2 November 2014

Understanding the South China Sea

Nov 02, 2014 

Chinese state councillor Yang Jiechi

The issues surrounding the South China Sea have been under the radar of the Asian public for a long time. Except the scholars and people who are directly concerned with it do not seem to have any interest in the region. The awareness of it, in the South Asian region is limited. The South China Sea has generated a lot of interest in the recent past. Estimation of the presence of Oil and natural gas, the maritime route and security of the nations in the region are just a few brow-raising issues that have put the spotlight back in the area in the recent times.

The South China Sea is best known for its disputed territorial boundaries. There are over 250 tiny islands, reefs, and sand bars that form part of the South China Sea.

These islands are grouped in to a few archipelagoes namely Paracel, Spratly, Paratas, Maccelesfield and Scarborough Shoal. The People's Republic of China, Brunei, The Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam share their boarders on the South China Sea.

The disputes are exacerbated with the issues concerning two areas Paracel and Spratly islands. These are two archipelagos that are largely uninhabited but are considered to have significant strategic value. Currently the Vietnam occupies 25 islands, China occupies 9, the Phili ppines occupies 8 and Malaysia occupies 3 islands. While Taiwan occupies the largest Island in the Spratly group called the Aba Island and Brunei claims to occupy one island.

There are several historical claims to this area. China for example sites that that they have found archeological evidence to prove their presence in the Islands since the 13th century especially during the Tong and Song dynasties. They firm their claim to dominance also because of is being a regular trade route for several centuries. While Vietnam for its share asserts its domination over the by calling it part of its heritage and culture, Malaysia, claims to be an important player in the entreport trade.

The 19th century saw its share of colonial outings with the Germans, French and Spanish, the United States of America and Japanese. These countries were vying with each other to gain a strong footing in the region recognizing its naval importance. The end of the second World War, brought several changes in the region. With Japanese occupation coming to an end and the Chi nese rising to the most dominant status, it gave room to expand the contentions of territorial claim of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and The Philippines. The discovery of the presence of hydrocarbons in the region woke up the world's attention to the South China Sea. While there are several contested estimates ranging from 1.1 billion tonnes to 17.7 billion tonnes of oil and about 190 trillion cubic feed of natural gas. It is undoubtedly an emerging oil super power area. Some analysts even call it the "second Persian Sea". This was enough to set out the global competition on oil exploration and exploitation.

Prior to the discovery of oil and natural gas reserves the region has been an important trade route. Maritime activities have brimmed in the area, making it the busiest in the world. China along with other nations has relied on the sea to establish their trade and territorial supremacy. The transport of oil has further, enhanced the use of this as a trade route for oil. With a combination of oil and trade routes, the region lends itself to be vulnerable to conflict. Given the strategic geopolitical interests compounded with economic advantages more attention is being diverted to this region. Not to mention the interests of the US, India too is found to take advantage of the situation. Its collaboration with Vietnam to explore and drill out oil is just one of the initiatives.

Ashok Gladston Xavier is head, department of social work, Loyola College, Chennai.

Sri Lanka snubs India, opens port to Chinese submarine again

Nov 2, 2014

This undated picture shows a nuclear-powered submarine of the Chinese navy's North Sea Fleet preparing to dive into the sea. (Getty Images file photo)

NEW DELHI: Despite India's strong reservations about a Chinese nuclear submarine at the Colombo port in September, the government has learned that Sri Lanka has permitted another Chinese attack submarine to dock at a Lankan port. 

According to the information received, the second docking is likely to take place very soon. 

The presence of Chinese submarines across Palk Straits has deeply disturbed the government which is making another call to Lankan authorities, this time to convey strong displeasure. The news of a second Chinese submarine docking in Sri Lanka comes days after the visit of Vietnam PM Nguyen Tan Dung to India and in complete disregard of India's message to Lankan defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa earlier this month. 

The Chinese fleet of submarines, both diesel and nuclear-powered (of which three can fire ballistic missiles), represent some of Beijing's most offensive military capabilities and have been the focus of international media when one of them propelled through Indian Ocean waters for the first time earlier this year, making its way to the Persian Gulf.

A Chinese navy submarine attends an international fleet review to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army Navy on April 23, 2009 off Qingdao in Shandong Province. (Getty Images file photo) 

In a recent report, Wall Street Journal described the Chinese submarine fleet as Beijing's most significant military challenge in the region. And for them to surface at Lankan ports brings alive some of New Delhi's worst fears of China's expanding presence in India's neighbourhood. 

Sri Lanka's assurance — even from the highest level — that China has no military presence in the island nation does not inspire confidence. Consider the following: 

* Coinciding with the election of Mahinda Rajapaksa as president in 2005, assistance from China has grown manifold and in infrastructure. 

Civilian supremacy and defence reforms

October 28, 2014

India should not wait for another crisis to recognise the pressing need for higher defence reforms. There are sufficient studies, reports and recommendations that the government can depend on while planning the restructuring process. It can also consider an Act of Parliament to offset the existing resistance to defence reforms

Prime Minister Narendra Modi should appoint a defence minister — a full-time one — and demonstrate a great deal of administrative acumen and political will if he is serious about his declared intent to strengthen India’s national security and defence preparedness. Indeed, the absence of a full-time defence minister is merely symptomatic of a larger set of serious structural problems being faced by the country’s higher defence management today, which is in urgent need of innovative reforms and radical restructuring. Mr. Modi’s address to the Combined Commanders Conference in New Delhi on October 17 found no mention of structural reforms in higher defence management whereas his predecessor did mention it from time to time even though the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had sidestepped implementing the crucial reforms.

