31 October 2014


31 October 2014 

In any situation, there should be no question of a sustained dialogue process, till Pakistan keeps its January 2004 assurance that territory under its control will not be used for terrorism against India

Just over a year ago, Mr Nawaz Sharif was swept back to power, prompting expectations that he would tackle the country’s security and economic crises, and improve relations with India. But, one year is an eternity in the politics of Pakistan! The United States is refusing to pledge additional aid beyond what was promised earlier under the Kerry-Lugar Legislation. Even ‘all-weather friend’ China has expressed disappointment that Mr Sharif’s Government has not done the requisite preparatory work for utilising the aid that Beijing had promised for development of Pakistan’s ailing power sector. The only silver lining has been increased remittances from Pakistan’s workers in the Gulf, despite calls by cricketer-turned-politician and Mr Sharif’s opponent Imran Khan for workers to halt such inward remittances.

Instead of acting circumspectly in such a situation, Pakistan has chosen to escalate tensions on its borders with Iran, Afghanistan and India. The tensions with these three neighbours, with whom Pakistan shares land boundaries, have arisen because of support to cross-border terrorism. This support is rendered by state agencies to extremist Sunni groups, ranging from the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba to the Afghan Taliban and the Jaish-e-Adl. The tensions with Iran have risen because of the support that the extremist Sunni group Jaish e-Adl receives in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province, where the Pakistan Army is simultaneously engaged in a bloody conflict against the Balochi separatists.

Tensions with Iran escalated last year, when the Jaish-e-Adl mounted cross-border ground and missile attacks in Iran, resulting in Iranian casualties. This prompted an Iranian spokesman to warn that Iranian forces would enter Pakistani territory if Pakistan “failed to act against terrorist groups operating on its soil”. More or less coinciding with this, was an incident when the Jaish-e-Adl kidnapped five Iranian border guards and moved them into Pakistan. Iran not only warned Pakistan of cross-border retaliation, but also brought repeated incursions from Pakistani soil to the notice of the UN Security Council, in writing. Ever since the pro-Saudi Nawaz Sharif, whose links with radical Sunni extremist groups is well documented, assumed power, Pakistan has moved towards rendering unstinted support to Saudi Arabia, even in the Syrian civil war. It has also unilaterally annulled the Pakistan-Iran oil pipeline project, prompting action by Iran, which has now sought compensation.

While Mr Nawaz Sharif was commencing negotiations for a peace deal with the Tehreek-e Taliban in the tribal areas of North Waziristan bordering Afghanistan, the Army chief, General Raheel Sharif, disregarded the views of the Prime Minister. He launched a massive military operation, involving over 50,000 military and paramilitary personnel, backed by artillery, tanks, helicopter gunships and fighter jets. An estimated one million Pashtun tribesmen have fled from their homes. They are now homeless and facing barriers preventing their entry to the neighbouring Provinces of Punjab and Sind. Not surprisingly, ISI ‘assets’ like the Mullah Omar-led Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network have been quietly moved out from the battle zone, quite obviously into ISI safe houses.

Unrest is brewing amidst the displaced Pashtun tribals, as the Army is not willing and able to coordinate its operations with civilian relief agencies. One can expect that the displaced and homeless Pashtun tribals will in due course resort to terrorist violence across Pakistan. The special treatment meted out to ISI assets like Mullah Omar and the Haqqani network would have been carefully noted by the new Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai dispensation in Afghanistan, as a prelude to more serious attacks by the Afghan Taliban acting out of ISI and Army-protected safe havens in Pakistan. Pakistan’s western borders are not going to be areas of peace and stability in coming years. Unfortunately for both Mr Sharif and General Sharif, the escalating tensions with Iran, the partisan stance on Saudi Arabia-Iran rivalries and the military action in North Waziristan have invited criticism within Pakistan.

The promotion and escalation of tensions with India across the Line of Control and International Border have to be seen in this context. What better way for the Pakistan Army to divert attention from its misadventures in the west, than to revive the ‘India bogey’ in Pakistan? Such an action would also test the resolve of the Narendra Modi dispensation to deal with cross-border terror. Moreover, with the Assembly election due in Jammu & Kashmir soon, the Pakistan Army would strive to ensure that the credibility of the election is questioned, by ensuring a low turnout. Hurriyat leaders like Shabir Shah and Yasin Malik had already been commissioned to stir up discontent and discredit the Indian Army, during the floods. Three successive and successful Assembly elections in the State would erode the credibility of Pakistan’s propaganda.

India pushes for Delhi to Kathmandu bus service

Oct 31, 2014

TOI has learnt that New Delhi would offer an equal participatory super luxury bus service through their respective operators.

NEW DELHI: India is pushing for a direct bus service between New Delhi and Kathmandu and is even keen to fund new road projects in areas including Janakpur where Ram Janaki temple is located. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Nepal on November 25 to attend the SAARC summit and is likely travel to the country via land route. 

Before his second visit to the Himalayan nation, a top level delegation of road transport ministry visited Kathmandu to work out modalities to start the bus service between the two capitals. Sources said initially Nepal had identified 19 routes for bus service between the two countries and then shortlisted the routes to only four. Finally, it narrowed down the proposal to only Delhi-Kathmandu route.

TOI has learnt that New Delhi would offer an equal participatory super luxury bus service through their respective operators. Officials said there is now intense engagement with the intention to see the plan materializes so that an official announcement can be made during Modi's visit. 

In another move to boost ties, Nepal has referred five fresh road packages to India seeking financial assistance. Three of these road stretches are part of the Janakpur Parikrama Road, which almost circles the religious town of Janakpur. The five projects would cost about Rs 180 crore. 

After going through the project details, the road transport ministry has recommended these are feasible. It has suggested that the projects should be executed through Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) mode, which is being followed in India. Under this mechanism projects are awarded only after required land and necessary clearances are in possession. This system also eliminates delay in construction and cost overrun. 

