13 November 2014

Big breakthrough in Beijing

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13 Nov 2014

APChina has publicly announced that its emissions of carbon dioxide will peak by 2030. Picture shows a traffic jam in Beijing. File Photo

To address climate change, India has committed itself to a 20-25 per cent reduction in intensity of carbon emissions by 2020, but the international community will want more

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have just signed a historic bilateral accord on climate change and clean energy cooperation in Beijing. This accord will have impacts in the run-up to the Paris Conference in December 2015 when the world community is expected to clinch a new agreement to combat global warming. The agreement was in the works no doubt, but it certainly came sooner than expected. Another agreement on trade in technology-intensive industries has been signed and this has great relevance for the World Trade Organization (WTO). With these two accords, the U.S. and China have signalled that they will influence multilateral outcomes through their bilateral agreements.

A historic accord

The accord is historic for a number of reasons. First, China has publicly announced that its emissions of carbon dioxide will peak by 2030 and that the intention is to have the peak year earlier. Second, China will increase the non-fossil fuel share (mainly nuclear, solar and wind) of all energy to around 20 per cent by 2030. Third, the U.S. will cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025 with an aspirational goal of an 80 per cent reduction by 2050. Fourth, the two countries will vastly expand cooperation in clean energy, phasing down of the use of hydrofluorocarbons in refrigerators and air-conditioners, demonstration of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies and climate-smart urbanisation.

Time to demonstrate an ‘Act East’ Policy

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13 Nov 2014
The Hindu“Effective trade and transportation links between India and Myanmar can improve market size for potential investments.” Picture shows the India-Myanmar friendship road in Moreh, a border town in Manipur. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

It is important for India and Myanmar now to set up a high-level bilateral mechanism to review the progress being made on key connectivity projects

Much of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Myanmar has been taken up with the annual East Asia Summit and the ASEAN-India Summit. But his bilateral meeting with the Myanmar President Thein Sein was no less important, it being the first time the two leaders met. The visit has also provided an opportunity for Mr. Modi to understand first hand the ongoing democratic transition in Myanmar, towards a more market-oriented economy, and a peaceful settlement with the ethnics. All this is work in progress. Having a peaceful, stable and democratic Myanmar in our immediate neighbourhood is in India’s interest.

Since 2011, the Thein Sein government has ushered in many positive changes — release of political prisoners, greater media freedom and several reforms in the economic, social and administrative spheres. Despite a 25 per cent reservation for the military and the strong presence of Members of Parliament from the military-rooted ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Parliament too has evolved into an active deliberative and lawmaking forum. The changes have brought Myanmar back into the international mainstream after five decades of military rule and its chairmanship of ASEAN this year has gone off quite smoothly.

No policy for northwestern front

In Kabul, Ashraf Ghani may not follow Hamid Karzai’s policy vis-a-vis India.
By: H K Dua
 November 13, 2014 

Normally, celebrations are held when foreign troops leave a native soil. No Kabuliwala has, however, brought good tidings from home after most US troops have pulled out of Afghanistan. The belief in the White House and at Capitol Hill that peace would return to Afghanistan with troops returning after the 13-year war may be misplaced. The guns will not be silenced simply because American and British soldiers have withdrawn. The Taliban have not stopped killing people. They covet power in Kabul now. And then, just across the Khyber pass there is Pakistan, waiting to acquire what its policymakers describe as “strategic depth” across the western front.

Afghanistan’s future is uncertain despite the fact that there is a democratic set-up in place in Kabul and the people, particularly women, are now feeling free. Somehow, the Americans and British believe that the Ashraf Ghani-Abdullah Abdullah dispensation brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry will provide political stability and social peace to Afghans, among whom sharp ethnic divides are notorious. The West is also optimistic that the Afghan National Army is capable of fending off Taliban groups that might try to make a bid for power in Kabul. On both counts, the US’s optimism may prove to be self-serving, meant to rationalise the withdrawal and convey to the world that this is not another Vietnam.

There are two reasons why the US had moved into Afghanistan: one, to deal a decisive blow to international terrorism after 9/11; and two, to ensure its strategic presence in the area. Both remain unaccomplished. This is because US President Barack Obama had no stomach for
wars begun by his predecessor, George W. Bush. At the onset of his presidency, Obama had asked his policy advisors to develop an exit strategy. His administration came out with a delectable coinage: that there are “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban”.

“What are the good Taliban and what are the bad Taliban?” I asked a former US ambassador I had run into. “Good Taliban are those who accept our money, the bad Taliban are those who don’t and are hardcore fellows moved only by Islamist ideology,” he said with a chuckle.

All these years, Obama’s people have been talking to the so-called good Taliban, discussing, perhaps, not money matters, but a smooth pullout of US troops. Western policy wonks who visit Delhi these days to explain the rationale of the pullout don’t hide the battle fatigue that has set in among the US and Nato after 13 years of fighting at high cost. Most Western visitors contend that they are not abandoning Afghanistan. There will be 12,000-odd US-Nato troops, plus drones for contingencies. Also, the Afghan National Army is now equipped to handle the situation. Or so the apologists for troops withdrawals say.

Powerful Eurasia & Indian foreign policy

Ever since Halford Mackinder's Russia containment strategy disguised as a grand theory first appeared, the Eurasian heartland has been perceived by the Anglo-American world as a threat to their global position and interests.