The disturbing reality today is that in the absence of a full-time defence minister and by not introducing defence reforms, it is the civilian bureaucracy — having generalist IAS officers whose expertise in defence matters is questionable — that has a major say in the country’s defence planning and decision-making. This needs to change.

Committee recommendations

The demand for reforms in India’s higher defence management is a long-standing one and has grown in strength ever since the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) recommended a number of reforms. In 2000, the then National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government appointed a Group of Ministers (GoM), with four task forces on intelligence reforms, internal security, border management, and higher defence management, to review the country’s defence preparedness in the light of the KRC’s recommendations. Many of the recommendations made by the GoM were only partially implemented. And the most important one, of creating the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), was ignored.

“It is the civilian bureaucracy that has a major say in the country’s defence planning and decision-making. This needs to change.”

As a result, it has been widely perceived over the past decade or so that the country’s defence sector needs further restructuring. In response, the UPA government appointed a task force on national security under the chairmanship of Mr. Naresh Chandra in 2011; it submitted its report a year later. Although classified, some of its content has been leaked to the press. Many of its recommendations were not to the liking of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Defence Minister. As a result, the UPA government lost an opportunity to introduce crucial reforms. The report was to have been taken up by the Cabinet Committee on Security in February this year — after the government sat on it for no less than one-and-a-half years, but it was too late by then as the UPA government felt that it should not take key national security decisions in its final days in office. It’s now the turn of the NDA government to act.

Key issues

One of the key issues that should be addressed by the Modi government is the GoM’s recommendation to appoint a five-star military officer to serve as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) who then will be the single-point military adviser to the government. The CDS will chair the meetings of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) and smoothen the process of military planning, streamlining budgetary requisitions and effecting coordination between the three services. This proposal was earlier shot down by the MoD as it feared that a “super general” would bypass the civilian bureaucracy in defence decision-making. There has also been opposition to the idea from within the military, by the Indian Air Force (IAF). The Chandra committee, being cognisant of the bureaucratic opposition to the CDS proposal, watered down the authority of the CDS and instead recommended the creation of a four-star permanent chairman of the CoSC. According to reports, this chairman, to be appointed on a two-year tenure on a rotational basis among the three services, will not only coordinate various inter-service issues but will also be in charge of the country’s tri-Service Commands: the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) dealing with India’s nuclear forces and the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC). This too was put on the back burner after opposition from the MoD.

Another issue is the creation of tri-service theatre commands. While the future of warfare lies in joint planning and operations, the Indian defence establishment has ignored it. As a result, the country’s defence planning is deeply reflective of service-specific strengths, weaknesses and visions. Issues that should be addressed jointly by all three services are hardly ever the priority of any of the services. Without a common leader, each service chief tends to be the spokesman of his own service. The primary concern is about a protection of autonomous turfs, and not in promoting jointness as it is bound to challenge claims of autonomy. The IAF’s opposition to the establishment of tri-service theatre commands is one such example.


By Peter Martin

Among Delhi policy circles, the dominant response to Xi Jinping’s recent India visit was one of disappointment. Dissatisfaction at Chinese military provocations along the Indian border was certainly understandable. Disappointment at the 20 billion dollars of investment that Xi announced, however, seems harder to justify.

True, the figure is substantially less than many had expected. In the run up to the visit, Indian media speculated that Xi might announce a figure of 100 or even 200 billion US dollars. These expectations were stoked by the speculative and apparently ill-informed comments of China’s Consul General in Mumbai, Liu Youfa, that China would invest as much as 100 billion dollars. Dissatisfaction at the actual number was certainly acute. The Times of India’s headline writers complained that the figure was “much less than Japan’s offer of $35 billion.” More effusively, The Business Standard led with, “China dashes $100-bn hope.” Firstpost went simply with “Gypped by Xi.”

In the race to criticize the figure, however, few paused to put it in context. In truth, the 100 and 200-billion figures were never credible. India’s total stock of FDI currently stands at USD 227 billion. As Anil K Gupta and Haiyan Wang put it recently on the Financial Times’ Beyond BRICS blog, “It is an extreme overstretch to imagine that the next five years can see Chinese FDI into India equaling half of this amount.” Japan’s pledge to invest 35 billion dollars over the same five-year period will build on a much larger investment stock of USD 17.1 billion over the past 14 years.

Twenty billion dollars of Chinese investment over five years will in fact mark a massive expansion of the country’s investments in India. According to Government of India data, the total stock of China’s investment in the country currently stands at approximately USD 500 million. It has invested less in India over the past 14 years than Poland, Malaysia or Canada. The USD 500 million figure is also dwarfed by China’s investments in other countries. China invested more than USD 100 billion overseas last year alone. Its cumulative investments in Myanmar total USD 14.2 billion.The real question, surely, is why Chinese investment in India has lagged so far behind.

Political mistrust is certainly a large part of the answer. After the 1962 border war, commercial ties between the two countries were virtually suspended. Things picked up slowly from the late 1970s and picked up after Rajiv Gandhi’s 1988 visit to China; they accelerated further after Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s 2003 trip. Buoyed by Chinese demand for Indian iron ore and Indian demand for Chinese nuclear reactors, electronic appliances, machinery and chemicals, China had become India’s number one trading partner by 2008. Chinese investment in India, however, remained weak.

More than half a century after the conclusion of the border war, mistrust remains strong. Across numerous sectors, Chinese companies are objects of suspicion. Huawei’s role in telecoms infrastructure is under government investigation as a national security threat. Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Company was excluded from being part of a consortium for Mumbai Port on national security grounds. The Indian Air Force recently instructed employees not to use handsets manufactured by Xiaomi on the same basis. Investigations into Chinese companies in the US and Europeare widely reported in India and exacerbate suspicions of Chinese firms among Indian regulators. So too does the belligerent behavior of the PLA on India’s borders. Chinese behavior – whether military or commercial – is seen through the prism of the threat posed by China to India’s security.