Sources said the external affairs ministry will take the final call about the execution of these projects. 

Meanwhile, the government is likely to decide on the three road packages in Nepal where there is either no progress or very little progress so far even after these projects were awarded in 2010-11. A total of six packages totaling 605 km were awarded by Indian government during that period. 

Government officials said that external affairs ministry had sought technical advice of the road transport ministry on the "no-progress" projects. The latter has recommended that three such projects should be terminated and government should invite fresh bids on EPC mode. The ministry has also shown keen interest to take up these works by National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd, a government company established to execute road projects in border areas.

Behind India’s Pakistan quandary

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Faced with Pakistan’s firing across the LoC, India has no option but to respond. However, in general, more subtle strategies to contain and counter threats from Pakistan would be in the country’s interest

Pakistan’s annual ritual of raising the Kashmir issue and the outdated U.N. resolutions at the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) has been followed by similar statements in Pakistan, including by the Chief of Army Staff, Raheel Sharif. Young Bilawal Bhutto has vowed to wrest every inch of Kashmir from India! The National Assembly has called for a diplomatic offensive. Pakistan’s desire to internationalise the Kashmir issue has been mentioned as one of the plausible reasons for the recent ceasefire violations by it.

Left to Pakistan, the Kashmir issue would never go off the international radar screen. However, Pakistan’s efforts to internationalise it cannot succeed in the face of a mature Indian response. For starters, the international scenario has completely changed from the days when Pakistan’s theatrics on Kashmir attracted international attention. India has come a long way since then. Above all, Pakistan is not the same, both in its capacity to mobilise international opinion and the priorities of its people.

Manifestos and Kashmir issue

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N)’s manifesto for the May 2013 election in Pakistan contained the following paragraph on Kashmir: “Special efforts will be made to resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, in accordance with the provisions of the relevant UN resolutions and the 1999 Lahore Accord and in consonance with the aspirations of the people of the territory for their inherent right of self-determination.” Significantly, this paragraph found a place in a three-page chapter on foreign policy and national security, beginning at page 80 of the 103-page document, with the first 79 pages devoted to bread-and-butter issues such as economic revival, energy security, agriculture and food security, a new framework for social change, democratic governance, science and technology, the employment challenge, speedy justice, etc.

“India’s growing power ought to be felt by its adversaries and not flaunted.”

The chapter began by acknowledging that Pakistan was at war within and isolated abroad, its independence and sovereignty stood compromised, its economic weaknesses were forcing it to go around with a begging bowl in hand; while foreign states undertook unilateral strikes on its territory, non-state actors used it as a sanctuary to pursue their own agendas, oblivious to Pakistan’s interests and the country’s social, economic and political schisms were creating grave misgivings even in the minds of its friends. It noted that Pakistan is located at an important junction of South Asia, West Asia and Central Asia. Therefore, it could be a bridge between the energy-rich Central Asia and Iran on the one side and energy-deficit countries like China and India on the other and could also become a flourishing transit economy as the shortest land route from western China to the Arabian Sea, while linking India with Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics. The paragraph on Kashmir figured at s.no.viii among the policy objectives listed in this chapter. It was preceded and succeeded by others such as establishing cordial and cooperative ties with Pakistan’s neighbours, making foreign policy formulation the sole preserve of elected representatives, making sure that all civil and military institutions, “including those dealing with security and/or intelligence matters” act as per the directives of the federal government, and according special importance to promotion of external trade, etc.

The manifesto of the other major party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had similar prioritisation with the first 60 out of 74 pages devoted to empowerment for all, inclusive and equitable growth, infrastructure and a new social contract, etc. However, the following reference figured on page 73: “We support the rights of the Kashmiri people and during our current government we initiated and continued to pursue a dialogue process agenda with India, including on Kashmir. We will not allow lack of progress on one agenda to impede progress on the others. Without prejudice to the UN Security Council Resolutions, we support open and safe borders at the Line of Control [LoC] to socially unite the Kashmiri people. We note that India and China have a border dispute and yet enjoy tension free relations.”

Ties with India

This did not imply that Pakistan’s major parties were about to jettison the Kashmir issue. Far from it. However, since political parties trim the sails of their manifestos to the winds of public opinion, the two manifestos were a good indicator of the priorities of the Pakistani people and the issues agitating their mind. To be sure, a civil or military leader in Pakistan can still whip up short-term hysteria on Kashmir, especially in periods of tension with India. But in a reflection of the public mood, India was not an issue of even marginal consequence in determining the choices of voters in the May 2013 election. The manifestos were unusual in their candour and content and a departure from the influential security state narrative, which ranks confronting “enemy India” over the welfare and progress of the Pakistani people. However, what has transpired after the 2013 election is extraordinarily usual for Pakistan and India-Pakistan relations.

J&K Floods: Lessons for the Future

By Dhruv C Katoch
October 30, 2014  

The floods in J&K in September 2014 left a trail of destruction that is hard to describe. It goes without saying that the impact of such calamities falls hardest on the poorest and most disadvantaged segments of society. They live in crowded areas where basic infrastructure is minimal and relief efforts take longer to materialise and reach them. The privileged few are smaller in number and have better access to relief measures. The floods could have been prevented or at least the damage minimised if appropriate preventive action had been taken over the years such as dredging the river, maintaining the embankments and planned habitation. This was a common practise prior to independence, and should have been adhered to, but the state did not live up to its constitutional obligations on all the above. The administration was complacent and those responsible need to be held accountable for sins of commission and omission. That sadly, is unlikely to happen.