Zorawar Daulet Singh

PM Narendra Modi greeting U Thein Sein, the President of Myanmar at the presidential palace during his recent visit to Myanmar.

India lays BRICS for a proactive role in foreign policy: (Left) President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff, President of People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping, and President of the Republic of South Africa Jacob Zuma, at the Sixth BRICS Summit, in Fortaleza, Brazil.

IRONICALLY, when Mackinder was writing his paper, The Heartland Power, czarist Russia, was on its death throes. Japan's 1904-1905 naval victories in the Pacific over Russia removed all illusions about Russia's status as a first-rate power. Yet, within three decades, revolutionary Russia had re-industrialised and was emerging as a potential superpower. Stalin's crushing, albeit costly, annihilation of Hitler's Third Reich established Soviet power and prestige as the second global pole. China's own revolution inspired and financed by Stalin's Russia produced the first major consolidation of the Eurasian heartland.

Force in world politics

The West led by America initiated a sustained grand strategy of countering this new force in world politics. Nicholas Spykman provided a theoretical precursor to this strategy in his 1942 book, America's Strategy in World Politics, which argued for America to project its strategic influence on the Rimland regions around the Soviet periphery.

Middle powers like India, however, reacted differently and consciously chose an approach that sought to maintain friendly ties with both these formidable blocs. Despite some material costs, the overall developmental and security advantages of such an independent approach has never been credibly challenged. In fact, this notion of sustaining a balance between the Atlantic and Eurasian worlds became an ingrained feature of Indian thinking and foreign policy practice. During the interlude between 1991 and the resurgence of the Eurasian powers in the last decade, any notion of a balance between the two worlds became irrelevant. But the dramatic revival of the Eurasian world, and, its second phase of consolidation since the 1940s and 1950s has revived the logic of balance in world politics.

Old wine, new bottles- Russia, America and the New Cold War

The Telegraph
Premen Addy
13 Nov 2014

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, George H.W. Bush, then president of the United States of America, issued this heraldic proclamation: "A world once divided into two armed camps now recognizes one, sole and pre-eminent power, the United States of America." History had ended, the American nirvana had begun. The Cold War 'victory', a liturgical chant with Western leaders, brooks no denial. Retreat, however, points frequently to an unfinished contest. No footage exists of the formalities of surrender - its sacred moment, surely; and the projected Kantian peace has yet to yield its promised dividend. Oligarchs, crime syndicates and Boris Yeltsin's tomfoolery had traduced the notion of a secure Russian state. American free-market nostrums had done so too. So when Alexander Solzhenitsyn returned to his native Russia after a long exile in the US, he was struck by the distress around him. The author of The Gulag Archipelago was convinced of America's will to strip, and then dismember, the Russian world. Notwithstanding the best laid plans of mice and men, Russia's revival commenced with the arrival of the new millennium; the economy was soon in recovery, the international debt default was repaid, confidence returned. President Vladimir Putin's first foreign policy demarche restored the Indo-Russian relationship to its previous high level of trust. Sino-Russian ties, blighted for decades by ideological disputes and political suspicion, were normalized. Moscow's leading role in the formation of BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization signalled Russia's pivot to Asia in a period of seedtime and remedy.

Putin's overtures to the US in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York were met with studied disdain. Against the counsel of the venerated Cold War projectionist, George Kennan - whose influential policy paper of 1947 in Foreign Affairs pressed for American containment of the Soviet Union - the Bush administration (2000-08) incorporated states from the old Soviet bloc into an enlarged Nato, something Mikhail Gorbachev's Western interlocutors had assured him personally would never happen. Nobly, Gorbachev took their word without the collateral safeguard, and was roundly deceived. Kennan had warned, shortly before his death at 92, that Nato's eastward expansion, with its unpredictable consequences, would be a grave strategic error. At the heart of the junior Bush administration, however, were gung-ho, neo-conservative hawks, among them Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. As assistant secretary of defence in the senior Bush administration (1988-92), Wolfowitz had cut his teeth as a strategic thinker with a controversial policy paper stating that the US would accept no future rival to its global dominance, that pre-emption might follow if one were to appear. Wolfowitz, Cheney and Rumsfeld were the movers and shakers of the junior Bush administration's wars of intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan; these and the Obama administration's inebriated forays in Libya and Syria have led to the present Islamic State blowback.

World wary as bombs, not humans, pick whom to kill

John Markoff
Nov 13, 2014

Now, arms makers are developing weapons that rely on artificial intelligence, not human instruction, to decide what to target and whom to kill.

On a bright fall day last year off the coast of Southern California, an Air Force B-1 bomber launched an experimental missile that may herald the future of warfare. 

Initially, pilots aboard the plane directed the missile, but halfway to its destination, it severed communication with its operators. Alone, without human oversight, the missile decided which of three ships to attack, dropping to just above the sea surface and striking a 260-foot unmanned freighter. 

Warfare is increasingly guided by software. Today, armed drones can be operated by remote pilots peering into video screens thousands of miles from the battlefield. But now, some scientists say, arms makers have crossed into troubling territory: They are developing weapons that rely on artificial intelligence, not human instruction, to decide what to target and whom to kill. 

As these weapons become smarter and nimbler, critics fear they will become increasingly difficult for humans to control — or to defend against. And while pinpoint accuracy could save civilian lives, critics fear weapons without human oversight could make war more likely, as easy as flipping a switch. 

