25 October 2014

Less LoC, more FTA


Nawaz Sharif won the 2013 election riding a national consensus in favour of free trade with India.
Written by Khaled Ahmed | Posted: October 25, 2014 

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been to the UN and made his anti-India speech, which no one can object to. Reference to “disputed” Kashmir is not banned by a world community that routinely ignores it — this UN session was no different. But Sharif was actually addressing the other Sharif, the general who heads the Pakistan army.

Christine Fair, in her book, Fighting to the End (2014), writes: “The report of the Abbottabad Commission [on the death of Osama bin Laden]… observed that the civilian government [of Pakistan] did not evidence the slightest interest in exerting control over the nation’s defence policy and further quipped that the minister of defence did not object to being ‘an irrelevance’.”

Nawaz Sharif won the 2013 election riding a national consensus in favour of free trade with India. In 2012, “a nationally representative poll among a cross-section of more than 2,600 men and women showed that 67 per cent Pakistanis thought the country should trade with India”. This was found by Gallup Pakistan, which also estimated that “only 29 per cent of people were opposed to the idea of trade with India”.

The last time Nawaz Sharif won, in 1997, he first went along with the army — and a jingoist national consensus — to test a nuclear device in 1998. It was a defiant tit for tat aimed at India, which would go on to elevate its bomb-makers to the presidency. Then he thought he could get away with a bit of normalisation with India and had then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee come to Lahore and “accept Pakistan” by going to the Minar-e-Pakistan, the national monument to independence in Lahore. But the Vajpayee visit went wrong, Nawaz Sharif got deposed and had to spend nearly a decade in exile.

Specialised Force for Internal Unrests

24 Oct , 2014

Soldiers of Indian Army in Insurgency Areas .

Policy and methodology to counter the Naxalite threat have been subjects of intense debate recently. Army’s reluctance to get embroiled has been questioned in some government quarters. Sadly, opinions are being expressed, both by military and non-military experts, more as short term fire-fighting solutions rather than well analysed long term strategy.

It requires no crystal gazing to foresee increasing unrest amongst various sections of Indian society

It requires no crystal gazing to foresee increasing unrest amongst various sections of Indian society. Awareness has fired the urge of the people for a higher standard of living and enhanced opportunities for advancement. As the country fails to ensure that fruits of development get equitably and evenly distributed across the complete spectrum of society, disadvantaged segments lose confidence in the fairness of governance. They resort to violent means to wrest their perceived share of resources from an apathetic government. Naxalite unrest is a manifestation of the same challenge to the lawful authority of the state. Needless to say, in addition to effective use of force, convincing measures have to be initiated at political, economical, social and cultural levels to restore credibility of governance amongst the aggrieved people.

This article restricts itself to the nature and type of force that should be employed to counter Naxalites. As the alienated populace is highly motivated and possesses intimate knowledge of the local terrain, a well equipped and suitably trained force becomes an absolute necessity. India has three broad options open to it – employment of an existing central police force (CPO) with additional training and equipment; deployment of the Army to crush armed resistance; and raising of a special force for the assignment. Each of these have been analysed below to identify the most suitable option.

Use of CPO

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is currently countering the Naxalites. CRPF came into existence as Crown Representative’s Police on 27th July 1939. It became the Central Reserve Police Force on enactment of the CRPF Act on 28th December 1949. Over the last sixty years, it has grown into sizeable entity with 207 battalions. It is a federal law enforcement agency and a police force. It has been organised, equipped, structured and trained to supplement efforts of state police forces in the maintenance of law and order.

…it is an unwritten convention in the Indian Army that an officer always leads from the front — he is the first one to step into a danger zone. No officer thinks twice about it.

Presently, a crisis of identity is overwhelming CRPF. A part of the blame for the prevailing confusion about its exact character can be apportioned to CRPF itself. Symptomatic of the same is the message of its Director General on its website. To start with, he refers to CRPF as one of the ‘Para Military Police Force’ of the Nation and subsequently calls it as the most experienced ‘Armed Police Force’ of the country. Apparently, the organisation does not know where to position itself. There can never be a ‘paramilitary police force’ – a force is either a paramilitary force or a police force. The term paramilitary police force is self-contradictory, dichotomist in substance, paradoxical in nature and ambivalent in identity.

It must be understood that a true paramilitary force is an auxiliary force whose function and structure are similar to those of a regular military force. In other words, it should be capable of acting as an adjunct to regular military. CRPF, by no stretch of imagination, can be called a paramilitary force. With a view to garner enhanced status and to demand equivalence with the armed forces, it has been masquerading as a paramilitary force. Resultantly, it has got trapped in the self created delusion that it can perform like a paramilitary force.

CRPF not only lacks basic orientation to be able to face Naxalites but also the necessary wherewithal. Resultantly, CRPF has been suffering heavy casualties.

Facing bullets fired by highly motivated Naxalites in Chhattisgarh requires totally different capabilities as compared to those required to face stones thrown by hired hooligans in Kashmir. It is a tall order for any organisation to accomplish both the tasks with equal adroitness and dexterity. CRPF not only lacks basic orientation to be able to face Naxalites but also the necessary wherewithal. Resultantly, CRPF has been suffering heavy casualties.

Solution to J & K problem lies in New Delhi...

22 Oct , 2014

J&K is an integral part of India. The only problem that can be called J&K Problem is the non- comprehension by India, its people and the government to this ultimate truth of its being the integral part of India and not distinct or separate entity in any way from the other states of India. The problem that would remain to be settled then is the need to free the areas of J&K illegally occupied by Pakistan and China. Once this fact is understood and fully comprehended by us, all else will fall in place.

It is proposed to discuss this very complex and muddled up situation, erroneously called “The Jammu & Kashmir Problem”, as under:

Strategic Importance of J&K

The Problem and its historic Mishandling


Strategic Importance of J&K 

The illegally occupied part of J&K by Pakistan is in two parts, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (the so called Azad Kashmir by Pakistan) and Gilgit- Baltistan(GB) (earlier called the Northern Areas). China is in possession of Akshai Chin and the Shaksgam valley illegally ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963.

J&K forms the head of the Indian sub continent, and has been the traditional trade route of Central and South Asia to the East and Tibet, generally called the ‘Silk Route’. It is bounded by more countries than any other state of India; in the North East with Tibet, and further North with Xinjiang province of China, in the North West with the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan, in the West with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and further South with Punjab of Pakistan. This geographic layout is strategically so important that no power of the world wants to remain away from the area, as it gives them access to the sensitive areas of the neighbouring countries.. Its high mountains provide strategic depth and domination over the surrounding area. For hundreds of years in the past, the Russian, Persian, Chinese, Tibetan and the British Indian empires, sought the passes of this region to dominate each other. The region rests along “the ancient axis of Asia” where South, Central and East Asia converge and, since time immemorial, has been the gateway for both India and China to Central Asia.