The Centre has announced generous aid packages, but the aid has to reach most victims. Already, the claimants for succour who were not affected by the floods vastly outnumber those that were. The first challenge of the administration hence would be to see that the funds are directed towards the affected populace and not towards propping up vote bases through distribution of largesse to specific political constituencies. The capacity of the steel frame to deliver is however suspect, and most people in the affected areas would be happy to see the task being delegated to the Army. This of course is outside the charter of the Army and would be counterproductive in the long run, but it does show the lack of faith of the population in the local government.

While the Army performed with outstanding zeal and efficiency, certain shortcomings need to be pointed out to prevent recurrence. Ground reports indicate a significant failure or breakdown of basic intelligence inputs. Relief efforts were hampered because the Army and other government agencies engaged in relief measures to include the intelligence Bureau, lacked detailed information of the city. Today, Google has mapping ability across most of the globe to 0.5 meters resolution capability. Yet, the security forces had no information of the roads, streets and by lanes of the city, its occupants, access points, et al. This information should have been collated during peacetime and updated on a regular basis. Had this been done, rescue efforts could have been quicker and more focused. Consequently, the feeling that the rich and powerful were being provided succour first would not have taken hold to the extent that it did and would most certainly have reduced if not eliminated incidents of stone pelting. Such data must be collated now and should be available with the Army and the central armed police forces like the BSF and CRPF who are located in the area.

Some reports indicate that Yemenis and other Arab nationals live in J&K for a period of two to three years before moving out of the state to other countries. These people are believed to be al Qaida operatives, serving their tenure in the state. Some of them marry local women and have children. Reports of such persons sodomising young children also surface from time to time but are not spoken of out of fear of the terrorist or due to social pressures. Many such foreign nationals were caught in the flash floods but accessible data of their whereabouts and activities was not available. Besides terrain mapping, there is a need to map the population, which could lead to more focused attention on anti-social elements, separatists and terrorists and their supporters. This will also help the army and the state agencies in planning of operations against such elements and in pursuing an effective perception management strategy, by enabling focused targeting of people living across the state through different media. It will also assist the state in their development effort.

In remote areas devastated by floods, the Army could look into rebuilding whole villages with prefabricated shelters. The locals could assist with the task, supported by the army. This will generate a lot of goodwill and reduce the support base of terrorist groups. 

Administratively, many lapses came to the fore. While boats and rafts were available, most were not suitable for the narrow flooded lanes, hampering rescue efforts. The state must now also look into flood management where new multi-story structures are to be built. Helipad arrangements on the roof of such buildings is common across the world and should be part of construction policy not just in J&K but across the country too. In any event, those holding responsible posts in government must be trained on disaster relief measures. Many of these worthies took shelter in the upper floors of a five star hotel, enjoying a luxurious break, when the people they were mandated to serve were suffering the horrendous consequences of the floods. These people must be dealt with administratively for dereliction of duty.

Needed, a new military doctrine to deter Pakistan permanently

29 Oct , 2014

Before the ceasefire agreement was signed in 2003 between India and Pakistan, ceasefire violations were a regular feature all along the Line of Control. During these engagements, heavy artillery fire was exchanged very frequently. Such artillery and mortar duels generally caused larger casualties among the civilians compared to the armed forces, as civilians had no overhead protection. Pakistan resorted to cross-border firing in the recent past mainly to facilitate the infiltration of militants into Jammu and Kashmir.

The violation across the international border besides the LoC was aimed to enlarge the conflict to force India to open talks.

The numerous ceasefire violations started by Pakistan in the first half of this month along the international border were of a different genre, fire was now far more intense and heavy weapons were used to target civilian areas. The reasons for this sudden and ferocious assault were not far to seek: having failed to receive any response from the international community of Nawaz Sharif’s appeal at the UNGA last month for reviving the old UN Resolutions regarding holding a plebiscite in Kashmir, Pakistan opened a new front to attract attention of the international community. The violation across the international border besides the LoC was aimed to enlarge the conflict to force India to open talks. Unfortunately for Pakistan, both these attempts failed. Whether it helped infiltration attempts in some sectors, is not known. After this major ceasefire violation and targeting of civilian areas the old ceasefire agreement is all but dead, and in future, sporadic ceasefire violations of various intensities should be expected.

Pakistan does and will continue to blame India for ceasefire violations and also claim to have suffered heavy civilian casualties from what they term as “unprovoked” firing by India. The mechanism of flag meetings between field commanders and activating of the hotline between the two Directors-General of Military Operations for holding fire, failed in this instance. It is obvious that to deter Pakistan from continuing with future ceasefire violations, India will have to take some other measures as no fool-proof method has been found to deter Pakistan from opening fire across the LoC or the international border at will.

In this kind of static, linear and limited engagements, the weaker side has the advantage, as superior force cannot be brought to bear on the enemy without crossing the LoC. Crossing the LoC, which is now an internationally-recognised border in J&K, will immediately ring alarm bells and draw unwarranted international attention to the Kashmir problem. All factors considered, crossing the LoC or waging a limited war will not solve the problem, for it would upset the present status of the Line of Control so assiduously drawn as a permanent border after the 1971 war.

It will be necessary to isolate and destroy Pakistani forward posts and forward logistic support bases fully.

Mating Frankensteins

28 Oct , 2014

This is not about Musharraf who wasted his life trying to mate radical organizations in the vain hope of getting eulogized as Zia-ul-Haq II, killing more Pakistanis than Indians in the process hallucinating annexation of J&K and under trial for treason in his own country. In fact, his protégé Kayani was much smarter successfully selling the concept of good and bad Taliban to Obama. But then Musharraf, Kayani, Raheel, Nawaz Sharif and Co. are too insignificant in the global power play even as the failing-cum-failed state of Pakistan flexes her muscles and resurrects Musharraf in vain bid to unite radicals gnawing at her innards – all this while the West debates whether it would be better to create autonomous regions or go for outright surgery by inducing ‘violent’ paralysis.