Britain, Israel and Norway are already deploying missiles and drones that carry out attacks against enemy radar, tanks or ships without direct human control. After launch, so-called autonomous weapons rely on artificial intelligence and sensors to select targets and to initiate an attack.

(A B-1 bomber deploys a Long Range Anti-Ship Missile. The missiles are designed to select and strike targets without human oversight) 

Britain's "fire and forget" Brimstone missiles, for example, can distinguish among tanks and cars and buses without human assistance, and can hunt targets in a predesignated region without oversight. The Brimstones also communicate with one another, sharing their targets. 

US nurses hold strikes, protests over Ebola measures

Nov 13, 2014

Registered nurses hold banners during a vigil for better personal protection equipment against Ebola outside the White House in Washington, DC on Wednesday. (AFP photo)

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON: Tens of thousands of nurses across the United States staged protest rallies and strikes on Wednesday over what they say is insufficient protection for health workers dealing with patients possibly stricken with the deadly Ebola virus. 

California-based National Nurses United had expected about 100,000 nurses nationwide to participate in the protest, and a spokesman for the union said he expected about that many people to take part before the end of the day. 

The union is embroiled in contract talks with the operators of nearly 90 California hospitals and clinics, and one hospital in Washington, DC. 

About 19,000 nurses who on Tuesday began a two-day strike against those California facilities were part of the Ebola measures protest, which in other parts of the country did not involve nurses walking off the job. 

Healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente, which operates most of the California facilities where the nurses were striking, has accused the union of using Ebola as a pretext for labor action. 

The nurses are pressing hospitals to buy hazardous materials suits which leave no skin exposed, as well as powered air-purifying respirators, to properly protect them from exposure, and they are seeking more training to handle patients suspected of having Ebola. 

"The best way to protect our community is to protect our nurses," said Evan Brost, a nurse who joined more than 30 people in a protest outside the White House over Ebola measures. 

Elsewhere, protests took place in Chicago, Oakland, and outside the offices of some state governors, said National Nurses United Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has ordered $2.7 million worth of personal protective equipment to help hospitals care for Ebola patients, but union officials contend that is insufficient. 

"For weeks, union leadership has claimed to the public that this strike is about Ebola," Kaiser Permanente spokesman John Nelson said in a statement. "But the fact is Kaiser Permanente is well prepared, well trained and well equipped to handle potential or diagnosed Ebola cases." 

The last US patient being treated for Ebola was released from a hospital on Tuesday. 

The Ebola epidemic has killed nearly 5,000 people in West Africa but only one person, a Liberian native, has died in the United States. Two nurses who treated him at a Dallas hospital contracted Ebola but recovered.

India ‘link’ to Raphel fall

K.P. NAYAR and Robin Raphel

New Delhi, Nov. 8: A tip from Indian soil which shed new light on how US diplomat Robin Raphel empowered the Taliban may have hastened her downfall in Washington.

Accounts from Raisina Hill, the seat of government in New Delhi and from Chanakyapuri, the capital's diplomatic enclave, however, indicated that India's official apparatus was not involved in the tip. The US embassy was behind relaying the information, albeit in the course of routine transmission of material.

The long-running counter-intelligence probe of Raphel, who began her American civil service career with the CIA, appears to have taken a critical turn when Hamid Mir, executive editor of Pakistan's Geo TV, made credible revelations about her nearly two-decade-old support for the Taliban to senior editorial staff of The Indian Express in the third week of October.

Mir, along with Shafqat Mahmood, a leader of Imran Khan's Tehrik-e-Insaf, said in the course of an exchange on India-Pakistan relations with the editors in New Delhi that Raphel had weighed heavily on then Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1995 to throw Islamabad's weight behind the Taliban. At that time, the world viewed the Taliban as a curiosity and it was mistaken by many countries as a nascent student movement for reforming Afghanistan and getting rid of its endemic corruption and warlordism.

Raphel was then the assistant secretary of state for South Asia, a new entity created with much fanfare in the state department. A middle-ranking diplomat at the US embassy in Chankayapuri, Raphel was catapulted to head the new bureau over several others her senior because she was an "FoB," Friend of Bill.

Like Strobe Talbott, another FoB who became deputy secretary of state as a political appointee, Bill Clinton brought in a number of his old friends from his Oxford and London years into his administration. Of all of them, Raphel is the one who did maximum damage to America, albeit in retrospect.

She had no excuse for confusing the Taliban for an innocent student movement. She was already an expert on Pakistan and had her resourceful CIA experience behind her. Raphel's husband (they were divorced by then) gave up his life travelling with General Zia-ul-Haq on their fatal flight in Bahawalpur in 1988.

Here is what Mir said on the record in the third week of October: "The Taliban movement emerged in Afghanistan in 1994. In 1995, I was travelling with then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to the US. Bhutto met ambassador Robin Raphel in New York. We came to know that Raphel had asked Bhutto to announce her support to the Taliban. It was very disturbing. I wrote in my column from New York that here is the first elected woman Prime Minister in the whole Muslim world, the Taliban are imposing a ban on girls' education (in Afghanistan) and she had been asked by Robin Raphel, another woman, to announce her support for the Taliban."

Why India needs to get tough with China

November 10, 2014

'It is certainly time for New Delhi to open up. Not only should it go ahead at full steam with the roads to the LAC, but the government must also allow tourists to visit these stunningly beautiful areas of Indian territory,' says Claude Arpi.

China is unhappy about India's plans to build a road on the southern side of the McMahon Line in Arunachal Pradesh.