The maps below show the geo strategic location and its dominating position.

Distorted Pak map: Erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir showing illegal occupation of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan by Pakistan and Shaksgam and Akshai Chin by China The map is not accurate for boundaries, particularly the alignment of the line shown to Karakorum pass, leaving Siachin glacier in Pak occupied territory.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir consists of two parts, one that is with India and the other that is under the occupation of Pakistan and China. The part with India consists of three regions: Jammu, the Kashmir valley and Ladakh. While the Kashmir valley is famous for its beautiful mountainous landscape, Jammu’s numerous shrines attract tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims every year. Ladakh, is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and Buddhist culture. The illegally occupied part of J&K by Pakistan is in two parts, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (the so called Azad Kashmir by Pakistan) and Gilgit- Baltistan(GB) (earlier called the Northern Areas). China is in possession of Akshai Chin and the Shaksgam valley illegally ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963.

The “high roof of the world” , the Gilgit-Baltistan and the Ladakh region of the pre-independence state of Jammu and Kashmir is geo- strategically very important. This region lies between the high Hindu Kush and Karakoram mountain ranges to its north and the Western Himalayas to its immediate south, with the Kashmir Vale and the Jammu region further South. The strategic importance of J&K can be understood from the fact that China is spending huge sums to build infrastructure through highways connecting Tibet to Xinjiang through the Chinese occupied Akshai Chin plateau, and Xinjiang to Pakistan via the Karakorum highway through the Kunzreb pass. This highway then connects Gwadar port on the Arabian sea, giving warm water port and access to the Indian Ocean to China. Its importance can be visualized in that China trade can avoid the bottleneck of Malacca straits as also cuts down turn round to the interior provinces of China. China is now in de facto control of the GB area. It is believed to have deployed more than ten thousand troops for the purpose of developing infrastructure in the area. It is also believed that Pakistan is to lease the GB area to China for 50 years under the pretext of developing the area.

The strategic importance of J&K thus can be understood that now we face two enemies on our borders at a point where we are the weakest and have the maximum to lose, having already lost nearly 50% of the erstwhile J&K princely state through aggression by Pakistan in 1947 and then China in the 50s and 1962.Strategic importance of J&K is also to be understood from the point of view of strategic and valuable mineral deposits in the area, particularly in the GB and Ladakh area. It is surmised that GB area is rich in uranium deposits, besides great potential of hydro electric works.

Rise of the PLAAF: Implications for India

23 Oct , 2014

Chinese Su-27

The ‘inscrutable’ sobriquet for the Chinese is not so much because of their unsmiling faces but on account of their unpredictable actions. Military action against India may not come in the form of a full-fledged war. Small pin pricks in ‘disputed territories’ may keep increasing in magnitude and frequency until even the submissive and cautious Indian government is constrained to react. Should that happen and a larger military confrontation become inevitable, the PLAAF would be a major instrument of damage to our forces, assets and national pride. Some writings on the 1962 conflict include views that the IAF could have done considerable damage to the Chinese as the PLAAF had outdated aircraft and equipment then. The same is not true about the PLAAF today. The continuing delays in updating capabilities of the IAF relentlessly bring us closer to the possibility of a humiliating experience at the hands of the PLAAF.

The PLAAF was kick-started with Soviet help and its initial acquisitions were all from the Soviet Union…

India’s tremulous caution in dealing with China, and the latter’s inexorable and escalating use of its military machinery to apparently test India’s resolve, have combined in recent months to form a binary tinderbox. The territorial dispute between Indian and China (recent Chinese actions suggest that ‘territorial’ dispute may be a better description than ‘border’ dispute) continues to simmer since 1962, the Dalai Lama’s presence in India irks China incessantly and the politico-economic rivalry of the two emergent powers, provides a high level of animosity that does not look likely to fade. This is especially so as China does not appear to be in a hurry to resolve issues that afflict the India-China relationship.

Indeed, the strategic design is blatantly one of encircling India through a variety of machinations. India, in response, has not displayed a matching spirit of machismo and has permitted itself to be pushed around. However, if the push became a shove, a retaliatory conflict situation may become inevitable on account of domestic politics. If the tenor and texture of India-China relations continue its present trend of evolution, a military confrontation between the two is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. In that context, China’s armed forces that are composed of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF) and the militia, play a significant role in China’s overall strategies of security and development according to ‘The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces’, China’s Defence White Paper 2013. The PLA is the world’s largest military force with a strength of approximately 2,250,000 personnel.

Su-30MKK China

It consists of five main services – the PLA Army, the PLA Navy (PLAN), the PLA Air Force (PLAAF), the Second Artillery Corps (strategic missile force) and the PLA Reserve Force. This paper is confined to the rise of the PLAAF and its implications for India.


The PLAAF was officially formed on November 11, 1949, but the first three decades are insignificant to this discourse. When Deng Xiaoping introduced the Four Modernisations strategy in 1978, defence modernisation was – for the first time ever – formally identified as a priority sector in China’s reconstruction albeit listed fourth in precedence amongst the four ‘modernisations’. The associated importance accorded to defence R&D got conjoined with national economic progress in one plane and growth in science and technology in the other.


By Varun Sahni
China's Xi Jinping and India's Narendra D Modi. 

During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India in September, much was made of the personal rapport and chemistry between him and his host, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Chinese investment worth US$20 billion, although a fraction of the figures (US$100-300 billion) that had been touted before the visit, was nevertheless significant in the bilateral context. It was also noteworthy that the Indian leadership was forceful in highlighting India’s concerns on such bilateral irritants as border incursions, stapled visas and river waters. The relaxed atmospherics and candid conversation presage a developing maturity in the bilateral relationship, which is important for the evolving power relationships across Asia and further afield.

One of the fascinating aspects of the visit and the Modi-Xi meeting was the way in which China and India can now be juxtaposed. When we juxtapose two entities, we place them close together for contrasting effect. From an International Relations (IR) perspective, what happens when we juxtapose the two Asian giants?

China and India can be juxtaposed across three distinct dimensions. The first of them is comparative. China is one of the few countries in the world with which India can sensibly be compared (Brazil is another). In any comparative exercise, the two cases being compared should be sufficiently similar for the comparison to be warranted, yet sufficiently dissimilar for the comparison to be fruitful. A China-India comparison can be undertaken from a multitude of disciplinary perspectives, focus on a wide variety of issue areas and encompass vast historical periods. Almost any sensible China-India comparison would yield fascinating results.