…Pak Military continues with violence and terror attacks against India, Afghanistan, Iran and even Xinjiang, latter under the overt policy of ‘out of control’ radicals used against US-NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The unfortunate part for Pakistan is that the sane populace is right in the centre of the crosshairs of radicalism and violence. The most sensible thing for Pakistan to do at this juncture is to replace the agenda of terror with that of development, join hands with India, Afghanistan and Iran for concerted development of the region but that appears utopia with the military refusing to shed her policy of spawning terrorism, it feels the only way to retain power and make more money. So the military continues with violence and terror attacks against India, Afghanistan, Iran and even Xinjiang, latter under the overt policy of ‘out of control’ radicals used against US-NATO forces in Afghanistan.

But this is about the Frankensteins roaming the earth and their mating that is being orchestrated – not that the ISIS will be the last and most dangerous Frankenstein as experiments in radical genomes are like the pursuit of excellence which is a never ending process. The fact that the ISIS was trained in Turkey and Jordan is an open secret, ostensibly admitted by CIA through instructors that were former British army officers. That the CIA did not ‘officially’ know of this including the period of such training does not matter since it obviously was with US concurrence. Turkey with its 800 kilometres plus border was continuously being used for pumping in well equipped radicals to join the US supported Syrian opposition forces. US bloggers have been blaming America for Al Qaeda and Al Nusra (Al Qaeda affiliate) embed in Syria while fighting them in Afghanistan for past several years.

As far back as 2011, there were reports that just as Al-Qaeda terrorists were used to oust Gaddafi, hundreds of Libyan rebels with Al Qaeda willing members were being airlifted into Syria to aid opposition in carrying out attacks against government forces and that US, Jordan and Turkish Special Forces operating inside Syria. It can therefore be safely surmised that the US was not only aware of this but very much orchestrated the creation of ISIS in league with Suadi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and perhaps even UAE.

Most significantly, Jordanian officials recently revealed that members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (also known as ISIS) were trained in 2012 by U.S. military instructors at a secret base in Jordan, which had first made violent advances through northern and western Iraq, then north east Syria, videotaping executions of civilians and soldiers and taking over Mosul. German weekly Der Spiegel had earlier reported that Americans were training Syrian rebels in Jordan and some of these instructors wore uniforms. Strategizing on US plans, Michel Chossudovsky, professor at University of Ottawa, wrote an article in 2005 with a map showing ‘Sunni Iraq’ synonymous with the present day ISI Caliphate carved out of Iraq and Syria. It is a different issue that Baghdadi upset western plans by invading Iraqi Kurdistan in northern Iraq and chain of publicly beheading westerners.

If air strikes could eliminate terrorist groups, Al Qaeda and Taliban would have been wiped out years back. After the initial air strikes, ISIS dispersed its forces to the extreme.

As to the GWOT against the ISIS, the US objective itself is ambiguous; whether exclusively against ISI or linked to regime change in Syria. Latter appears more the case with air strikes in rebel held Syria on outfits like the Khorasan Group would be used as excuse to start strikes in Syrian government territory, which US Senate had not agreed to and Russia and China would have vetoed at the UN. Additionally, US wants to or can eliminate the ISIS itself is debatable. The best time to strike a heavy blow to the ISIS was when their victory convoys were moving east post capture of Mosul in broad daylight along the highway but despite Iraqi calls for air strikes, the CIA said the targets were not identifiable. Trying to hit the ISIS now with a hardcore strength of over 31,500 mingled with a civil population of some eight million can hardly achieve anything.

China's Afghanistan Challenge: Testing the Limits of Diplomacy

October 29, 2014

In just two months' time, international forces in Afghanistan will hand over security responsibility to local personnel. In preparation for the handover, and the eventual withdrawal of foreign militaries, Beijing has substantially raised its traditionally low-key diplomacy in the country.

China has pursued dozens of bilateral and multilateral diplomatic mechanisms with Afghanistan and surrounding countries that have focused on the issue of security. As I write in a new Lowy Institute Analysis, diplomacy is one of China's two major policy pillars in Afghanistan (the other is to substantially increase economic engagement).

Beijing's key interest in Afghanistan is security. China wants to prevent the spread of terrorism, and in particular terrorist ideology, into the Chinese province of Xinjiang, as well to ensure that Afghanistan does not function as a strong base for Uyghur militancy. Beijing will not commit militarily to Afghanistan, so how will it use diplomacy to prevent new instability spreading to Xinjiang?

Beijing will attempt to reduce the security threat in two main ways:

1. Stabilise Afghanistan, or prevent further deterioration in the Afghan security environment.

2. If 1. fails, limit the spread of new instability regionally and reduce the direct threat to Xinjiang.

Beijing's direct influence in stabilizing Afghanistan is limited. It will commit huge levels of economic support. Diplomatically it is encouraging surrounding countries to contribute to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. But security will be left to Afghan forces and any residual foreign troops. The US will likely play the role of mediator in Afghanistan if necessary, as happened during the recent electoral deadlock.

On point 2, Beijing has more diplomatic options. China maintains contacts with a broad range of actors and groups in Afghanistan, including the Taliban. Since the Karzai Government came to power in 2001, contact with the Taliban has often been via intermediaries. But more recently Beijing has reportedly rebuilt the direct links it had with the Taliban prior to the US invasion in 2001.

Beijing seeks guarantees that Afghanistan won't function as a base for Uyghur militant groups. It also wants Chinese investments in Afghanistan protected from Taliban attacks. There are mixed views to how effective this approach will be. Some Chinese sources say the Taliban doesn't want to raise the ire of Beijing because this could complicate the Taliban's relationship with Pakistan, which has close ties to China. Others question the Taliban's commitment to China's requests. Insurgents have attacked Chinese resource projects in Afghanistan on numerous occasions, and in 2012 Reuters quoted a Taliban spokesperson saying it opposed China's largest investment in Afghanistan, a copper mine near Kabul.