A couple of weeks ago, Hong Lei, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, stated 'The boundary issue between China and India is left by the colonial past. We need to deal with this issue properly. Before a final settlement is reached, we hope that India will not take any actions that may further complicate the situation.'

'We should jointly safeguard peace and tranquility of the border area and create favourable conditions for the final settlement of the border issue,' he further asserted.

The proposed billion dollar project on the Indian side of the India-Tibet border was announced by Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju during a visit to his home state, Arunachal Pradesh.

Rijiju hoped the construction of the 1,800 km road could begin soon. The minister also said the road would be the 'biggest single infrastructure project in the history of India.'

One could, of course, have asked Hong when China decided to build a road through the Aksai Chin plateau in the early 1950s, was not Beijing 'complicating' the border issue with India?

More recently, during his monthly press conference, Chinese defence ministry spokesman Yang Yujun also 'urged India not to take actions that will complicate the situation on the border, where the two countries have territorial disputes.'

What the Raksha Mantri needs to urgently do

November 10, 2014 

'It is imperative to restore the dignity and authority of the services chiefs. Erosion of this has resulted in lowering of service efficiency. It is also time to end the practice of taking seniority as the sole criterion for appointing chiefs,' says Colonel Anil A Athale (retd).

On Sunday, Manohar Parrikar was sworn into the Narendra Modi ministry and given the Cabinet berth of defence. He takes over the mantle from Arun Jaitley, who had been handed the portfolio as an additional charge to the finance ministry.

However, the road ahead of Parrikar is not a smooth ride. He has several pressing issues ahead of him -- from the problems posed by our neighbouring countries to the very mindset that the defence ministry is a decorative post.

This mindset is well illustrated when a senior journalist on a television channel said that the defence ministry was not suitable for a capable person like Parrikar. Quoting then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao, the journalist called the defence ministry a 'salaam' ministry, adding that the minister had no real work, as he had competent service chiefs and a defence secretary.

The astonishing part was that none of the other participants contested this perception, which goes to show that the new defence minister has to live down not just the previous government's dismal record, but an even older Indian mindset that thinks national security is the sole prerogative of the armed forces and defence minister is a decorative post.

Parrikar has very little time as the AfPak region will soon turn more turbulent and China will begin to flex its muscles.

India’s Strategic Vietnam Defense Relations

By P K Ghosh
November 11, 2014

India is seeking to counter Chinese ambitions by training and supplying Vietnam’s military. 

India’s courtship of Vietnam is now overt. For instance, during the recent visit of the Vietnamese Prime Minster Nguyen Tan Dung, New Delhi not only laid out the red carpet for the visiting Vietnamese leader and the accompanying business delegation of 50 members, it took the decisive step of overtly acknowledging its assistance in modernizing Vietnam’s armed forces, much to the chagrin of China.

Vietnam has its own difficult history with China. It is not surprising, then, that this emerging country is often seen as a linchpin in India’s counter-encirclement and “Look East” policies. As a consequence, New Delhi is actively courting Vietnam with defense-related offers and infrastructure deals.

Providing impetus to these bilateral relations have been a flurry of senior-level official visits to and from Hanoi. The Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong visited India in November 2013, during which eight MoUs were signed, and Vietnam offered India seven oil blocks for exploration. India already had three Vietnamese blocks, in which the state-run ONGC Videsh (OVL) had invested about $360 million.

President Pranab Mukherjee then visited Hanoi in September this year, just ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India, sending a strong message of unity with the Vietnamese. During this visit seven pacts were inked along with a $100 million in credit for defense deals. This could be seen as a tit for tat with the Chinese president’s subsequent visit to Sri Lanka and Maldives; a region that the Chinese have been trying to influence. The Chinese reacted sharply to Mukerjee’s visit by sending a military incursion into Chumar sector on September 15 – the day the deals were signed.

Challenges in Restructuring the Combat Power of IAF

11 Nov , 2014

The IAF’s capability covers the IOR countries on the maritime side and its principal adversaries Pakistan and China on the landward side. The government needs to finalise the contract for the 126 MMRCA at the earliest to prevent losing its combat edge in quality and numbers. A specific fighter aircraft for precision attacks in the hills should be a high priority while a scientific study to determine its utility for the IAF and the IA needs to be commenced as early as possible. An operations research study must be carried out to determine the optimum numbers of SSMs and Long Range Aircraft. A credible SSM nuclear deterrence is to be developed in relation to China.

The depletion of the IAF’s combat fleet strength has reached alarming proportions…

The general public is fascinated with the combat fleet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) as fighter aircraft, which constitute the combat fleet, are associated with the glamour of fighter pilots – the air warriors of the skies. Yet people seldom realise that these fighter aircraft act in tandem with other weapon systems which form the cutting edge but are not in the public eye! These are the attack helicopters that are designed to perform aerial attack missions but do not possess cargo carrying capability, the Surface to Surface Missiles (SSMs), the Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs), the Air Defence Artillery (ADArty) and the Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) among others. All of the above lend close-in protection to our airfields and other vital assets. These weapons systems come under the term – ‘combat power’ and would include the most important element – the men behind the machine! It needs to be understood that combat power does not operate in isolation; it needs other non-combat aspects which impact on its effectiveness.