However, when Indian analysts attempt this comparison, it is usually in unidirectional, yardstick terms. By this one means that China is treated as the benchmark against which India is measured: ‘Why cannot we be more like them?’ The more ‘policy relevant’ the study is, the greater this line of speculation is in evidence. In India, China is very rarely studied qua China, in order to understand its dynamics, trends and complexities on its own terms. Much more often, Indian analytical treatments of China are as exemplar, allegory or metaphor.

The second dimension in which China and India can be juxtaposed is relational. Here, the focus is upon the factors that would bring the two countries together, as opposed to those that would set them apart. While conflict between states is relatively easy to explain, there is no single (or singular) explanation of why states decide to work in concert. In IR, different theoretical streams provide radically different answers to the question ‘Why do states come together?’

The three predominant explanations, to simplify theoretical propositions, are as follows. Realists argue that states make alliances to aggregate power. Liberals suggest that states cooperate to solve problems and thereby enhance their opportunities.

Constructivists hold that states come together to build community. What is interesting is not only that each of these explanations rings true, but also that each is obviously incomplete and imperfect is the sense that it does not tell the whole story. Each of these – power aggregation, problem solving and community building – will probably play a role in China-India bilateral relations. For instance, the BRICS grouping that contains both China and India could be considered as an example of power aggregation.

If China and India working together seems far-fetched, we would do well to recall that China-India relations have spanned the security spectrum – war at one end, alliance at the other – during the twentieth century. While the two countries fought a war – brief and limited, but war nonetheless – against each other in 1962, they also were allies during the Second World War, before Indian Independence and the Chinese Revolution.

However, the most interesting dimension that emerges from juxtaposing China and India is the conceptual one. It has become quite trendy in IR to put both China and India in the same category of states, usually characterising both of them as rising powers. But doing so is tantamount to making a serious conceptual error. While China is rising, India is emerging.

US fund flow into Pakistan occupied Kashmir dam floods Delhi with concern

Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, ET Bureau 
Oct 21, 2014

(The Modi government…)

NEW DELHI: India, upset with a recent US move to mobilise funds for a hydel-power project in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), will lodge a protest with the Obama administration for supporting a venture in a territory which it considers to be illegally occupied by Islamabad.

Delhi, that has long protested moves by outsiders including China to support Diamer-Bhasha dam hydel-power and irrigation project and other infrastructure ventures in PoK, is particularly peeved as the US is acting decision comes at a time when Pakistan has upped the ante on Jammu & Kashmir through repeated ceasefire violations and subsequent efforts to internationalise the issue.

The Modi government is expected to use diplomatic channels to lodge a protest with the US, official sources said, adding that PoK was under illegal occupation of Pakistan and any infrastructure project in that area is illegal. Delhi maintains that the entire state of Jammu & Kashmir, including the PoK, is an integral part of India. Delhi had always protested against the construction of Diamer-Bhasa project located in Gilgit-Baltistan area of PoK. The issue has been repeatedly raised with both China and Pakistan in the past, sources recalled.

Beijing's total support to Pakistan's projects in PoK is to the tune of $12-15 billion. The dam site was an integral part of India by virtue of Jammu & Kashmir's accession to the country in 1947, sources stressed. There are also fears that the reservoir of this dam would inundate large parts of land in northern part of Jammu and Kashmir adjoining PoK. The project site is 165 km downstream of Gilgit, capital of northern areas of PoK.

Last week, the Obama administration had organized a fund-raising event in Washington to seek support for the 4,500 MW Diamer-Bhasha project. USAID Chief Rajiv Shah, who was once in the race to become envoy to India, and Dan Feldman, US Special Representative for Afghanistan-Pakistan, attended the event.

"Investment in the Diamer Bhasha dam is the smartest choice for Pakistan," Feldman was quoted in a Pakistani media report days after the event. Expressing similar sentiment, US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson said in Lahore recently: "This project presents exciting opportunities for foreign and local investors to profit, while bringing critically needed energy, water, and foreign investment to Pakistan."

Pakistan's Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Water, Power and Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif was present at the Washington event to attract US and international investors for the project, sources informed. Incidentally the fund-raising event was organized less than ten days after Obama met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the US capital. The World Bank had earlier rejected Pakistani government's proposal for financing the project following India's reservations against it.



Many eminent experts on India’s international relations and security argue against talks with Pakistan. Others have pointed out that talks are not a favor to anyone; they are an essential part of diplomacy. However, neither the use of force nor diplomacy can serve if we are confused about our Strategy and Objectives. The basis of ‘strategy’ is an unsentimental understanding of the opponent and his strategy and objectives.

After the formation of Bangladesh in 1971, the Pakistan Military, fully supported by the entire Pakistan establishment, developed a two pronged strategy of dealing with India: Acquire nuclear weapons and use these as a shield to carry out Jihad against India.[i] Pakistan’s entire international policy and much of its internal policy was driven by this obsession of revenge against India. It was not just a policy of the Military, but was fully supported by and implemented by the Pakistani elites (political, bureaucratic, diplomatic, business, professional). There is no evidence of any change in this dual policy towards India by the Pakistan Military (PakMil), though the small and shrinking English speaking globalized elite has begun a very tentative, muted debate on the wisdom of this policy, the overwhelming support for Jehadis among the Urdu speaking, provincial elite (including lawyers-judiciary), makes it very likely that any consensus can emerge even among political rulers. 

General Zia ul Haq (1977-88), imposed a policy of state-led Islamization, by bringing in his concept of Sharia, including the infamous blasphemy law. Under his regime, the fundamentalist Ahl-e-Hadith version of Islam, was introduced in (all) school curricula, as a result of which, “An entire generation of Pakistanis studying in public (and secular) schools has grown up viewing not only non-Muslim minorities but also Muslim minorities as “the other,” as “unpatriotic,” and as ‘not Muslim enough’.” Gen Zia Ul Haq, the “Godfather of global Islamic Jehad,”[ii] used to greet Indians with an expansive bear hug, so that they would assume that he too thought of them as long lost brothers.
Military’s Objectives

Zia’s successor as Army chief, Gen Mirza Aslam Beg (1988-1991), developed the policy of “Strategic depth,” in an effort to incorporate Afghanistan as a training and operations base for Jihad against India and to improve “deniability.” About 90,000 Afghans, including Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban Emir, were trained by Pakistan's ISI during the 1980s.[iii]

The most important event that will shape the behavior of the Pakistan Army in the next two years, is the accelerated withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan (by 2014). This withdrawal provides it a golden opportunity to restore its hegemony in Afghanistan. Ideally the Army would like to reestablish the dominant position it had before the Taliban was driven out of Afghanistan and had to shift its headquarters and operating bases to Pakistan (Quetta Shura, Waziristan, ‘Taliban prisoners!’). Failing this it would be happy with a regime that subserves the Pakistan Army’s interests. This is likely to be the central and most vital objective of the Pakistan Army and its primary operational instrument the ISI, during the next two-three years.