The trust deficit also adds compounds many of the practical difficulties faced by Chinese companies in India, not least the ability of Chinese nationals to obtain visas. Chinese business people routinely find it difficult to obtain the multiple-entry or employment visas issued to other countries’ nationals. Media reports suggest that plans to sign a visa pact between the two countries during Xi’s recent visit were scrapped as the result of continuing tensions over the border dispute.

Trust aside, Chinese companies have been slow catching onto the opportunities of the India market. Part of this is also political. China’s overseas investments in emerging markets (especially those made by state-owned companies) have tended focus on areas that the Chinese government has mandated as strategic priorities. These include the acquisition of natural resources in Africa or shoring up relationships with neighboring states such as Myanmar. A net energy importer, India hasn’t ranked high on the list of China’s geo-economic priorities.

Understanding India’s economic geography

October 2014

The country’s economy once again holds promise. To make the most of it, companies must identify growth opportunities at a granular level.

India’s rapid growth in the decade to 2012 saw it emerge as one of Asia’s most promising markets. But the recent slowdown made growth and profitability increasingly elusive, forcing companies to think harder about the way they allocate resources. As growth picks up, and rapid shifts in India’s urban and rural economic landscapes occur, marketers will need to make strategic market choices to maximize returns. Understanding the growth drivers and identifying high-potential markets at a granular level are critical priorities for businesses looking to benefit significantly from this returning tide of growth.

Understanding India’s economic geography

Article narration

Taking into account their existing footprints, product mixes and extensions, and long-term aspirations, companies could consider three approaches to dissect the Indian market and decipher its heterogeneity: states, clusters, and cities. The research underpinning McKinsey’s latest report—India’s economic geography in 2025: States, clusters, and cities—combines a robust understanding of macroeconomic issues at a national level with microlevel insights on the economic and income potential of states, districts, and cities.1 By building a granular view, based on several different economic scenarios, of where growth and market opportunities will emerge, the report shows that businesses can tailor investment decisions to capture a disproportionate share of the pie in India’s ever-changing economic geography.2

Our research focuses on distinct geographic slivers of opportunity at each level of granularity.

India’s 29 states and seven union territories are at different stages of demographic and economic evolution. The per capita gross domestic product of states, a marker of their inhabitants’ affluence or deprivation, reasonably depicts the variation in living standards and market potential across India. We have classified states into four broad groups based on their relative 2012 per capita GDP: very high performing, high performing, performing, and low performing. This approach helps companies understand which states will probably contribute most to India’s growth and the potential size of households in different income segments in each state. That in turn makes it possible to estimate future market demand for specific categories of goods and services.3

We find that eight high-performing states will account for some 52 percent of India’s incremental GDP growth from 2012 to 2025. Along with four very high-performing city-states, these eight will have 57 percent of India’s consuming-class households in 2025.4Rapid urbanization and the associated income growth will propel the high-performing states to per capita income levels similar to those of today’s middle-income nations. In 2025, for instance, Maharashtra’s 128 million residents will have a purchasing-power parity similar to Brazil’s today. Goa’s and Chandigarh’s 2025 purchasing-power parity will mirror that of Spain today (Exhibit 1).

Report by Afghan Inspector General’s Office Says Counter-Narcotics Efforts in Afghanistan Have Been Forgotten by the White House and Rest of US Government

October 31, 2014

The latest quarterly report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has just been released.The report can be accessed here.

It has a few positive accomplishments to mention (like Hamid Karzai is no longer the president of Afghanistan). But the report’s coverage of the dramatically increasing amount of opium poppies being cultivated in Afghanistan makes for depressing reading. The billions of dollars spent by the U.S. government on counter-narcotics appear to have been wasted, like so many other US Government reconstruction programs in Afghanistan through lack of attention or managerial ineptitude.

But the report’s authors take the White House and the rest of the US government to task for dropping the ball on the Afghan counter-narcotics program. According to the report, “counternarcotics appears to have fallen off the agenda of both the U.S. government and the international community, despite the fact that it is impossible to develop a coherent and effective strategy for a post-2014 Afghanistan without taking full account of the opium economy. As long as insurgent commanders are able to fund themselves through the opium trade, and as long as corrupt officials profit from the illicit economy, there may be few incentives for making peace in some areas of the country”

For our neglect, the narcotics traffickers we can expect a windfall opium crop over next couple of years. And we in the West can expect recorfd amounts of heroin on our streets.

Why Rising Opium Poppy Cultivation Signals Bad News for Afghanistan After U.S. Troops Leave

Afghanistan Going off the Rails as U.S. Withdrawal Speeds Up

Gopal Ratnam
Foreign Policy
October 30, 2014

While the world’s eyes are trained on Iraq, Syria, and the fight against the Islamic State, a new report to Congress by the government’s reconstruction watchdog warns that Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have been fighting the Taliban and other insurgent groups in the longest war in American history, remains dangerously unstable even as the American military withdrawal accelerates.

Insurgent attacks have reached the highest levels since 2011, the Afghan army has sustained heavy combat losses and is experiencing high attrition rates, and opium poppy cultivation has more than doubled from its pre-1999 levels when the Taliban ruled the country, potentially undermining the Afghan state’s legitimacy even as the nation is experiencing budget shortfalls, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, said in a quarterly report sent to Congress Thursday.