The future will bring about the obsolescence of many weapons systems and witness changes in the relationship between India and its likely adversaries as well as the re-equipment of their armed forces, technological innovations or doctrinal changes. This will call for the Indian Armed Forces in general and the IAF in particular to address the problem of restructuring their components. The period up to 2020 will allow predictions to be more realistic. Instead of only a threat – based development, the IAF has chosen to develop its air force as a capability – based one. What, therefore, is the extent of the IAF’s responsibilities?

Areas of Responsibility

Obama’s Deadly Informants: The Drone Spotters of Pakistan

Obama’s Deadly Informants: The Drone Spotters of Pakistan
Identifying targets for the lethal American drone attacks in Pakistan was always dangerous. Then al Qaeda created its own strike force to target the informants.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Half a dozen men sit on the floor in a grimy rented storefront in Peshawar’s crowded Khyber Bazaar. A bottle of locally brewed liquor chills in a water cooler in the corner, a Pepsi bottle next to it for mixing. A Bollywood soundtrack plays in the background. It’s a farewell party for Allah Noor, who has spent the last five years identifying targets in rural Pakistan for U.S. drone strikes.

Noor, as we’ll call him, is tall and wiry. Now in his early 30s, his cheeks are sunken from smoking too much hash. He hasn’t slept in the same place two nights in a row ever since a U.S. drone killed Maulvi Nazir, his former boss, on January 2, 2013. “After that,” he says, “I realized the government is playing a double game.”

“Sometimes I hide in Karachi, or in Rawalpindi, or Hyderabad, or other places. Now I have a visa for the UAE, and I fly out at 9 am tomorrow.” If he doesn’t escape Waziristan soon, there may be a price on Noor’s head.

There is a saying in North Waziristan: the people there are stuck “between drones in the sky, and daggers on the earth.”

Ever since jihadi groups set up shop in North Waziristan in 2001, the region has become a battleground for a war between Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States, and a potpourri of jihadist groups with sometimes overlapping agendas. Some groups, like the one led by Maulvi Nazir, once had a truce with Pakistan, agreeing to focus on toppling the Afghan government and reestablishing Taliban rule there. Others, like the Tehrike e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) vowed to topple the Pakistani state itself. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of foreign fighters—Arabs, Central Asians, even Chinese Uyghurs—flocked to North Waziristan, each bringing his own global struggle with him.

Across the Durand Line

Owen Bennett-Jones 

BUYThe Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key to the Future of Pakistan and Afghanistan by Abubakar Siddique
Hurst, 271 pp, £30.00, May, ISBN 978 1 84904 292 5 
BUYThe Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier by Hassan Abbas
Yale, 280 pp, £18.99, May, ISBN 978 0 300 17884 5 

The conflict in the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands has similarities with other contemporary struggles. From Timbuktu to Kandahar, jihadis, national governments, ethnic groups and, in some cases, tribes are fighting for supremacy. In each place there are complicating local factors: badly drawn international borders; the relative strength or weakness of non-violent Islamist movements; the presence or absence of foreign forces, whether Western or jihadi; and different historical experiences of colonialism. From the point of view of Western policymakers some of these conflicts seem to be more important than others. For the French, the potential fall of Mali to radical Islamist forces was unacceptable, so they intervened. In Somalia, by contrast, the problem has largely been ignored by the West and is mostly being dealt with by the African Union. It was said that al-Qaida must not be allowed to hold territory in Syria, but both an al-Qaida affiliate and Isis have been doing just that, and it wasn’t until earlier this month that Obama announced he’d strike Isis from the air.

It’s far from clear that these varied responses to jihadi activity are the result of rational decision-making. In Yemen, for example, al-Qaida supporters move about freely and plot attacks against the West. Yet although the US has used air power in Yemen it has for the most part left the fighting to the far from capable Yemeni armed forces. But the Pashtun areas of the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands are an exception to the mixed messages. There the West has used every tactic at its disposal to confront jihadis: boots on the ground, air strikes, drone attacks, bribes, social welfare programmes and infrastructure projects – the effort to control the Pashtuns hasn’t lacked commitment. There are, of course, important differences between Yemen and the Pashtun areas. Attacks organised in Pashtun areas – including 9/11 and 7/7 – have succeeded; even the most sophisticated plot to emerge from Yemen, in which bombs were disguised as printer cartridges, was foiled. And it isn’t just that the US was impelled to avenge 9/11. The outside world is interested in the Pashtuns’ poppy crop and their hosting of much of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Over the last century and a half the intricacies of Pashtun politics have been discussed by politicians and their advisers in the capitals of all the Great Powers: it’s Washington that’s worrying today, but it used to be Moscow, and before that London.

A 3-Star General Explains 'Why We Lost' In Iraq, Afghanistan

November 09, 2014 

"I am a United States Army General, and I lost the Global War on Terrorism."

Those are the frank opening words of a new book by retired Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, Why We Lost: A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Bolger continues:

"It's like Alcoholics Anonymous. Step one is admitting you have a problem. Well, I have a problem. So do my peers. And thanks to our problem, now all of America has a problem. To wit: two lost campaigns and a war gone awry."

In over 500 pages, the retired three-star general describes the conflicting agendas that haunted both campaigns, as well as the difficulty of identifying the enemy and the looming specter of Vietnam.

"The bravery and sacrifice of the people that I was privileged to serve with should be saluted," he tells NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates. "And the mistakes, the errors made by guys like me have to be accounted for and explained so we can learn and do better in the event we have to do something like this again."