The tantalizing hints of a change in Pakistan Army doctrine purportedly downgrading India’s unchallenged position as “sole enemy,” are diplomatic publicity designed to restore Western perceptions of Army led Pakistan as a “trusted ally”. At the same time the Jehadis within the Army–ISI and the “Good Taliban” need to be reassured. The following statement of Maj-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, DG, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) keeps open the possibility of doing both: “Army prepares for all forms of threats. Sub-conventional threat is a reality and is a part of a threat matrix faced by our country. But it doesn’t mean that the conventional threat has receded (quoted in the Express Tribune).”

The hostile Pakistani army actions across the LOC is a signal to the Pakistani jihadists ( “Paltu Kuttas” – ‘Pet dogs’) that the Pakistan army and Government are not abandoning their anti-India policy, in their respective quests: The Army for a dominant role in Afghanistan, financed and underwritten to the maximum extent possible by the USA.
Democracy & Elites

The erosion of the international carte blanche for Pakistan, forced a rethink by the globalized English speaking elites of Pakistan. But Inside Pakistan they may be a shrinking minority, decimated by the murder of any one who exposes Pakistan military’s double dealing on Terrorism or draws the ire of the Sunni fundamentalists (misusing anti-blasphemy laws). With the coming of democracy, the leaders of some of the Pakistani political parties (PPP, PML-N) have realized that their own and their party’s interests are not identical to those of the Pakistan Military and appear to be willing to consider changing the anti-India policy. Mr. Nawaz Sharif has gone further than Mr. Zardari could, in making clear that more normal relations with India would also be in the interest of his party.

However, in a democracy one must ask, what is the extent of support for changing a policy of anti-India Jihad, to one of Peace. Unfortunately, as the old (English educated) elite has begun to realize that the Frankenstein terrorists they have created may destroy Pakistan itself by taking it back into a medieval age, the new Urdu speaking (Sunni) elites appear to be behind the terrorists.[iv] General Zia ul Haq (1977-98), imposed a policy of state-led Islamization, by bringing in his concept of Sharia, including the infamous blasphemy law. Under his regime, the fundamentalist Ahl-e-Hadith version of Islam, was introduced in (all) school curricula as a result of which, “An entire generation of Pakistanis studying in public (and secular) schools has grown up viewing not only non-Muslim minorities but also Muslim minorities as “the other,” as “unpatriotic,” and as ‘not Muslim enough’.” [v]


October 21, 2014 

Mr. Farahnaz Ispahani and Ms. Nina Shea writing on the October 16, 2014 website, The Hudson Institute, warn that “Pakistan is sliding toward extremism;” as “he appeal of Islamist extremism is mushrooming within Pakistani society…reminding us that we risk seeing the Talibanization — not simply of a small minority or ordinary citizens; but, large swaths of the populace of the world’s second largest — and only nuclear-armed, Muslim country.”

“Pakistan abound with violent sectarian and Islamist groups, headquartered in semi-autonomous tribal areas,” across the country, the two authors note. “Foreign jihadists, like American David Headly, flock to such areas as North Waziristan. Yet although Islamabad devotes a full third of its armed forces to the northwest of the country, it is also pursuing policies that encourage a mainstream slide toward extremism,” they add.

“State laws [within Pakistan], and practices relating to Islamic blasphemy, in particular, are increasingly suppressing moderate voices, while allowing extremists to dominate cultural discourse and learning.” Mr. Ispahani and Ms. Shea observe. “As a result,” they say, “extremism is making ideological inroads into wider; and, wider segments of the population.”

“A shocking example occurred last month,” they write, “with the drive-by shooting of Muhammad Shakeel Auj, Dean of Islamic Studies, at the venerable Karachi University. Auj had earned a Ph.D. after writing a comparison of eight Urdu translations of the Quran. But, some found offense in his “liberal” religious views as he passionately denounced terrorism; and, suggested that Muslim women could pray wearing lipstick…and, could marry non-Muslims.” These views made Auj a marked-man among extremists; and, “over the past two years, Auj had been subject to a barrage of blasphemy accusations, fatwas, and death threats — including that he will be beheaded,” the authors write. “Particularly troubling,” they add, “is that four of his own faculty members were allegedly behind some of the threats. They were arrested, but soon released on bail. As one obituary writer commented, Auj’s murder shows that now “even the most mainstream Sunni voices will not be tolerated.”

“Junaid Hafeez, another university professor, may soon be sentenced to death by the state,” Mr. Ispahani and Ms. Shea note. “Charged with insulting the Prophet Muhammad on FaceBook, he is now on trial for the capital crime of blasphemy. Yet, the charge is based entirely on the oral testimony of students linked to the hardline, Jamaat-i-Islami Party. Hafeez has reportedly found it difficult to find a lawyer willing to defend him; not the least because those who manage to secure an acquittal for accused blasphemers, run the risk of being seen as blasphemers themselves. And, while the state doesn’t penalize such defense lawyers, it also does little to protect them; or, punish their extrajudicial killers either. For example,” they write, “while after his first two lawyers quit following death threats, Hafeez was able to hire Rashid Rehman, a senior lawyer with Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission. But, on May 7, Rehman was shot dead in his office. His killers remain at large.”

“Liberal Muslim educators, lawyers, and human rights activists aren’t the only victims of the country’s anti-blasphemy codes,” the authors note. “Often targeted are the Ahmadis, as many as 5M strong, well-educated community that professes faith to Islam; but which is not deemed Muslim, under Pakistan’s constitution. The sect’s tenants renounce violent jihad; and, embrace the separation of mosque and state, as well as religious pluralism. They now account for 40 percent of the anti-blasphemy prosecutions, which also disproportionately target Christians, Shia, and Hindus.”

“Such extremism has touched us personally,” Mr. Ispahani and Ms. Shea write. “Our friends, Shahbaz Bhatti, the former Minority Affairs Minister, and Salman Taseer, Punjab’s former governor, were both outspoken critics of the blasphemy conviction of Christian mother, Asia Bibi, and both were gunned down in 2011. The Lahore High Court last Thursday, upheld the death sentence against Asia Bibi.”

“The blasphemy law was originally introduced to appease extremists, but has instead stimulated an appetite for more. As Bhatti noted: “This law is creating disharmony and intolerance in our society.” “He is right — it legitimizes; and, enflames religious passions over speech, while providing extremists a platform within the vey heart of Pakistani society,” the authors write, and no doubt propaganda points as well.