Beijing has also vastly increased its regional diplomatic footprint. China hopes to achieve a consensus on the Afghan issue among surrounding countries because they are at the front line of containing any new Afghan instability. What this consensus may look like is vague, but could include increasing regional cooperation on issues such as anti-narcotics and counter-terrorism, with practical measures such as intelligence sharing, joint military exercises and judicial or law-enforcement training (some of these already happen bilaterally or through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization).

Afghanistan: Warlords and Democracy

By Sohrab Rahmaty
October 26, 2014

Some of Afghanistan’s warlords have decided to buy into the political process.

Last month marked the first ever peaceful transition of political power in Afghanistan’s long history. Ashraf Ghani, along with his two vice-presidents, was officially inaugurated in a ceremony in Kabul that was attended by dignitaries and officials from around the world. This was a momentous occasion for both the people of Afghanistan and the Western world, which has invested so much blood and treasure in creating a democracy in this country. Afghanistan has experienced its share of violent conflict and disorder, causing it to remain among the world’s poorest and most underdeveloped countries. However, with all its problems and anticipated challenges ahead, the country has a chance at a new beginning, with a new president. But what tends to get overlooked in all this is the role of strongmen – often referred to as warlords – in the democratization of the state.

The Afghan strongmen – much maligned and not fully understood – have received the most negative attention when it comes to an analysis of Afghan politics. Although war and conflict breed tragedies and destruction, in the Afghan context the ”warlord” has historically stood to replace missing government functions and provide services – most importantly security. During Afghanistan’s decades of conflict, it has been ”major warlords,“ better described as regional ethnic or political leaders, who protected and secured large swaths of the country from other regional leaders, or from the brutal Taliban regime and its terrorist affiliates.

All of Afghanistan’s major warlords have come from military backgrounds and ruled through ethnic, linguistic or regional cleavages. Afghanistan has historically been governed at the local level with strong connections to tradition social structures. The period after 2001 created a state that was extremely centralized, where power and authority ran through Kabul. However, as President Hamid Karzai and the international community quickly realized, the warlords served a purpose, and were a much needed ally in the post-conflict period as they provided both political and military stability in varying capacities. This center-periphery relationship has been a central factor in the longevity and influence of strongmen and warlords.

The two leading candidates in the 2014 presidential election had as running mates influential strongmen who were essential to both candidates’ tickets. Ghani’s inauguration also included two vice-presidents, General Abdul Rashid Dostum and Sarwar Danish. Danish is an academic from the ethnic Hazara community, while Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, is a military figure with arguably the longest presence in Afghan politics. He is also the figure who has received the most attention with respect to “warlordism” in Afghanistan. However, Dostum how shown that he is just as able a politician as he was a military figure.

Warlords would never be expected to be democrats, but some have shown that they are able to participate without violence in democracy – ultimately strengthening the state’s democratic process. It is undeniable that such figures were central not only to generating millions of votes, but were also responsible for ensuring the relatively peaceful nature of the political process.

Ghani has proven to be an impressive thinker with great attention to detail and the ability to organize difficult situations. However, the success of Ghani and his team had as much to do with his technical abilities and rational-legal authority as it did with the role of his first vice-president, Dostum, who was able to fill the traditional leadership role as described by sociologist Max Weber.

It was therefore this combination of the rational-legal and traditional “warlord” authority that allowed Ghani to be successful, ultimately resulting in his presidency. It is hard to deny that the president would not have been elected without the support of Dostum and the political party of Junbish with which he is associated. Junbish is considered the most organized and effective of Afghanistan’s political parties, and it brought political experience and valuable networks to Ghani’s campaign efforts. Dostum was exceptionally successful in consolidating voters from the northern provinces, a deciding factor in Ghani’s election. In addition, the largest campaign rallies, which saw tens of thousands of Afghans peacefully gather to hear the president and his team, were not in the eastern or southern regions from where his support base stems, but in the provinces where Dostum has the greatest support.


By C. Raja Mohan

Reports that India has objected to Sri Lanka hosting a Chinese submarine last month are not surprising. In September, a submarine of the Chinese navy docked at the Colombo port just days before President Xi Jinping arrived in Sri Lanka. Last December, there were reports that a Chinese nuclear submarine had surfaced in the waters of Sri Lanka.

With Xi making public his determination to expand China’s defence cooperation with Sri Lanka and Colombo backing his Maritime Silk Road initiative, New Delhi can no longer downplay concerns about Beijing’s role in the waters to the south. The issue of Sri Lanka’s military ties to Beijing was apparently flagged last week by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley when he met the visiting Lankan defence secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who happens to be the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

As it bowed to political pressures from Chennai, the UPA found it hard to balance India’s genuine concerns about the rights of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka and Delhi’s other national security interests in the island republic. Whether it was voting on Sri Lanka’s human rights record in Geneva, training Lankan defence personnel in Tamil Nadu, or the prime minister’s travel to Colombo to attend the Commonwealth Summit, the Congress leadership simply caved in to pressures from Chennai.

The NDA government is in a much better position to cope with the competing imperatives in Sri Lanka. That Narendra Modi is less vulnerable to Chennai was reflected in his decision to invite President Rajapaksa for his swearing-in ceremony in end-May against the objections of the Tamil parties.

This, in turn, has given Modi a little more space to deal more purposefully with Lanka; but not a lot. For, Modi senses the huge opportunity to expand the BJP’s influence in Tamil Nadu. He is also conscious of the fact that Tamil concerns are very much part of India’s overall approach to Sri Lanka. Modi has begun well by expanding engagement with all the stakeholders involved in the Lanka conflict, including Chennai, Jaffna and Colombo.
The Raj legacy

India has long opposed the military presence of foreign powers in the subcontinent. This is a geopolitical legacy of the British Raj that was the paramount power in the Indian subcontinent and the guarantor of peace and stability in the Indian Ocean. The Raj ensured that no rival European power would get too close to the subcontinent on the land frontiers or establish a threatening naval presence in the Indian Ocean. As the successor state to the Raj, independent India adopted this position in its entirety. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, vigorously opposed Pakistan’s bilateral and multilateral military alliances with the United States.