The dire warnings come as a new Afghan coalition government led by President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah — who assumed the role of a chief executive officer — has taken power after a contentious election and political standoff. The new government signed security agreements with the United States and NATO allowing international coalition forces to remain in the country after December. The Obama administration has said it will gradually withdraw the remaining 24,000 American troops, with the last leaving the country in 2016. The NATO forces are likely to follow the same pattern, leaving Afghan military forces to take full responsibility for security after 2016. 

As part of that plan, U.S. Marines and British forces on Monday ended their combat mission and vacated two of their largest bases in Afghanistan — Camp Bastion and Camp Leatherneck — in the Helmand province, the site of some of the most violent battles of the 13-year-long war. Since the arrival of forces in 2001, about 350 Marines and 407 British troops have died in Helmand, theWashington Postreported. The departure of the last remaining coalition troops there was carried out in secrecy to prevent Taliban attacks — further evidence of the coalition’s tenuous security gains.

Poppy cultivation, a barometer of the underground economy that plays a role in financing the insurgency, is soaring, the report warned. About 209,000 hectares of land were under poppy cultivation in 2013, an increase of 36 percent from the previous year, the SIGAR report said, citing statistics from the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime. The size of the crop has doubled since 1999, when the Taliban ruled the country and opium was grown on 91,000 hectares.

Afghanistan’s opium cultivation supports the equivalent of about 411,000 jobs, exceeding the overall size of the Afghan national security forces, and generates about $3 billion of revenue from drug exports, the report said.

The booming drug trade is potentially fueling the Taliban-led insurgency that still remains strong in the country’s south, southeast, and east. Citing U.N. statistics, the report said that the total number of attacks for the nine months ending Aug. 15 totaled 15,968, or 61 a day — the second-highest level since 2011 after the fall of the Taliban. Military officials and Western observers believe international terrorist groups and the Taliban took advantage of the months-long uncertainty over the outcome of Afghan presidential elections that finally ended Sept. 29 with the formation of the coalition government led by Ghani.

New Pentagon Report on ‘Progress’ in Afghanistan Released

October 30, 2014

The Pentagon released its latest edition of its “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan” online today. The 114-page report can beaccessed here.

This report, like all its predecessors, claims to fairly present all the pertinent facts concerning that have been transpiring in Afghanistan over the past six months. In fact, these reports suffer from the “emphasize the positive” syndrome while giving only passing mention to all the problem areas in Afghanistan.

According to a friend of mine who helped co-aiuthor these reports in the past, you can write whole books about what is deliberately left out of these reports at the request of the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon brass, all of whom have a vested interest in trying to present the situation in Afghanistan in its best possible light.

And over the past five years, each successive report gives less and less empirical data on the state of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police forces and their capacity to take over the responsibility for defending Afghanistan from the few remaining U.S. and NATO forces.

With all that said, please exercise caution in accepting at face value the ‘conclusions’ of the report. I wish someone was producing an ‘alternative version’ of this report with all the stuff that the Pentagon doesn’t want you to know. Unfortunately, such a publication does not now exist.

Brave as lions but poorly led – the British heroes of Helmand

23 Oct 2014

Leaving Afghanistan may mark the moment Britain lost her influence as a global military power

3rd Bn The Parachute Regiment mount an operation by Chinook helicopter in the Mizan district of Zabul in southern Afghanistan Photo: Christopher Pledger/The Telegraph

Britain’s 13-year stay in Afghanistan is almost over. Already, the British military presence is essentially confined to one base, Camp Bastion. Within a few weeks we will have gone for good. The courage and fighting spirit displayed by our servicemen and women has been beyond praise and a matter of permanent national pride. Some 453 soldiers have died, while many hundreds of others have lost limbs or been mutilated in other life-changing ways. They will always carry Afghanistan with them.

Maybe this heroism and blood sacrifice has held the rest of us back from analysing our Afghan engagement. By contrast, the Iraq war has already been the subject of four official investigations. The fifth and longest such study, the Chilcot Inquiry, now looks almost certain to be published early in the new year, and thus before the next general election.

There are some sound reasons for this contrast. The case for invasion in Iraq was quickly tainted by claims of lying and fabrication, augmented by doubts about the integrity of the government information machine. There have been far fewer accusations of bad faith in Afghanistan. In addition, voters have tended to see Afghanistan, unlike Iraq, as a relatively virtuous conflict.

Nevertheless there are important questions that now scream to be asked. These do not, as a whole, concern the original invasion of Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of the twin towers in 2001. This was a brilliant and cleanly executed operation. The questions concern what followed.

Specifically, why was there no serious attempt to rebuild Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban? This failure created the power vacuum that British forces sought to fill when they took charge in Helmand five years later. In retrospect, it is obvious that neither the politicians nor the generals who reported to them knew what they were doing. Britain had no serious knowledge or understanding of southern Afghanistan. As a result, we were blind to the difficulties which we were about to confront, and did not send in nearly enough troops.

This fundamental ignorance was well expressed when John Reid, as defence secretary, notoriously stated that Britain’s involvement in Helmand was about reconstruction and that he would be happy if we left without firing a shot.

Britain started out with an “inkspot” strategy. We hoped to concentrate our efforts in a tiny area between Camp Bastion and the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. This was doomed to failure and soon we were sucked into the problems of the entire province, meaning that British forces were far too thinly spread, and became targets.

This weekend, Afghanistan: The Lion’s Last Roar, a series of BBC films, will break the culture of relative silence that has surrounded the military presence in Afghanistan. I have had a preview of this fascinating and complex study, which exposes a great deal of the muddled thinking that fatally undermined the decision to send troops to Helmand.


By Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty

Pakistan’s army chief Raheel Sharif railed against India recently, saying Pakistan will give a “befitting response” to any aggressor. He also warned that there will be no peace in South Asia unless the Kashmir issue is resolved in accordance with the UN resolutions.