“American drones are now waiting aiming at Pakistan’s northwest terrorist snake pit,” the authors conclude. “But, there is no military solution to the blasphemy law. And, while it is only right that we celebrate Malala;s Nobel award, we also cannot forget the growing numbers of Pakistanis that take no pride in such an achievement.”

We Shouldn’t Be Surprised By These Observations: After All, Pakistan Gave Sanctuary To bin Laden

Carlotta Gall, the North Africa Correspondent for The New York Times; and, whom covered Afghanistan and Pakistan for the paper from 2001 to 2013 — had a lengthy article in the March 23, 2014, New York Times Magazine. Ms. gall wrote, “shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, I went to live and report for The New York Times in Afghanistan. I would spend most of the next 12 years there, following the overthrow of the Taliban, feeling the excitement of the freedom and prosperity that was promised in its wake and then watching the gradual dissolution of that hope. A new Constitution and two rounds of elections did not improve the lives of ordinary Afghans; the Taliban regrouped and found increasing numbers of supporters for their guerrilla actions; by 2006, as they mounted an ambitious offensive to retake southern Afghanistan and unleashed more than a hundred suicide bombers, it was clear that a deadly and determined opponent was growing in strength, not losing it. As I toured the bomb sites and battlegrounds of the Taliban resurgence, Afghans kept telling me the same thing: The organizers of the insurgency were in Pakistan, specifically in the western district of Quetta. Police investigators were finding that many of the bombers, too, were coming from Pakistan.”

“The Pakistani government, under President Pervez Musharraf and his intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani,” Ms. Gall wrote, “was maintaining and protecting the Taliban, both to control the many groups of militants now lodged in the country and to use them as a proxy force to gain leverage over and eventually dominate Afghanistan. The dynamic has played out in ways that can be hard to grasp from the outside, but the strategy that has evolved in Pakistan has been to make a show of cooperation with the American fight against terrorism while covertly abetting and even coordinating Taliban, Kashmiri and foreign Qaeda-linked militants. The linchpin in this two-pronged and at times apparently oppositional strategy is the ISI. It’s through that agency that Pakistan’s true relationship to militant extremism can be discerned – a fact that the United States was slow to appreciate, and later refused to face directly, for fear of setting off a greater confrontation with a powerful Muslim nation.”

Pack It Up, Pack It In

OCTOBER 21, 2014 

Thirteen years after Wisconsin’s 829th Engineer Co. deployed to build Afghanistan’s war infrastructure, they’re back to tear it apart and take it home. 

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, Afghanistan — When Nick Grob and Lucas Kramer first arrived in Afghanistan, the rubble from the 9/ 11 attacks on the World Trade Center was still being cleared in New York.

Grob and Kramer were part of a small group of electricians, plumbers, and carpenters from the Wisconsin National Guard's 829th Engineer Company that quietly deployed in the fall of 2001 with the task of building infrastructure for the United States' war effort in Afghanistan. They built housing, installed wiring, and laid pipes.

Now they're back with a different mission: breaking down tents, deconstructing hangars, boxing up parts. Vast bases that once housed thousands of troops plus all of their equipment from Humvees and cargo planes to desks and stoves are rapidly disappearing as the terrain reverts back to what it looked like before the war.

Thirteen years after the United States entered Afghanistan to clear out the Taliban, the vast majority of combat troops are pulling out. On Sept. 30, Afghanistan and the United States signed a bilateral security agreement that will bring the number of U.S. troops down from 30,000 to just under 10,000 by New Year's Eve.

The future of Afghanistan is uncertain; recent events in Iraq have shown that military engagement can continue long after the official withdrawal date. But for now, the focus of the 829th and other U.S. military engineer units is on shutting down America's longest war.

Kramer and Grob find themselves in a bewildering set of circumstances that neither soldier could have foreseen. "I think it's really neat that we turned the lights on in this war and now we're back turning them off," said Kramer.

The troops are part of an unprecedented effort to save as much as possible, to recycle and reclaim billions of dollars' worth of materiel used to wage a war.

At the close of World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, the U.S. military left behind trucks, helicopters, tents, and all kinds of equipment. World War II landing crafts continue to rust on Pacific islands. Huey helicopters tipped off aircraft carriers at the end of the Vietnam War remain at the bottom of the sea not far from what is now called Ho Chi Minh City.

Now the goal is to save as many U.S. taxpayer dollars spent on this conflict as possible -- and return the Afghan countryside to what it looked like before U.S. and coalition forces arrived.

"Buildings, walls, everything you see has to come down. Everything gets recycled, including wood and nails," said Capt. Kyle Gruber, commander of the 829th Engineers.

"Buildings, walls, everything you see has to come down. Everything gets recycled, including wood and nails," said Capt. Kyle Gruber, commander of the 829th Engineers.

As U.S. troops leave, hundreds of military installations are shutting down, leaving a handful of bases in key areas like Kandahar, Jalalabad, Bagram, and Mazar-e-Sharif open for Afghan forces and a much smaller U.S. and coalition component. But even the large bases in those spots are reducing their footprint.

Some equipment will be given to Afghan security forces; building materials like plywood will be offered to Afghan civilians. Items that have outlived their usefulness or are so degraded that they're worthless will be destroyed.

And a lot of equipment will return to the United States, including mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) combat trucks, which will be given to law enforcement agencies in the United States under a Defense Department program that has causedcontroversy recently following the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, as some question why communities need to arm their police departments with such massive firepower.

Now the wagon train of vehicles and equipment is reversing direction, flowing out of Afghanistan. It took years to build the American presence in Afghanistan; it will take months to break it down.

Afghan Taliban Now Control 3 Districts in Wardak and Kunduz Provinces

Taliban control 3 districts in Afghan provinces of Wardak and Kunduz

Bill Roggio
The Long War Journal
October 22, 2014

The Afghan Taliban took control of three districts, one in the province of Wardak which is just south of Kabul, and the other two in the northern province of Kunduz, that were heavily contested during the US troop surge that began in 2010 and ended in 2011. One of the districts was the scene of the Taliban’s shoot down of a US helicopter that resulted in the deaths of 31 special operations personnel, including 17 US Navy SEALs.

Reports from Afghanistan indicate that the district of Sayyidabad in Wardak as well as the districts of Chahar Darah and Dasht-i-Archi in Kunduz province are under the Taiban’s thumb.

A reporter from the BBC recently visited the Tangi Valley in the district of Sayyidabad and noted that the Taliban fully control the district. He was given a tour by Said Rahman, the Taliban’s shadow district governor who is “popularly known as Governor Badr.”