While seeking to keep other powers out of the region, Nehru recognised the importance of providing security to its smaller neighbours. He signed security treaties with Bhutan and Nepal after China gained control over Tibet and offered valuable military cooperation to Burma when it faced the threat of a domestic insurgency. Nehru had also initiated defence cooperation with key countries in the extended neighbourhood, such as Egypt and Indonesia.

India Claims to Have Uncovered Plot by Militants to Assassinate the Prime Minister of Bangladesh

Joseph Fitsanakis
October 29, 2014

India uncovers plot to assassinate Bangladeshi prime minister

Indian authorities claim to have uncovered a plot by an outlaw militant group to assassinate the prime minister of Bangladesh and launch a coup d’état in the South Asian country. The Reuters news agency quoted three “senior Indian officials” on Tuesday, who claimed that the plot was primarily aimed against Sheikh Hasina, leader of the nationalist Bangladesh Awami League, who was elected to the office of the prime minister in 2009 for the second time, after having led the country of 156 million people from 1996 to 2001. The National Investigation Agency of India (NIA) said the plot was to be carried out by members of the Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a militant Islamist organization whose aim is to overthrow the government of Bangladesh and replace it with an Islamic theocracy based on Sharia law. The group, which maintains close ideological links with the Pakistani Taliban, is believed to have over 100,000 members throughout the country. It was officially banned by the government of Bangladesh in early 2005. But later that year the JMB conducted a massive terrorist operation that included over 500 explosive devices detonated in 300 locations around the country. Four leaders of the organization were later executed by the authorities for their role in the bombings and for organizing the assassination of two judges. Indian security officers reportedly discovered the coup plot earlier this month, when two members of JMB were killed in an explosion while building homemade bombs. The explosion took place in a house in India’s eastern state of West Bengal, which borders Bangladesh. NIA officials said the plotters were all Bangladeshis and were using West Bengal as an operations base from which to launch their attacks across the border into Bangladesh. According to one report, the plotters also planned to kill members of the Bangladeshi cabinet, as well as senior opposition leaders in the country. The ultimate goal, one Indian Home Ministry official told Reuters, was “to hit the political leaders of the country and demolish the democratic infrastructure of Bangladesh”. Indian authorities said they had arrested three JMB members following the West Bengal explosion, and added that they would soon be handing over their investigation findings to the government of Bangladesh. Officials in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka declined to comment directly on the Reuters report, but said they had increased security along the border with India.

The Real China Challenge: Beijing's Blueprint for Asia Revealed

October 27, 2014 

"China is slowly and deliberately using its growing power to create a new set of international arrangements in Asia."

Beijing will host the APEC leaders' summit on November 10-11. Among the many set piece theatrics of the 20th edition of the leaders' meeting is likely to be an announcement about the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The Bank is a Chinese initiative intended to help finance Asia’s massive infrastructure needs. Most of the region's developing economies have signed up, but the more advanced economies are not sure. While the language used to describe their hesitation is largely technical—concerns about capitalization, governance structures and processes—the underlying reason that South Korea, Japan and Australia are uncertain is strategic.

The United States has, until very recently, been actively discouraging its allies and partners in the region from participation. Publicly, the United States is critical of the proposed bank, because it argues it would undermine the existing multilateral institutions that support development infrastructure, like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. In the words of a U.S. official, the AIIB would create a “race to the bottom” in environmental, governance and other standards. But the United States is also uncomfortable with the fact that the Bank would give China another platform to advance its interests. Here, U.S. concern is perhaps warranted. The AIIB is only the latest example of a steady stream of initiatives in which China is trying to create a regional international environment that is more conducive to its interests.

China's rise has been made possible by a conducive international environment. The U.S. military presence kept the regional power balance stable while Asia's states got on with the business of domestic economic development. But now that China is once again a power of the highest rank, it is no longer content to operate within an international milieu that it feels has been organized by others to reflect their values and interests. It has now embarked on an effort to change that order into one with which it is more comfortable.

On the economic front, this is evident not just in the AIIB, but China's active participation in other multilateral banking arrangements, perhaps most notably the BRICS development bank. There are similar moves afoot in trade. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Beijing's retort to the TPP, from which it has been excluded, seeks a region-wide preferential trade deal, while a series of bilateral agreements allow it to set rules which best suit its commercial interests. One could even argue that the China-ASEAN free-trade agreement signed in 2002 was a first step in this direction. Given the size and scale of the Chinese economy and the relative importance of China for virtually all economies in Asia, Beijing's efforts to shape the broader rules of the regional economic game have a good chance of success in the longer run.

The creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 2001 was initially an effort to provide stability to the post-Soviet Central Asian space and to curtail transnational forces taking advantage of the region's porous borders. Since then it has evolved to become a platform for the larger geopolitical ambitions of the membership. And if, as anticipated, the SCO expands to include the observer states, its footprint and impact would decisively increase. But it was in the underreported 4th Conference on Integration and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) held in May 2014 in Shanghai where China's ambitions on the political and security front were made clear.

Xi Jinping's speech opening the conference set out China's vision for its three-year chairmanship of what has hitherto been a remarkably low-profile body. He made several thinly veiled swipes at the U.S. role, describing its rebalance as an attempt to gain security for itself at the expense of others and describing its approach as “outdated thinking.” In contrast, he said that China would strengthen CICA's institutions to promote a more “inclusive” approach to security in which the United States had no place. Moreover, he promised that CICA would be a platform on which to build a distinctly Asian security architecture. CICA has a very large membership spanning the entirety of the Asian continent from South Korea and Brunei in the east to Egypt and Turkey in the West. And it is this diverse membership that China argues gives it an unrivaled representational that justifies it becoming the central pillar of the region-wide security system.