Lest he sounds too aggressive, the army chief added that Pakistan desires peace and regional stability on the basis of mutual respect and dignity.

This is jaded rhetoric from Pakistani army generals and rabble-rousing politicians in the current context of continuing ceasefire violations by the Pakistani armed forces along the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Boundary (IB). The 742 km LoC that divides Jammu and Kashmir is not an international boundary. It is a de facto boundary. India controls around 60 percent of the state and Pakistan controls around 30 percent, while 10 percent is controlled by China.

Beyond the LoC, what India calls the International Boundary or the IB, Pakistan calls it the “Working Boundary” to maintain its position that the India-Pakistan boundary is not final. The LoC, a product of the 1972 Simla Agreement, is a modified version of the Ceasefire Line (CFL), delineated in the 1949 Karachi Agreement brokered by the UN.

Pakistani forces have targetted civilians deliberately on the Indian side. India’s robust response may have surprised the Pakistani establishment. The first time Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised Pakistan was when he invited Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend his swearing in ceremony. Intermittent firing by Pakistani forces continues. India’s leadership has warned Pakistan to desist from such provocations and authorized Indian forces to retaliate massively.

Earlier, India avoided responding to Pakistani provocations sometimes in order to maintain the sanctity of the ceasefire. This left Pakistan with the freedom to choose the time and place for ceasefire violations. India has clearly made a course correction.

Deliberate targeting of civilians, primarily Hindus, living in Jammu along the LoC and others living along the IB reflects Pakistan’s rising frustration in failing to elicit any response globally on the Kashmir issue. Prime Minister Sharif’s attempt to raise the Kashmir issue and seek the UN’s intervention fell flat. The harsh reality is that the world is not interested in Kashmir, and this was reinforced when Pakistan’s subsequent appeal to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was also rebuffed. The UN spokesperson told Pakistan to discuss the Kashmir issue with India bilaterally.

Rebuffed internationally, Pakistan has resorted to the option of ceasefire violations, combined with rising domestic political rhetoric about taking back every inch of Kashmir and hinting darkly about Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. Additionally, Pakistan is mobilizing its diaspora in the UK, through its agents in the immigrant community, to organize marches against so-called human rights violations by India in Kashmir.

This has provoked India to warn the UK to stop such demonstrations. The UK has always played a dubious role on the Kashmir issue. Even when the Khalistani issue was at its height in the 1980s it gave asylum to various Khalistani leaders, thereby giving encouragement to some Sikhs to resort to violence. Under the fig leaf of peaceful right to protest, UK’s role has always been dodgy.

For Pakistan, the primary anxiety is that the Kashmir issue has lost its salience internationally. Even Pakistan’s consistent patrons, China, Saudi Arabia and the USA appear to have lost interest in Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir. Heating up the LoC and IB draws global attention, which is the objective of Pakistan’s ceasefire violations.

Afghan president invites Taliban for peace talks

Oct 31, 2014

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has also put pressure on Pakistan, which is known to support one section of the Taliban leadership.

BEIJING: Afghan president Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai caused a stir at a high-level diplomatic meeting in Beijing by inviting Taliban to join the peace building process in his country. He has also put pressure on Pakistan, which is known to support one section of the Taliban leadership.

India's minister of state for external affairs, VK Singh, also attended the 14-nation meet called the "Istanbul process" to bring peace to Afghanistan. Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, China and Iran are also among the participants.

"We must not and will not permit groups pursuing grand illusions to use our country as the battleground or launching-pad against the international system," Ghani Ahmadzai said while speaking at the meeting.

The reference was to the spread of Taliban's influence in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, and Pakistan's inability to check the movement of terrorists from across its border to China, observers said.

"Peace is our highest priority. We invite the political opposition, particularly the Taliban, to join and enter Afghan dialogue, and ask all of our international partners to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process," GhaniAhmadzai said mentioning Taliban by its name.

His predecessor HamidKarzai merely called them "brothers" instead of naming Taliban.

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai delivers his speech at the opening ceremony of the 4th Ministerial Conference of Istanbul Process of Afghanistan, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China on October 31, 2014. (AP photo)

Pentagon Has Begun Classifying Its Assessments of the Capabilities of the Afghan Army

U.S. Military Classifying Assessments of Afghan Military

Tony Capaccio
Bloomberg News
October 30, 2014

The U.S. military has begun classifying its summaries of the Afghan national security forces’ capabilities, an action which denies the public insight into their readiness as the U.S. withdraws most of its troops by year end, according to a government watchdog.

The U.S.-North Atlantic Treaty Organization joint command’s decision to classify the reports “is a significant change” that leaves his office “without a critical tool to publicly report on development” of the 335,000-man force, John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said in his latest quarterly report issued today.

Sopko’s office has routinely reported on the assessments as indicators of the effectiveness of U.S. and coalition efforts to build, train, equip and sustain the force as the U.S. draws down to 9,800 troops from 19,650 today.

Classifying the summary “deprives the American people of an essential tool to measure the success or failure of the single most costly feature of the Afghanistan reconstruction effort,” he wrote.

The classification of the report was re-evaluated in August “to address potential concerns about operational security,” according to an ISAF statement from Marine Corps Major Bradlee Avots, a Pentagon spokesman.

“After careful review, it was determined that the entirety of the report was classified to include the executive summary which contained Afghan-provided readiness information,” ISAF said. “We have a responsibility to protect data that could jeopardize the operational security of our Afghan partners to include unnecessarily highlighting possible vulnerabilities and capability gaps.”


The U.S. Congress through this year has approved $61.5 billion to equip and train Afghan security forces,with $48 billion disbursed as of Sept. 30. In contrast, the U.S. has spent $20 billion training and equipping Iraq’s security forces.

