting up snipers and heavy machine guns on the hill overlooking Dabiq, they repelled an attempt by the Free Syrian Army to retake the area. Islamic State supporters were jubilant, tweeting pictures of the Islamic State’s flag from the hilltop together with quotes from the prophecy.

ISIS About to Capture Syrian Border Town of Kobani From Kurds, Report

Kobane: IS ‘may soon take Syria-Turkey border town’

Paul Adams

BBC News, October 6, 2014

The key Syria-Turkey border town of Kobane might fall to Islamic State (IS) fighters soon, an official there has told the BBC.

A flag of Islamic State has been seen flying over a building on the eastern edge of Kobane.
The official, Idriss Nassan, confirmed IS was now in control of Mistenur, the strategic hill above the town.

Kobane has seen intense fighting over the past three days as Syrian Kurds try to defend the town.
US-led forces have been conducting air strikes on IS positions in the area to try to slow its advance.
The Pentagon confirmed a fresh strike had “destroyed two IS fighting positions south of Kobane”.
Another IS flag is seen on a hill overlooking the town, as the Islamist fighters take high ground

The IS militants have been besieging the town for nearly three weeks. More than 160,000 Syrians, mainly Kurds, have fled across the border since the offensive was launched.
Capturing the town would give IS unbroken control of a long stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border.
On Monday, Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg vowed to protect Turkey - a member state.
"Turkey should know that Nato will be there if there is any spill-over, any attacks on Turkey as a consequence of the violence we see in Syria," he said.

Thousands of civilians

The BBC’s Paul Adams, near the border, says the sound of gunfire overnight was intense and is still going on, with large plumes of smoke over Kobane.
Turkish forces are stationed on a hill close to Kobane
Kurds angry with Turkey’s role have clashed with Turkish forces
He says the situation appears critical for the defenders of the town.
Mr Nassan told the BBC there were still thousands of civilians in Kobane.
He said IS was now in control of Mistenur and that, in theory, gave the attackers a huge strategic advantage. But Mr Nassan said IS was not yet firing down into the town from the hill.

The anatomy of ISIS: How the 'Islamic State' is run, from oil to beheadings

October 4, 2014

The most dangerous man in the world?

New research reveals ISIS government structure in parts of Syria and Iraq
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a former U.S. inmate in Iraq, is leader of so-called "Islamic State"
TRAC research shows ISIS' evolution from military force to basic services provider
Many ISIS officials, including key deputies, are Saddam Hussein-era military officers

(CNN) -- Put yourself in the shoes (and seventh-century black robes) of ISIS' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group that is striking fear into the hearts of leaders around the world.

In the past couple of years you've managed to avoid drone attacks and survive civil wars, unify militant groups in two different countries under your banner, raise an army of jihadis from across the globe, and seize a chunk of land stretching from northern Syria to central Iraq.
Your newly-declared "Islamic State" is the size of Pennsylvania, so how do you govern it? You compartmentalize.

New data from the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium(TRAC) has revealed that ISIS is putting governing structures in place to rule the territories the group conquers once the dust settles on the battlefield.
The research shows how ISIS has gone from being a purely military force to building a system that can provide basic services, such as making sure that gas and food are available, to its new citizens.
From the cabinet and the governors to the financial and legislative bodies, ISIS' bureaucratic hierarchy looks a lot like those of some of the Western countries whose values it rejects -- if you take away the democracy and add in a council to consider who should be beheaded.
Peshmerga battle ISIS with aid from above
Sunni youth fight ISIS
Are Sunnis the key to stopping ISIS?
ISIS leader: 'See you guys in New York'

Baghdadi, his Cabinet advisers and his two key deputies comprise the executive branch of the government, known as "Al Imara."