Base Hardening: Can America and Its Allies "Play Fort" against China?

October 27, 2014 

In the event of a crisis, China's missile forces could do great damage to U.S. and allied bases all over the Asia-Pacific. Is "hardening" the answer? 

As the United States continues to place tremendous time, energy and resources into its “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific, many are questioning the military and strategic aspects of this effort. Specifically, many analysts are concerned over the emphasis China has placed on its ballistic- and cruise-missile platforms. If a crisis were to occur, and with so many U.S. and allied bases now in range of Beijing’s growing missile forces, is there a case to be made to “harden” bases that might be in range? Harry J. Kazianis, Managing Editor of The National Interest, spoke to CSBA Senior Fellow John Stillion in an effort to break down this complex issue.

Kazianis: There is a lot of talk about base "hardening" when it comes to American forward-deployed assets in the Asia-Pacific. The fear is that many of these bases would be vulnerable to Chinese missile saturation strikes in the event of a conflict. For starters, what exactly is “base hardening”? Are we talking about just protecting fighter jets or something more?

Stillion: At the outset of the Six Day war in 1967, the Israeli Air Force attacked Egyptian air bases and destroyed hundreds of unsheltered fighter aircraft on the ground. This resulted in immediate and total Israeli air superiority and is widely viewed as an important factor in the rapid Israeli victory. It also illustrated the vulnerability of unsheltered aircraft to surprise attack. Air forces around the world took note and many, including those of NATO, the Warsaw Pact, Iran, the Gulf States and others began to build hardened shelters for their fighter aircraft. These shelters were usually arch-shaped structures with steel or concrete doors. They were generally about three feet thick and could protect a fighter aircraft from anything short of a direct hit by a bomb. This was completely adequate in the pre–precision-guided-munitions era because direct hits on targets this size were relatively difficult to achieve. They look something like this:

This type of shelter is not adequate to protect aircraft from direct hits by precision weapons as shown here:

However, protecting the aircraft is just a first step. Combat aircraft sortie generation can be thought of as an industrial process with the airfield as a “sortie factory.” The factory needs working aircraft, but the aircraft must be able to taxi to a runway that is long enough for them to operate from safely and when they return they must be able to be repaired, refueled and rearmed, and their crews must be able to receive orders and plan missions. This means other parts of the factory must be protected if the base is to function under attack. This means hardening maintenance, fuel storage and distribution and operations facilities. Building shelters to protect aircraft larger than fighters is possible, but cost obviously scales with shelter size.

Kazianis: Are there different degrees to which a base can be hardened? For example, can a base be hardened to such an extent that it can survive most forms of bombardment by Chinese ballistic- and cruise-missile strikes?

Stillion: There are. For example, you could harden a base to withstand bombardment with submunition warheads. This would be much less expensive than hardening the base to withstand attack by large, unitary warheads. Submunition warheads allow much larger areas of the base to be attacked per warhead, so hardening against them would force the attacker to use more weapons per attack to achieve the same level of damage.

Kazianis: Japan is also in range of Chinese missile forces. If a Japan-China conflict were ever to occur, presumably Japanese and U.S. bases on Japanese territory would be in Beijing's crosshairs. What is the state of Japanese forces when it comes to their levels of hardening bases?

Stillion: Japan has a number of bases with hardened shelters, but most of them were built during the Cold War. They tend to be in northern Japan, as they were primarily a response to the possibility of Soviet attacks against Japan.

Chinese Intelligence Community’s Counterterrorism Efforts to Be Revamped

October 27, 2014

China to streamline counter-terrorism intelligence gathering

Police from the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team take part in an anti-terrorist drill in Dongying, Shandong province, July 11, 2014. More than 600 police from all over Shandong are taking part in a three-day exercise from Friday, according to local media.

(Reuters) - China will set up a national anti-terrorism intelligence system, state media said on Monday, as part of changes to a security law expected to be passed this week after an upsurge in violence in the far western region of Xinjiang.

Hundreds of people have been killed over the past two years in Xinjiang in unrest the government has blamed on Islamists who want to establish a separate state called East Turkestan.

Rights groups and exiles blame the government’s repressive policies for stoking resentment among the Muslim Uighur people who call Xinjiang home.

The Xinhua state news agency said changes to the draft security law going through parliament were aimed at improving intelligence gathering and the sharing of information across government departments, while also enhancing international cooperation.

"Our country is facing a serious and complex struggle against terrorism," Xinhua said.

"China will set up an anti-terrorism intelligence gathering center to coordinate and streamline intelligence gathering in the field, according to a draft law submitted for reading on Monday," it said.

The agency did not elaborate on the proposed intelligence center but said other changes to the law would focus on the “management” of the Internet, the transport of dangerous materials and border controls.

People found guilty of “promoting terrorism and extremism by producing and distributing related materials, releasing information, instructing in person or through audio, video or information networks will face more than five years in prison in serious cases”.

Some recent attacks in Xinjiang have pointed to serious intelligence failures despite a big security presence there, including a bomb and knife attack at a train station in April that happened as President Xi Jinping was wrapping up a visit to the area.

The government also plans to amend the National Security Law, replacing it with a counter-espionage law, Xinhua said in a separate report, giving only vague details about what the new law would include.

China has notoriously broad laws concerning state secrets, covering everything from industry data to the exact birth dates of state leaders. Information can also be labeled a state secret retroactively.

In severe cases, the theft of state secrets is punishable with life in prison or the death penalty.