Taliban fighters openly patrol the district during the daytime, while Afghan troops are confined to a small hilltop outpost. Taliban judges mediate land and other disputes. Taxes are collected. Schools, which are funded by the Afghan government, teach the Taliban’s curriculum, while girls are not allowed to attend. [See BBC report, Life inside a Taliban stronghold.]

Further north, in the province of Kunduz, Afghan officials admit that “the Taliban controls virtually all of two out of seven districts in Kunduz - Chahar Darah and Dasht-i-Archi,’ Reuters reports.

"It is gaining influence elsewhere, and residents say it has been able to because what little state authority exists is viewed with deep mistrust," Reuters continues.

In Kunduz, the Taliban collects a 10 percent tax from farmers and business, mediates disputes in its courts, and runs the local schools.

A senior tribal elder said that the Taliban is well armed and Afghan security forces no longer pursue the Taliban in the districts.

"The local police force, recruited and armed by Western forces, had stopped trying to fight the Taliban altogether," Reuters notes.

Sayyidabad and Chahar Darah: hotly contested districts in the past

Two of the three districts controlled by the Taliban - Sayyidabad and Chahar Darah - have been major battlegrounds in the past. US special operations forces heavily targeted the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and al Qaeda in the two districts between 2009 and 2012.

The Tangi Valley in Sayyidabad was the scene of one of the most deadly attacks on US forces since the war in Afghanistan began in late 2001. On Aug. 6, 2011 the Taliban shot down a Chinook helicopter in the district, killing 38 US and Afghan forces, including 17 US Navy SEALS from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (more commonly referred to as SEAL Team 6). More than one month later, the Taliban detonated a massive suicide bomb outside of Combat Outpost Sayyidabad, killing four Afghans and wounding more than 100 people, including 77 US soldiers.

In September 2011, the Taliban took control of Combat Outpost Tangi, which was abandoned by Afghan forces shortly after the massive suicide attack. The Taliban filmed its forces touring the base and released the video on its website.

Later that month, the US killed Qari Tahir, who the International Security Assistance Force described as the Taliban’s commander in the Tangi Valley, in an airstrike in the Sayyidabad district. Tahir led the force that was involved in the Aug. 6, 2011 shootdown of the US Chinook.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and al Qaeda are also know to operate in Sayyidabad. In April 2012, the US captured an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader who was planning future large-scale attacks in Kabul, Wardak and Logar provinces.

In November 2011, the US killed Mujib Rahman Mayar, an Afghan national who served as an al Qaeda facilitator, during a raid in Sayyidabad. Mayar is known to have trained insurgents and acted as a courier delivering messages and money for al Qaeda’s network. Two suspected insurgents were also detained and multiple weapons were seized, including bomb-making materials, firearms, grenades, and ammunition.

Chahar Darah district has also been a hotbed of Taliban, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and al Qaeda activity, and is known to have been under Taliban control in the past. US special operations forces targeted the three allied jihadist groups in at least 16 raids between August 2009 and November 2012.

Among those targeted during the US raids in the district were Khadim, an IMU senior leader and Afghan national who was an explosives expert responsible for recruiting and training insurgents for suicide attacks; an unnamed senior IMU leader who facilitates suicide bombers from Pakistan; an unnamed Taliban leader who facilitates foreign suicide bombers, including Chechens and Pakistanis;Saifullah, the Taliban’s shadow governor for the district who led a group of al Qaeda fighters and maintained close ties with senior Taliban and IMU leaders in northern Afghanistan and Pakistan; and an IMU foreign fighter facilitator with ties to Iran’s Qods Force and local Taliban and Iranian-based Uzbek IMU facilitators.

ISIS in Central Asia

October 22, 2014

It has now become imperative to assess the impending security situation in Central Asia, India’s extended neighbourhood, after the recent appearance of ISIS footprints that sent shockwaves across the region. Like in Srinagar, it started in early September with the emergence of an ISIS flag on a Tashkent bridge. Soon after, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appointed a Tajik jihadi to be the "Amir" of Syria’s Raqqa province. News report also quoted ISIS having chosen an anonymous person as “Amir” of Uzbekistan. Not just that, towards the end of September, the leader of the Waziristan based Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) Usmon Ghazi rejoiced the astonishing success of ISIS in Iraq and declared allegiance to Islamic State. The IMU faced sustained losses after Pakistani military bombed hideouts following Karachi airport attack that killed 37 in June. Ghazi is said to be raising fresh recruits and hopes to unite with Taliban and ISIS. 

There are no confirmed reports on how many Central Asian fighters may have gone to Syria except for scattered evidence and information from online videos available on sites. The estimates vary from 500 to 1000. This author, however, recalls how the phenomenon of Central Asians flocking towards Syria and Iraq began from early 2012. It appeared then that the recruits were either freshly drawn from the pool of Tabliqi cadres, schools, universities, madarasas, Central Asian expatriates in Russia or from homegrown terrorist outfits in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

To be sure, all the prerequisite – historical, political, socio-cultural – including demand for creating Caliphate in Central Asia existed even from the Soviet times. Several outfits such as IMU, IMT, HuT and others surfaced immediately after the Soviet collapse. They remained outlawed in the region but sustained their operation across from the Af-Pak throughout the 1990s backed by the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Their aim was to overthrow the regimes and establish Caliphate in Central Asia.

Relatively advanced and stable Kazakhstan started experiencing serious terrorist attacks since 2011–2012. The Jund al-Khilafah (Soldiers of the Caliphate) and others emerged in 2012. However, more seriously, a video showing 150 Kazakhs inside Syria with ISIS banner in October 2013 came as a surprise. Media reports claim that some Kazakhs are even believed to be among the founders of ISIS. Subsequently, media flashed that 250 people travelled to Syria via Turkey (Kazakhstan has a 30-day visa-free regime with Turkey). Some Kazakh jehadis may have returned home since then but they face serious prison sentence. As recently in August, Abu Muaz of ISIS’s Kazakh Jamaat gave a call to Kazakhs to join jihad in Syria. Kazakhstan recently banned Takfir wal-Hijra, a radical Islamic group linked to Al-Qaeda. Media also reported that the recent disappearance in Kazakhstan of a 50-kg container of Cesium 137 is being linked to ISIS. It suggests that the ISIS is looking for nuclear material. Reports on various websites indicate that ISIS has a separate Kazakh Jamaat perhaps called Jamaat Daoud consisting not only of Kazakh fightersbut also Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Nogais, Karachaevs, Russians, Ossetians, Dagestanis, Chechens, Tajiks, Arabs, and a German. Kazakhstan may face lesser threat from ISIS but the country could remain a source for new recruit, especially from Southern regions like Jambul, Chemkent and Kizil-Orda. Certainly, Kazakhstan could eventually become source of funding for jihadis groups fighting in Syria and Af-Pak.