It's a timely work, scheduled to be released on Veterans Day — a few days after Friday's announcement that the president has authorized the deployment of 1500 additional troops to Iraq.

Bolger tells Grigsby Bates about the worrying signs he noticed at the very start of the campaigns, and why the conflicts were so challenging for the U.S. military.

Interview Highlights

On his earliest hints that the operations might not be successful

What I saw almost immediately was trouble figuring out who the enemy was. We knew within a day or two of the 9/11 attacks that it was al-Qaida, a terrorist network that had a headquarters element, if you would call it that, or a chairman of the board in Osama bin Laden. And they were operating out of Afghanistan.

Myanmar: India’s security takes another knock

11 Nov , 2014

Former Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said that food worth Rupees 44,000 crores was wasted last year for lack of storage space in India including vegetables and fruits worth Rupees 13,000 crores. Why we cannot distribute Rupees 13,000 crores worth of wasted vegetables and fruits to millions of malnourished children perhaps is because we must await a Vegetable and Fruit Security Bill in the run up to the next to next (2019-20) general elections, akin to the much needed Drinking Water Security Bill with still later amendment to upgrade drinking water to ‘safe’ drinking water. But this is not about wasted fruit. This is about chunks of Indian Territory that is being referred to as ‘Low Hanging Fruit’ for easy picking by neighbours, some even doled out and dealt in most perfunctory manner by our illiterate pundits-cum-strategists who without thought to safeguard territorial integrity, even disregard humiliation that the public and the country faces. Of course you cannot expect them to learn even from a country like Vietnam how to muster guts and strategy to deal with bully China when in past half century they failed to emulate Ho Chi Minh in ensuring every household with individual toilet, reducing India to the largest defecating arena.

Myanmar is reportedly laying a border fence that will amount to loss of large chunks of Indian Territory; almost half of the 14 tribal villages in Chandel district and entire Choro Village in Ukhrul district. What has the Centre done about it?

Some years back, a Captain in the Army jokingly proposed that all army personnel should contribute Rupee one every month to the Chief of Army Staff so that he can thump the table and fight for issues rather than eyeing post retirement avenues. Time appears ripe for every citizen and NRI to donate sufficiently to buy a Nobel Peace Prize for the Prime Minister, a Beijing apartment for the Foreign Minister, dwelling adjoining “Shri Saeed” for the Home Minster and a Nobel R&D Prize for the Defence Minister for sinking our military-industrial complex to a state where even assault rifles and carbines have to be imported. Perhaps such donations may stem the pundits dispensing ‘low hanging fruits’ and help build their resolve to defend the territorial integrity of India. No need to donate anything for the Finance Minister. He is already catered for through FDI having brought the Rupee to a historic low and so tells his colleagues there is no cause for worry, for haven’t they accumulated enough black money for generations to wallow in luxury, with enough spare to even buy Tibet from China?

The Pentagon’s ‘nine-brigade gamble’ on Iraq

Iraqi soldiers aim their weapons during a training session with US troops at a military base in Kirkuk, north of Baghdad, 26 September 2010. (Khalil Al-A'nei/EPA)
By Robert H. Scales November 10

Robert H. Scales, a retired Army major general, is a former commandant of the U.S. Army War College.


Last Friday, on a dead news night and three days after the election, the White House announced another surge of U.S. troops to Iraq. Why now? Why so many? And are these enough to defeat the Islamic State?

The answers lie in large part in “ground truth,” the balance of battlefield conditions that ultimately determines success or failure. The Islamic State’s offensive over the summer gave it effective control of all of Sunni Iraq, including Anbar province and cities that run like a string of pearls from Syria down the Euphrates River.

The first tranche of U.S. advisers, along with a feeble series of airstrikes and reinforcement by the Kurdish pesh merga, were sufficient to force the Islamic State to “culminate” at the gates of Baghdad. Culmination is a military term that describes an offensive campaign that has reached its limit of advance. The aggressor can go no farther, but the defender lacks the power to reverse the attack and take back lost ground. It’s a contemporary, irregular-warfare version of what the Germans faced before Stalingrad in 1943 or Lee’s predicament after losing the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

Those examples notwithstanding, a culminating battle doesn’t always end in a reversal of the advantage. After culmination, the side that ultimately wins is the one that maintains control of the initiative and the clock. A culminated force left unchallenged, like the Islamic State thus far, begins to solidify its battlefield gains, potentially turning military advantage into a permanent political reality by adopting and co-opting people, resources and territory. That seems to be the Islamic State’s current strategy. It is a ruthless and diabolical force, reinforcing its victories with the execution of soldiers, uncooperative community leaders and any non-Sunni foolish enough not to convert.

The Chinese Twin Silk Roads – Can India shake off its lethargy?

Posted by Navneet Bhushan
Date: November 07, 2014 

If you have to see the future, look at the map of the future. Or better why not draw the map yourself. If you are the most populous, recently turned the largest economy and the emerging new type of superpower – the People’s Republic of China (PRC) – the map will cost you USD 21.1 Trillion. Just for comparison, the economy of SriLanka for the year 2013 was around USD 67 Billion. Is China serious about it? (On a side note, this has nothing to do with recent phrase in Indian media and social media “are you serious”).