In August, the government said it was investigating a Canadian couple who ran a coffee shop on the Chinese border with North Korea for suspected theft of military and intelligence information and for threatening national security.

China has traditionally had a problem gaining cooperation from Western countries in its fight against militancy because of concern about human rights.

China Building Up Its Computer Chip Industry By All Means Possible, Including Espionage

Paul Mozur
New York Times
October 27, 2014

Using Cash and Pressure, China Builds Its Chip Industry

A Shanghai factory of the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, which has received government help. Credit Qilai Shen/Bloomberg News, via Getty Images

HONG KONG — China churns out many of the world’s electronic devices: smartphones, computers, complicated networking equipment.

Now the country is redoubling its efforts to design and produce the brains behind most of those electronics, the chip.

China is playing catch-up with global rivals. Last year, the country imported $232 billion of semiconductor products, eclipsing even the amount spent on petroleum.

To narrow the gap, Beijing is starting programs to increase investment by the state and to gain expertise from foreign chip companies. Experts say the chip industry is one focus of Chinese espionage efforts.

There’s also new bureaucratic determination. Vice Premier Ma Kai is leading a task force charged with making the country’s chip industry a world leader by 2030. The task force brings together four ministries and is estimated to have $170 billion in government support to spend over five to 10 years, according to areport in June by McKinsey & Company.

“There is a clear sense of urgency nowadays about semiconductors and chips in particular,” said Daniel H. Rosen, founding partner of the Rhodium Group, an economic research and advisory firm. “There is a sense that since China is overwhelmingly still dependent on imports — especially for higher-end chips that go into everything made in the country — there is a national security vulnerability.”

Vice Premier Ma Kai leads efforts to make China’s chip industry a world leader by 2030. Credit Jason Lee/Reuters

Disclosures by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden about United States government surveillance have only deepened such concerns. The situation has led to a broader awareness among Chinese government officials of potential security issues with foreign-sourced tech components like chips.

The fallout from the disclosures is most likely to blame, in part, for a recent antitrust investigation into Qualcomm, analysts and industry executives say. The case is expected to result in a fine and to force the company to lower the licensing fees it charges Chinese companies to use its technology, according to analysts and lawyers following the case.


One Sunday morning last December, China’s defense ministry summoned military attachés from several embassies to its monolithic Beijing headquarters.

To the foreigners’ surprise, the Chinese said that one of their nuclear-powered submarines would soon pass through the Strait of Malacca, a passage between Malaysia and Indonesia that carries much of world trade, say people briefed on the meeting.

Two days later, a Chinese attack sub—a so-called hunter-killer, designed to seek out and destroy enemy vessels—slipped through the strait above water and disappeared. It resurfaced near Sri Lanka and then in the Persian Gulf, say people familiar with its movements, before returning through the strait in February—the first known voyage of a Chinese sub to the Indian Ocean.

The message was clear: China had fulfilled its four-decade quest to join the elite club of countries with nuclear subs that can ply the high seas. The defense ministry summoned attachés again to disclose another Chinese deployment to the Indian Ocean in September—this time a diesel-powered sub, which stopped off in Sri Lanka.

China’s increasingly potent and active sub force represents the rising power’s most significant military challenge yet for the region. Its expanding undersea fleet not only bolsters China’s nuclear arsenal but also enhances the country’s capacity to enforce its territorial claims and thwart U.S. intervention.

China is expected to pass another milestone this year when it sets a different type of sub to sea—a “boomer,” carrying fully armed nuclear missiles for the first time—says the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, or ONI.

China is hardly hiding its new boomers. Tourists could clearly see three of them at a base opposite a resort recently in China’s Hainan province. On the beach, rented Jet Skis were accompanied by guides to make sure riders didn’t stray too close.

These boomers’ missiles have the range to hit Hawaii and Alaska from East Asia and the continental U.S. from the mid-Pacific, the ONI says.

“This is a trump card that makes our motherland proud and our adversaries terrified,” China’s navy chief, Adm. Wu Shengli, wrote of the country’s missile-sub fleet in a Communist Party magazine in December. “It is a strategic force symbolizing great-power status and supporting national security.”

To naval commanders from other countries, the Chinese nuclear sub’s nonstop Indian Ocean voyage was especially striking, proving that it has the endurance to reach the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s headquarters in Hawaii.

“They were very clear with respect to messaging,” says Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, a former submariner who commands the U.S. Seventh Fleet, “to say that, ‘We’re a professional navy, we’re a professional submarine force, and we’re global. We’re no longer just a coastal-water submarine force.’ ”

In recent years, public attention has focused on China’s expanding military arsenal, including its first aircraft carrier and stealth fighter. But subs are more strategically potent weapons: A single one can project power far from China and deter other countries simply by its presence.

China’s nuclear attack subs, in particular, are integral to what Washington sees as an emerging strategy to prevent the U.S. from intervening in a conflict over Taiwan, or with Japan and the Philippines—both U.S. allies locked in territorial disputes with Beijing.

And even a few functional Chinese boomers compel the U.S. to plan for a theoretical Chinese nuclear-missile strike from the sea. China’s boomer patrols will make it one of only three countries—alongside the U.S. and Russia—that can launch atomic weapons from sea, air and land.

“I think they’ve watched the U.S. submarine force and its ability to operate globally for many, many years—and the potential influence that can have in various places around the globe,” says Adm. Thomas, “and they’ve decided to go after that model.”

China's nuclear-sub deployments, some naval experts say, may become the opening gambits of an undersea contest in Asia that echoes the cat-and-mouse game between U.S. and Soviet subs during the Cold War—a history popularized by Tom Clancy's 1984 novel "The Hunt for Red October."

Back then, each side sent boomers to lurk at sea, ready to fire missiles at the other’s territory. Each dispatched nuclear hunter-killers to track the other’s boomers and be ready to destroy them.