With regards to Tajikistan, possibly over 200 jehadis are fighting along with the ISIS. The government figure is 110. It is established that from a single village Chorkishlik, 20 youth have gone to Syria. The Tajiks fighters are known for their brutality and ruthlessness and many of them may be battle-hardened veteran of the Tajik civil war (1990s) who later joined groups in Afghanistan. Reports suggest numerous instances of Tajik fighters being killed in Syria. But those returning from Syria are facing prison sentences. Some reports, possibly not credible, suggest that the Turkish Airlines has been transporting hundreds of Tajiks from Dushanbe to Turkey and then to Iraq and the Saudi Embassy in Dushanbe acts as the headquarters for recruiting.

Tajikistan faces the greatest threat in the medium term from ISIS trained jihadis returning from Syria. Appointing a Tajik as “Amir” could mean that ISIS has a design for Central Asia, especially for Tajikistan. It also means to inspire other Tajiks, especially Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) cadre. Some believe Tajiks in Syria could be experiencing factional fighting and division.

As for Uzbekistan, the level of radicalism has always been high. The breeding ground is the Ferghana Valley, shared by Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Some 200-300 Uzbeks are supposed to be fighting along ISIS. An Uzbek, Abdullah at-Toshkandi, earlier led the well-known Sabri Jamaat in Syria. Toshkandi was killed in the Aleppo Central Prison storming. Sabiri is now a Dagestani Jamaat led by Khalid ad-Dagestani. Reports suggest it has at least 70 militants. A separate Abu Hanif Jamaat comprising of Uzbek fighters is mentioned in the literature. Some Abu Hussein is leading theSeyfuddin Uzbek Jamaat, which serves in the Al Nusrah Front. The front is known to have bomb-making skills like the Khorasan members. Abu Usman, who earlier served in Uzbek Intelligence Agency for 20 years, has recently appeared on video fighting in Syria. He went to Syria via Russia. Uzbekistan could face serious threat in the immediate and medium term. ISIS could reignite the weakened IMU to transplant ISIS model in Central Asia.

Not enough information is available on Turkmenistan although Radio Free Europe (RFE) estimate about 300-350 fighters in Syria. In October 2013, the Grand Mufti of Syria suggested 360 Turkmen fighting in Syria. Turkmenistan can face threat in the longer term. Figure for Kyrgyzstan vary. The country’s economic backwardness and its remoteness, make it a fertile recruitment and training ground for ISIS. Provinces like Osh, Naryn, Batkent, Jalalabad have been prone to jihadi call. Saudi Arabia and Qatar opened their Embassies in 2012. Poverty is the main driver. Some reports suggest Kyrgyz members are paid approximately $5,000, compared to about $150 in their country or $1500 they would be earning in Russia. The modus operandi to reach Syria is through Turkey. Many Kyrgyz have returned but many continue to fight for money.

Scores of young women from Central Asia have been recruited since 2012 mainly for employment in the Middle East. It is not clear whether they have joined Jihad al-Nikah (Sexual Jihad). In the past, Chechen Ingushtia women were used for weapon smuggling and suicide bombings inside Russia. The ISIS’s widely known fighting brigade Shishani Jamaat, commanded by a Chechen, Amir Umar Shishani has in its ranks large number of Central Asian fighters. Shishani is a Russian-speaking Jamaats designed for optimum operational effectiveness. Others groups like Jamaat Adama, Jamaat Akhmada, Abu Kamil Jamaat and Jamaat Khattaba are composed of Russian speaking Chechens, Caucasus , Dagistanis and Central Asia jehadis. Many are said to be fighting on the forefront in Kobani.

Myanmar: The Politics of Rakhine State


The situation in Rakhine State contains a toxic mixture of historical centre-periphery tensions, serious intercommunal and inter-religious conflict with minority Muslim communities, and extreme poverty and under-development. This led to major violence in 2012 and further sporadic outbreaks since then. The political temperature is high, and likely to increase as Myanmar moves closer to national elections at the end of 2015. It represents a significant threat to the overall success of the transition, and has severely damaged the reputation of the government when it most needs international support and investment. Any policy approach must start from the recognition that there will be no easy fixes or quick solutions. The problems faced by Rakhine State are rooted in decades of armed violence, authoritarian rule and state-society conflict. This crisis has affected the whole of the state and all communities within it. It requires a sustained and multi-pronged response, as well as critical humanitarian and protection interventions in the interim.

Failure to deal with the situation can have impacts for the whole country. As Myanmar is redefining itself as a more open society at peace with its minorities and embracing its diversity, introducing the seeds of a narrow and discriminatory nationalism could create huge problems for the future. Political solutions to the decades-long armed conflict, including the building of a federal nation, will be much more difficult.

The largest group in the state are the Rakhine, who are Buddhist, and there is a significant Muslim minority, including the Rohingya – a designation rejected by the government and Rakhine. The Rakhine community as a whole has tended to be cast internationally as violent extremists – ignoring the diversity of opinions that exist, the fact that the Rakhine themselves are a long-oppressed minority, and rarely attempting to understand their perspective and concerns. This is counterproductive: it promotes a siege mentality on the part of the Rakhine, and obscures complex realities that must be understood if a sustainable way forward is to be found.

The grievances of the Rakhine are similar to those of Myanmar’s other ethnic minorities – including longstanding discrimination by the state, a lack of political control over their own affairs, economic marginalisation, human rights abuses and restrictions on language and cultural expression. Decades of Rakhine anger have begun to morph. Since the transition to the new government, many Rakhine have increasingly felt that the most immediate and obvious threat that they face in rebuilding their communities and re-asserting their ethnic identity is one of demographics. There is a fear that they could soon become a minority in their own state – and, valid or not, there is no doubt that it is very strongly felt in Rakhine communities.

Muslim communities, in particular the Rohingya, have over the years been progressively marginalised from social and political life. Many have long been denied full citizenship, with significant consequences for their livelihoods and well-being. There are now efforts underway in the legislature to disenfranchise them, which could be incendiary. The Rohingya see this as their last remaining connection to politics and means of influence. Without this, it would be hard for them to avoid the conclusion that politics had failed them – which could prompt civil disobedience or even organised violence.

Current government initiatives to address the situation are centred on a pilot process to verify the citizenship of undocumented Muslims, and an “action plan” to deal with a broader set of political, security and development issues. Both contain deeply problematic elements. The refusal of the government and Rakhine community to accept the use of the term “Rohingya”, and the equally strong rejection of the term “Bengali” by the Rohingya, have created a deadlock. The verification process is going ahead without resolving this, and it may be boycotted by a majority of Rohingya.