The Afghanistan reconstruction effort has cost American taxpayers a total of $109 billion since fiscal 2002, compared with $103.4 billion, adjusted for inflation, for the 1948-1952 Marshall Plan for Europe, according to Sopko’s quarterly report to Congress in July.

The coalition uses the classified “Regional ANSF Status Report” to provide a monthly, unit-level update on readiness, long-term sustainability, and associated shortfalls.

“These assessments provide both U.S. and Afghan stakeholders — including the American taxpayers who pay the costs of recruiting, training, feeding, housing, equipping, and supplying Afghan soldiers — with updates on the status of these forces as transition continues and Afghanistan assumes responsibility for its own security,” Sopko wrote.

According to the forward of the coalition’s classified report, the summaries presented a “synthesized analysis of observations and identified shortfalls, highlighting main findings and most pressing issues that hamper ANSF long-term sustainability.”


By Rupak Bhattacharjee

The Oct 2 blast in Burdwan, West Bengal, has startled the security establishment as the international jihadi outfits’ nefarious designs to destabilise South Asia have come to the fore.

West Bengal has often been used as a transit corridor by the Islamic militants to carry out subversive acts in neighbouring Bangladesh. But the recent blast clearly shows that the state also figures in the hit list of Islamic terrorist groups.

Among other things, the security personnel recovered leaflets of Al Qaeda and CD of its training modules from the blast site. Indian intelligence officials say the security agencies have been examining all angles of the case, including the possibility of the formation of a new jihadi front, Quadat al-Jihad, for the Indian sub-continent by Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. They also have not ruled out the chance of the dreaded terrorist outfit Islamic State’s involvement since “it has a foot print in Bengal”. Recently, security personnel intercepted four youths from Hyderabad while they were “trying to sneak in to Bangladesh en route to Iraq”.

One of the two women arrested from the blast site said during interrogation that for the last three months they had been sending bombs to Bangladesh for terror strikes there. Preliminary investigation has revealed that the people involved in the blast were members of jihadi group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

In another significant development, on Oct 9, Assam Police arrested six JMB linkmen from various parts of Barpeta district. Some of them had undergone ideological indoctrination and training in handling explosives at various madrassas in Bengal’s Burdwan and Murshidabad districts. The possibility of Al Qaeda spreading its tentacles in Assam has added a new security challenge for the state government. The presence of JMB has also been reported for the first time in Assam.

Intelligence agencies believe that there are other Islamic terror sleeper cells in the state and the recent violence perpetrated against the minority community in lower Assam could have radicalised a section of Muslim youths in the districts bordering Bangladesh. Police have identified some districts having considerable Muslim population — Dhubri, Goalpara, Kokrajhar and Karimganj – as vulnerable to Islamic terrorism. Police suspect that these bordering districts may have been intruded by radical Islamic ideologues and jihadi outfits.

Bangladesh has emerged as the major coordinating centre of international jihadi groups and their local collaborators. Reports indicate that the banned terrorist outfit JMB maintains close links with fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami. The JMB is totally opposed to the ruling Awami League. The Bangladesh government had already given to India a list of three JMB cadres who were involved in subversive and anti-government activities. They are now believed to be hiding in West Bengal. The Bangladesh government has also requested India to furnish information regarding the Burdwan blast. All these developments demonstrate a sudden spurt in cross-border terrorism having serious security implications for the region.

The largest Islamic party of Bangladesh, Jamaat-e-Islami has been yearning for establishing an Islamic polity based on Shariah. A Bangladeshi political analyst maintains that Jamaat’s ulterior motive is to build a “monolithic Islamic state, based on Shariah law and declare jihad against Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and free-thinking Muslims”. A series of attacks launched in the last one year against religious and ethnic minorities following indictment and conviction of noted war criminals consisting of Jamaat’s top leaders, lend credence to the observation made by him. The civil society of Bangladesh is seriously concerned about the radical agenda of Jamaat and other religious extremist groups.


A two-day track 1.5 dialogue between China, Afghanistan and Pakistan was organized by Pakistan-China Institute (PCI) in Islamabad on Oct 19-20, 2014.

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong, Afghan Ambassador Janan Mosazai, Chairman of the PCI Mushahid Hussain and other strategic analysts, academicians and diplomats attended the dialogue to discuss the current security and political situation in Afghanistan and its implications for neighbouring countries.

The special guest at the trilateral was Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz. The first trilateral dialogue was held in Beijing in August last year under the joint auspices of China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) and the PCI. The third round of this trilateral conference is planned to be held in Kabul next year. This article contextualizes the outcomes of the second trilateral dialogue.

The First Round

At the first round of the trilateral dialogue in Beijing, the Chairman PCI introduced the concept of ‘Greater South Asia’ as an economic entity emerging beyond the sub-continent; and voiced appreciation for Pakistan for hosting 5 million Afghan refugees on its soil. Zhou Gang, the former Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, stated that the US should not maintain its military presence in Afghanistan post 2014. The Chinese diplomat also expressed concern regarding spread of terrorism to Xinjiang, even as he recognised the sacrifices made by the Pakistani people in combating terrorism and expressed China’s support for Pakistan in this regard.

The Second Trilateral

The current second trilateral was seen as an opportunity to put forth specific policy recommendations on the issues of peace and security, regional economic cooperation and combating terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking. On the security situation it was felt that Al Qaeda can hold “central position” for a short term, but the influence of Islamic State-inspired groups will increase and the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), on the other, hand may not remain a cohesive entity. In Afghanistan countering ethnic factionalism will be challenge and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) may continue with its attempts to influence political developments. But implications of the continued NATO presence in Afghanistan were not fleshed out.