China’s twin roads to Superpower Status

If learning is the key to future, you have to give it to China. Of course, the best way to learn quickly is to copy exactly what the successful people, companies and countries have done in the past. If the manufacturing revival of China is anything to go by, in copying exactly and at massive scales, there is no better player in the world then the PRC. Yet, Chinese revival has a remarkable long term original vision created by Deng Xipong architecture of the new type of superpower by 2050. It was completely focused on internal economic and infrastructure revival till the turn of the century. By 2005, however, the writing was on the wall that China is the greatest “business-country” of the world. Ted Fishman wrote book, “China Inc – The relentless rise of the Next Great Superpower.”

In year 2008 Zakarias’s book Post-American world, China becomes the Challenger to the sole superpower – the USA. He writes, “Americans may admire beauty, but they are truly dazzled by bigness”. China clearly indicates not big but Huge. Recently, Bill Gates twitted a Vaclav Smil statistic about China, “China has consumed more cement in 3 years than US has consumed in 100 years”.

If Chinese relentlessness of the scale, stupendousness and shock are metrics that world has been amused in last three decades or so, what China said in 2013 it will do to the world will leave you astonished completely. China will build the twin silk routes to the west was what was proclaimed in 2013. The map below is the updated plan from the Chinese government mouthpiece.

The map shows the Chinese plan. There are comparisons to the US Marshall Plan after World War II. USA gave close to USD 160 Billion in today’s terms to rebuild Europe after WWII. It was criticized in and out of USA. It was USA’s “save the world with Dollars” plan. Perhaps, the hidden hypothesis in that criticism was the dollars that have been earned by selling steel and materials to Europe for WWII. If the Chinese map above is considered just a castle in the air, have a look at the plan in an earlier map.

China Could Still Build 'String of Pearls'

November 08, 2014

Just because China hasn’t built bases in the Indian Ocean yet, doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. 

Last May in Singapore the Naval Diplomat had the pleasure of getting tanked carrying on a highbrow conversation with Brendan Thomas-Noone, a young Lowy Institute scholar on the rise. You would be agog at the magnificence of Brendan’s mane of facial hair,which rivals even this guy. But that’s not important. What is important is that he’s holding forth over at The National Interest about China’s maritime strategy in the Indian Ocean.
Brendan cites a new report out of the National Defense University that concludes, in a nutshell, that there’s little reason to expect China to seek bases in the Indian Ocean. PLA Navy detachments in South Asia follow logistical patterns similar to those employed by the U.S. Navy for many decades. Rather than have a whole task force put into port, for instance, Chinese combat logistics ships will put into a harbor like Aden for refrigerated stores and sundry items, then return to sea to replenish the rest of the task force while riding the waves.

From this track record the NDU authors conclude that none of the evidence they proffer “supports assertions that the Chinese intend to deploy enough forces in the Indian Ocean to dominate the region or engage in major combat operations with any of its neighbors.” No bases for you, Beijing!

Well, fine. But some things are true until they’re not. As financial planners will advise you, past performance is no guarantee of future results. China’s Indian Ocean adventures have indeed been unobjectionable to date. (Although you might get an argument about that from Indians worried about Chinese submarines’ probes into the region over the past year.) Indeed, we can’t expect China to become joint custodian of the maritime order and then deny it the right to support task forces plying Asian seas. But wouldn’t a team of analysts from imperial Spain’s National Defense University — had such a thing existed — have written the same thing about the U.S. Navy in 1897?

America and Its Allies in the South China Sea: Dangerously Overmatched, Outgunned, and Outranged by China

November 7, 2014 

Three books published this year contemplate Asia's most vexing problem. Taken together, they provide a thorough understanding of the contest in the South China Sea. Still, they leave the reader with one large puzzle.

Asia's Cauldron recounts, in Robert Kaplan's readable travelogue style, the fascinating political and economic trajectories of the nations surrounding the South China Sea. A strategic geographer, Kaplan explains why the South China Sea — which from China's perspective is its “Caribbean” but which a divided ASEAN attempts to keep “Mediterranean” — is so crucial. US$5.3 trillion of trade transits the area annually. Economics underpins Kaplan's insight: the divergent developmental performance of adjacent states has tilted the power balance, and this asymmetry has exacerbated the latent tension of the region.

“Latent” because the rich history of the South China Sea fates dispute. Both Kaplan, and Bill Hayton in The South China Sea describe the Malay and Indochinese civilizations that plied these waters before and after Christ's birth. Deng Xiaoping asserted in 1975 that the islands of the South China Sea “have belonged to China since ancient times,” but he mentioned only islands, and definitions of “belong,” “China” and “ancient” are disputable. The successive Chinese dynasties had vacillating interest in maritime trade. Soon after Zheng He's final epic voyage the Europeans turned up. By the 1600s, Grotius and Selden were arguing the legal basis for open versus closed seas, a debate that has reopened again over the islands, reefs and waters of the South China Sea.

China Edging Russia out of Central Asia

November 11, 2014

Beijing is continuing to step up its investment in the region, in a way that Moscow cannot match. 

For months, as Russia’s fiscal downturn and economic protectionism dragged Central Asian economies down with it, China has continued to ratchet up investments in the region. Slowly, methodically, Beijing has surpassed Russia as the region’s most substantive trading partner. Moreover, China has managed to wrangle a chokehold on Central Asian gas through its expanding China-Central Asia pipeline matrix. Not only will the pipeline network soon be providing at least 40 percent of China’s imported gas, but Central Asian gas exports to Russia – the traditional destination for the region’s gas –have dropped nearly 60 percent since the pipeline first came online in 2009, including a 74 percent collapse from Turkmenistan.