The action plan envisages moving those who are granted citizenship to new settlements, rather than back to their original homes, potentially entrenching segregation. Those who are found to be non-citizens, or who do not cooperate with verification, may have to remain in camps until a solution can be found – which could be a very long time. An additional problem is that many Muslims may be given naturalised citizenship, which is more insecure and does not confer many of the rights of full citizenship.

Citizenship will not by itself automatically promote the rights of the Muslim population. This is made clear by the plight of the Kaman, who are full citizens by birth and a recognised indigenous group, but whose Islamic faith has meant that many are confined to displacement camps with no possibility to move freely or return to their land. Citizenship is thus necessary but not sufficient for improving rights. An end to discriminatory policies, including movement restrictions, and improved security and rule of law are also indispensable.

The government faces a major challenge in that the demands and expectations of the Rakhine Buddhist and Muslim communities may not be possible to reconcile. In such a context, it is essential to ensure that fundamental rights and freedoms are protected while also finding ways to ease Rakhine fears. Important too are efforts to combat extremism and hate speech. Only by doing so can the current climate of impunity for expressing intolerant views, and acting on them, be addressed. Ringleaders and perpetrators of violence must be brought swiftly to justice, which has rarely been the case. Doing so will help ensure not only that justice is done; it can also contribute to political stability and enhance the prospects for peaceful solutions.

Political solutions may not bear fruit quickly, but this must not lead to complacency. Solutions are critical for the future of Rakhine State and the country as a whole. Pre-empting extremist violence requires starting a credible process now that can demonstrate to the Rakhine and Muslim communities that political avenues exist. More broadly, unless Myanmar is successful in creating a new sense of national identity that embraces the country’s huge cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, peace and stability will remain elusive nationwide. In the meantime, it is essential for the international community to support the humanitarian and protection needs of vulnerable populations, which are likely to remain for years. It is also vital to address the chronic poverty and underdevelopment of all communities in the state, particularly through equitable and well-targeted village-level community development schemes.

Yangon/Brussels, 22 October 2014

China-Japan Relations: Will the Twain Never Meet?

20 October 2014 

Srikanth KondapalliProfessor in Chinese Studies, Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 

With prospects for a bilateral meeting between Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and China’s President Xi Jinping at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit at Beijing in November brightening, the East Asian security situation may after the war of words and deeds in East China Sea over the past four years. Already, both the foreign ministers met at Naypyidaw in August. However, China Daily’s survey found that nearly 53 per cent Chinese believe that war is imminent, although Genron’s Japanese survey indicated that only 29 per cent Japanese see conflict emerging between the two. The rise in tensions between the two since the nationalisation of the Senkaku Islands by the central government in Tokyo made China's Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua state in mid-June 2014 that bilateral relations are “suffering the toughest-ever situation.” However, it is not clear whether Japan would accept the two conditions of Beijing, viz., not to visit theYasukuni Shrine again (PM Abe visited in December 2013) and Japan should consider that there is indeed a dispute in the East China Sea over the islands.

Bilateral Tensions

Tensions have been mounting for a long time now despite economic interdependence. Recently, these were triggered by the intrusion of a 15-member crew led by Zhan Qixiong of the trawler Minjinyu 5179 on 07 September 2010 at the Senkaku Islands administered by Japan, but claimed by China. Later, such incidents continued to test the bilateral relations. On 24 August 2011, for instance, a Chinese vessel marched past the Japan Coast Guard patrol boat. On 13 December 2012, two months after the Japanese government purchased the islands, a Chinese surveillance airplane entered Japanese airspace near the Senkaku Islands. China was also critical of PM Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine in 2013, the first by a serving Japanese prime minister since 2006.

A series of incidents in the last few months indicate that both Japan and China have not reached equilibrium in their bilateral relations but have fanned out into a bilateral war of words that has spilled over into regional security domains. On 04 June, the G-7 Summit meeting at Brussels declared that it is opposed to "any unilateral attempt by any party to assert its territorial or maritime claims through the use of intimidation, coercion or force," with reference to the tensions in the East China Sea. This statement was not explicit about either Japan or China, indicating China’s back-channel diplomacy with UK, France and Germany. The next day, the Lower House of the Japanese Diet decided to pass a resolution critical of Chinese air intrusions into Japanese airspace.

The Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on 11 June that his government had lodged a protest over China’s application to register the historic records of Japan's wartime sex slaves and the Nanjing Massacre with UNESCO. He asked China to withdraw it, but in vain. On the same day, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Japanese House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning China's Haiyang Shiyou 981 drilling activities in the disputed South China Sea (also opposed by Vietnam). Again, on the same day, China sent aircraft as close as 30 metres from Japanese defense aircraft in the East China Sea. To recall, on 24 May, a similar incident was reported by the Japanese. China said that two Japanese airplanes, OP-3C and YS-11EB, intruded in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone on 24 May to scout and interfere with China-Russia naval drills. On 29 May, a Chinese frigate locked its fire-control radar on the Japanese destroyer JS Sawagiri near a gas field in the disputed East China Sea in addition to targeting a P3C aircraft. Later, Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera protested against these incidents. Japanese defence ministry reports stated that the Japanese fighter jets were scrambled in response to foreign aircraft 810 times in 2013, more than half of them Chinese. A Chinese patrol boat was spotted in the Japanese EEZ on 13 June. Later, on 27 June, a Chinese boat sank north of the Senkaku Islands, sinking a number of personnel.

On 31 June, the Japanese cabinet passed a resolution that allows Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense and take military action to defend other countries even though the countryitself is not under attack. In the backdrop of the Philippines’ struggle against China’s march in the South China Sea, Japan’s decision meant that it could offer at least non-combat assistance.

That the war of words is expanding the ambit is also indicated by China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying when she criticised Japan for under-reporting its nuclear materials. She said that Japan should “address the imbalance between its demand and supply of sensitive nuclear materials.” The Japanese government had not declared about 640 kg of unused plutonium in its annual report for the IAEA in 2012 and 2013, an amount enough to make 80 nuclear bombs. Japan claims to own 44 tons of plutonium, while the actual amount is 45 tons, said Japan's Kyodo News Agency. The unreported plutonium is part of the plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel placed at an offline reactor in a nuclear plant in Saga Prefecture, southern Japan.

The consequences of the above are spilling over into the economic domain. For instance, foreign direct investment from Japan into China slumped 42.2 per cent in 2013 from the previous year. So did bilateral trade figures, with Japan choosing to expand trade and investments with Vietnam other Southeast Asian countries and India.