Commending Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts and its role in region affairs, the Chinese Ambassador Sun said China appreciates Pakistan’s steps to promote dialogue and improve relations with Afghanistan. The impact of the Silk Road economic zone, Pakistan-China economic corridor and Central Asia economic belt were discussed. Li Qingyan of CIIS said the economic integration of Pakistan and China was on track and postponement of President Xi Jinping’s visit to Islamabad would not affect ties.

It was also felt that New Delhi is enhancing its role in Afghanistan to define security contours of the region and isolate Pakistan. Yet, as enhanced trade and economic relations can facilitate regional peace Pakistan needs to support more economic and social development in Afghanistan as India has been doing. Yet there was little discussion on taking the Pakistan-Afghanistan-India transit trade agreement forward.

A five-point recommendation was presented by PCI for “Way Forward” in cooperation between China, Afghanistan and Pakistan at conclusion of the two-day Trilateral Dialogue. The recommendations called for creating Joint Trilateral Task Forces on Counter Terrorism and for promoting the Central Asia Economic Belt and Pakistan-China Economic Corridor. A trilateral business council, involving the private sector and annual trilateral Media Conference to promote communication and better understanding were suggested. Joint Trilateral Youth Summer Camps for students and youth of the three neighbours to assemble by rotation in Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan, Xinjiang province in China and the Wakhan region of Afghanistan were also proposed.


Recommendations of dialogues of this nature are largely Confidence Building Mechanisms and aimed to enhance the feel good factor; yet they have to be cognisant of ground realities. Despite the prickly issue of Pakistani support to the Afghan Taliban, and the fact that consequent to Operation Zarb-e-Azb against militants in North Waziristan Afghanistan is willy-nilly now a party to the internal security situation in Pakistan, the Trilateral skirted the issue of security dynamics between the two neighbours. The cancellation of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan in September appeared to be seen more as a one-off consequence of a political hiccup than being symptomatic of the tenuous and recurrent internal security situation in Pakistan. The implications seemed papered over by the excitement due to acceptance of Pakistan’s application for full-member status of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) along with India, at the SCO summit in Dushanbe held Sep 11-12.

However, what should have played on the minds of the gathering is the fact that on Oct 10, during a meeting of Pakistan Senate’s Standing Committee, the re-routing of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on security considerations was debated. China and Pakistan have decided to re-route the corridor mostly through Punjab, in the process avoiding some of the country’s most restive areas in both Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. China is therefore not only seeking security assurances in Pakistan, but also a more stable political environment. Recently Chinese state owned enterprises have declined to accept Pakistani sovereign guarantees for providing project finance.

China is also concerned at potential Islamist spill over to Xinjiang, as the issue is acquiring worrisome proportions. In a raid in Xinjiang region on Oct 12, four ethnic minority Uyghur men armed with knives and explosives stabbed an unknown number of police officers as they stormed a township market hurling explosives and attacking Han Chinese stall owners before they were gunned down. The attack left 22 people dead, including police officers. The upsurge of violence fuelled by ethnic tensions has resulted in around 300 dead in the past year and half in the region. The reported association of Uyghurs with the Islamic State and the IS presence in Afghanistan would be an added cause for concern.

Portuguese Fighters Intercept Russian TU-95 BEAR Bombers Over Atlantic

Portuguese F-16s intercept Russian bombers

Brendan de Beer
Portugal News
October 30, 2014

This follows an incident last week when Portuguese F-16 fighter jets flying under the NATO banner were called into action to reportedly intercept a Russian intelligence-collecting plane flying in Allied airspace over the Baltic Sea.

In a report issued on Thursday (30 October) and seen by The Portugal News, NATO said it had detected and monitored four separate groups of Russian military aircraft conducting significant military manoeuvers in European airspace over the Baltic Sea, North Sea/Atlantic Ocean, and Black Sea on 28 and 29 October 2014.

“These sizable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace”, NATO said.

NATO further revealed that over the Atlantic Ocean west of Portugal, the two Russian aircraft were intercepted and identified by F-16s from the Portuguese Air Force.

Residents between Peniche and Figueira da Foz on the Portuguese west coast would have seen the aircraft heading out to sea after the order was given for them take off from the Monte Real Air Force base and escort the Russian bombers out of the restricted air space of the country’s coastline.

The Russian aircraft turned back heading north-east, flying to the west of the United Kingdom. NATO aircraft from the United Kingdom and Norway were standing by and NATO assets on the ground and in the air tracked the Russian aircraft throughout.

The bomber and tanker aircraft from Russia did not file flight plans or maintain radio contact with civilian air traffic control authorities and they were not using on-board transponders.

In a third incident involving, Portuguese F-16s, pilots were also called into action after NATO radars detected and tracked a number Russian aircraft flying over the Baltic Sea in international airspace, including 2x MiG-31 Foxhound, 2x Su-34 Fullback, 1x Su-27 Flanker and 2x Su-24 Fencer jets. Portuguese F-16 Fighters assigned to the Baltic Air Policing Mission were scrambled in response and the Russian aircraft returned to Russian airspace.

NATO’s press office said scrambles and intercepts are standard procedure when an unknown aircraft approaches its airspace. However, such flights pose a potential risk to civil aviation given that the Russian military often do not file flight plans, or use their on-board transponders. This means civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft nor ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic.

Increasing Number of Russian Warplanes Being Intercepted Over the Baltic Sea

NATO Baltic Jets Intercept Russian Airplanes for Third Day

Ott Ummelas
Bloomberg News
October 30, 2014

NATO jets in the Baltic countries intercepted two Russian military aircraft today as the alliance said Russian air activity has surged on its borders.