Under the dual “March Westward” and “Silk Road Economic Belt” policies, China has effectively boxed Russia out as the region’s preferred economic partner. And now, after the latest round of proposed investments, this reality has become that much starker – and Western media is finally starting to take notice.

In an article titled “Putin is Losing Out to China in Central Asia’s Latest ‘Great Game,’” Bloomberg details the means and mechanisms with which Beijing has managed to redirect Central Asia’s economic trajectory from its former colonizer to a new patron. Among the instruments with which Beijing has cultivated Central Asian relations is a new $16.3 billion fund “to finance railways, roads, and pipelines across Central Asia.” While specific projects within this fund’s purview have not yet been detailed, the fund, managed by Chinese policy banks, will help enhance the proposed resuscitation of former Silk Road routes.

Japan Has Not Recognized Senkaku Island Dispute

November 11, 2014

Japan has not recognized a territorial dispute exists with China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. 

In four point statements released concurrentlybetween Japan and China on Friday, Tokyo appeared to cave on Beijing’s key demand that Japan recognize there is a territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

Not so, a Japanese official tells The Diplomat.

“We did not give in to the Chinese demand of acknowledging the existence of a territorial dispute over the Senkakus,” the Japanese official tells The Diplomat by email.

The Japanese English-language translation of the statement reads: “Both sides recognized that they had different views as to the emergence of tense situations in recent years in the waters of the East China Sea, including those around the Senkaku Islands.”

This sentence was crafted “very carefully written” the official explains. “We did not recognize any difference on our positions over the Senkakus, we acknowledged that we have different views of the cause of the tension” in the East China Sea.

Specifically, Japan believes that “Chinese provocative activities” are the cause of the tensions, while Beijing presumably blames the tensions on Japan. Regardless, the Japanese official writes, “sovereignty is not mentioned precisely” to avoid giving the impression that Japan is recognizing China’s claim of sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, which Beijing refers to as the Diaoyu Islands.

Russia and China Modernizing Their Nuclear Forces While U.S. Nuclear Stockpile Continues to Age

W.J. Hennigan and Ralph Vartabedian
November 11, 2014

As U.S. nuclear arsenal ages, other nations have modernized

As Russian forces were drawing back from a swift and violent incursion into Ukraine this fall, Moscow was delivering another powerful military statement many miles to the north.

A new 40-foot Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of delivering an unparalleled 10 nuclear warheads, was launched by a Russian navy submarine on a test run over the icy White Sea. The weapon was a clear signal to the world that as Russia battles tightening economic sanctions intended to block Moscow’s aggressive posturing on NATO’s frontiers, President Vladimir Putin has another card to play.

"I want to remind you that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations," Putin declared earlier this year at a state-sponsored youth camp. He reinforced the message last month, inviting the world to "remember what consequences discord between major nuclear powers could bring for strategic stability."

The debate over how to modernize America’s aging nuclear forces has taken on increasing urgency with the emergence of a newly assertive Russia and a new generation of nuclear powers with increasing technological sophistication.

North Korea, Pakistan and India all are working quickly to improve their nuclear arsenals and delivery systems. By next year, China is expected to be capable of delivering a nuclear strike anywhere in the continental U.S. for the first time in its history — a threat that Russia has posed for decades.

While the nuclear confrontation between the United States and Russia cooled off after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, it has never ended. Indeed, the long-held hope for continual reductions in nuclear forces now seems unattainable, nuclear arms analysts say. For the first time in years, the U.S. and Russia each have increased the number of nuclear warheads deployed over the latest six-month monitoring period — the U.S. by 57 additional weapons and Russia by 131.

The Fractious Ukrainian Rebel Army and Its Warlord Bosses

Ukraine Rebels: a Disunited Front Run by Warlords

Associated Press, November 11, 2014
In this Wednesday Nov. 5, 2014 photo, a statue of the Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin with a grenade launcher fixed in a hand is situated at one of the Cossacks check-points at Miusinsk, Eastern Ukraine. As armed pro-Russian separatists were seizing… View Full Caption 

They don’t call Nikolai Kozitsyn “Daddy” for nothing. In this rebel-held eastern Ukrainian town, the mustachioed Cossack lords it over the locals and pays little heed to the bosses of the breakaway movement.
Patches of Ukraine’s depressed industrial basin in the east — in the throes of a pro-Russian separatist insurgency — have fallen under the control of such warlords, who run towns as their personal fiefdoms.

Accountable seemingly to nobody, except perhaps Russia, these domains are a further destabilizing element in a six-month conflict that has left more than 4,000 dead and displaced a million.
Kozitsyn, a stocky 58-year old Russian who says he has fighting experience in Yugoslavia and in several conflicts across the former Soviet Union, rules over the town of Perevalsk with a stern hand. Capital punishment is a necessary deterrent to crime in unruly times, Kozitsyn told The Associated Press in an interview at his headquarters, situated in a gloomy 1950s neo-classical building known as the House of Culture.

"It has had a positive effect," he said. "We have no marauding, no burglaries or car-jacking."

But it’s not clear whether such tough talk is mere bravado, for Kozitsyn demurs when pressed on whether any executions have actually been carried out. “People here have a quiet and simple life,” he said, when pressed on the matter.
Wooden ammunition crates are stacked up in front of the windows of Kozitsyn’s sparse office. Behind him hang portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Kremlin chief of staff Vladislav Surkov — renowned for being the eminence grise of the Moscow leadership.