F-16 jets from NATO’s Baltic air policing mission intercepted a Russian Su-27 fighter and Eurofighter aircraft later shadowed an IL-76 military transport plane,Latvia’s army said on its Twitter account. It reported interceptions of seven Russian jets yesterday and on Oct. 28.

Amid tensions with the Kremlin over the crisis in Ukraine, North Atlantic Treaty Organization jets have tracked more than 100 Russian aircraft so far this year, more than triple the number in 2013, the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Athens.

“Russians are exercising and moving aircraft in the Baltic area between St. Petersburg and the Kaliningrad exclave much more than they did in the past as a result of higher military spending,” Pauli Jarvenpaa, a research fellow at theInternational Centre for Defence Studies in Tallinn, said by phone. “There can be potential mechanical failures, accidents. It’s a high-risk game.”

NATO warplanes monitored four groups of Russian military aircraft conducting “significant” maneuvers in European airspace over the Baltic, North and Black seas, the alliance said in a statement today.


While most interceptions don’t involve airspace incursions, Latvia’s northern neighbor Estonia and non-aligned Finland have reported repeated incidents this year where Russian aircraft violated their airspace. Sweden staged its biggest naval mobilization since the Cold War earlier this month in a week-long hunt for a suspected foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today she isn’t “acutely concerned about grave airspace violations,” even as she spoke of the Russian army conducting “very robust exercises” in recent months.

Russian military planes flying near Baltic airspace are “nothing extraordinary” and “don’t pose a threat to Estonia,” Baltic News Service cited Jaak Tarien, commander of the Estonian Air Force, as saying yesterday in an interview.

In a separate incident, Latvia’s military spotted a Russian navy corvette today some seven nautical miles from its territorial waters, the army said via Twitter.

Russian warplanes practiced a bombing mission against Denmark’s Baltic Sea island of Bornholm in June, the Jyllands-Posten newspaper reported, citing information from military intelligence.

Moscow's Spy Game

OCTOBER 30, 2014

Why Russia Is Winning the Intelligence War in Ukraine

A supporter of Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev, April 2007. (Vasily Fedosenko / Courtesy Reuters)

Eight weeks after Ukraine’s new government and pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east agreed to a cease-fire, the war continues to simmer. It is fought with guns and rockets on the ground and with warnings and sanctions at the negotiating table. But, nearly invisibly, the war is also being waged along a third dimension: intelligence. On that front, both Ukraine and the West are scrambling to counter Russia’s vast advantage.

For Kiev’s new leaders, still struggling to set their country right after popular protests toppled the pro-Russian government of President Viktor Yanukovych last year, accurate and reliable information about the rebels in the east is critical. But obtaining intelligence about the aims, intentions, and capabilities of the rebels—let alone those of the Russian government that supports them—is nearly impossible. As Kiev attempts to react to Russian and rebel initiatives, both military and political, it often has only a faint idea of whether they represent serious moves or feints and what endgame they pursue. Even the numbers of rebel troops and the weapons they’ve acquired from Russia are frequently little more than guesswork. Meanwhile, Moscow enjoys a significant upper hand over Kiev when it comes to intelligence—the Ukrainian communications and command structures are thoroughly permeated by Russian agents—and is using this advantage to further tilt the playing field in its favor. 

Time is working against Ukraine. To reverse the trend, Kiev must not only ramp up its intelligence and counterintelligence efforts but do so while radically reforming the Ukrainian security apparatus. Relying on Western assistance is of little help: the West, too, is short on reliable sources in eastern Ukraine and outmatched by Russia’s prior preparation. Ukraine’s ongoing political transition and last weekend’s parliamentary elections give its government a window of opportunity in which to reclaim control over this key instrument of security policy. Otherwise, Ukrainian credibility and sovereignty will both continue to be under question.


Four factors have given Russia a head start in the ongoing intelligence war. First, Russia has long been preparing for the kind of conflict underway in Ukraine—one that combines espionage with firepower, economic pressure, information warfare, and political maneuvering. The Russian intelligence services use all these tools effortlessly—a skill that they inherited from their Soviet predecessors and further refined for today’s world, in which influence is as much about economic leverage and the ability to spin the story as about actual facts on the ground. It is telling that even the head of the Russian army, General Valery Gerasimov, admitted last year that “nonmilitary means” have become indispensable to Russia and sometimes even exceed traditional firepower in importance.

Second, Russian intelligence services have for decades maintained a firm foothold in Ukraine—a presence with roots in Soviet history when the Ukrainian security apparatus was simply the local branch of the KGB. Russian operatives, most commonly working for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the KGB’s successor, permeate Ukrainian police and intelligence agencies. Russia sympathizers and agents, many of whom belong to the GRU, Russia's resurgent military intelligence agency, fill the Ukrainian army ranks. Equipped with an array of tools—from embedded spies to communications intercepts—the GRU is tasked with locating Ukrainian military units, uncovering their plans, and conducting paramilitary operations against them. The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service and Ministry of Internal Affairs, likewise, have also built extensive networks in the country. In particular, the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ long-standing relationship with its local counterpart, the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs, has allowed the agency to easily identify Ukrainian counterparts amenable to FSB recruitment. 

Third, Russian intelligence forces maintain a significant ground presence—both open and covert—near the Ukrainian border. They have taken full advantage of the free flow of people between the two countries, which Ukraine has so far done little to stem. For example, there is evidence that the Russian intelligence services have been interviewing Ukrainian refugees crossing into Russia, under the pretext of gathering data on war crimes. The interview subjects could be providing valuable information about Ukrainian government forces battling the rebellion, from the locations of their encampments to the tactics they use.