11 December 2014

SIGAR: Major investments in Afghan security at risk

U.S. forces help train new Kabul police recruits to fire the AK-47 assault rifle on the grounds of the Kabul Military Training Center in this 2009 photo. A Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report found that the Defense Department has not accurately tracked 747,000 weapons purchased for Afghan National Security Forces. 

By Carlo Munoz
Published: December 10, 2014

After 13 years of war and billions in aid, Afghanistan’s security forces are “not fiscally sustainable” at current levels, a U.S. government watchdog said Wednesday, raising questions about whether the Afghans can maintain the fight against the Taliban as U.S. and NATO troops leave the country.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, in a new report, also criticized the Afghan government’s inability to curb rampant official corruption and rein in the escalating narcotics trade.

Those findings are at odds with the upbeat assessment of Afghanistan’s military by the top NATO commander, Gen. John Campbell, who spoke Monday at the closing ceremony for the Joint Command of the International Security Assistance Force. He said that Afghanistan’s army and police “overmatch the enemy wherever and whenever they meet.”
The SIGAR report says that more than half of the $62 billion the U.S. has spent in reconstruction programs has gone toward building and maintaining the security forces.

Nonetheless the report adds: “This substantial investment in Afghanistan’s security is at risk … Much work remains to be done to develop and maintain a modern army and national police.”
The situation is likely to get only worse as the current U.S. and NATO mission winds down and as international donors cut back funding. The risks include “renewed civil war in Afghanistan and increased instability in the region,” SIGAR says, citing an assessment of Afghanistan’s security situation by the Center for Naval Analyses.

Syria, ISIS Have Been 'Ignoring' Each Other on Battlefield, Data Suggests

Syria's military and ISIS may be sworn enemies but instead of wiping each other off the battlefield they have been delicately dancing around each other, according to new data exclusively obtained by NBC News.
Both sides in the bloody conflict appear to be eliminating smaller rivals ahead of a possible final showdown.

Around 64 percent of verifiable ISIS attacks in Syria this year targeted other non-state groups, an analysis of the IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center's (JTIC) database showed. Just 13 percent of the militants' attacks during the same period — the year through Nov. 21 — targeted Syrian security forces. That's a stark contrast to the Sunni extremist group's operations in Iraq, where more than half of ISIS attacks (54 percent) were aimed at security forces.

U.S. Airstrikes on ISIS Are Not Enough
"In Iraq, it's a very clear insurgency: them against the Iraqi state," said Matthew Henman, head of JTIC. "In Syria, it's a different situation because you have such a proliferation of competing, non-state armed groups in the country in addition to Assad."

Syrian President Bashar Assad has been accused of encouraging the rise of Islamist extremist groups, like ISIS, in order to discredit opposition to his rule. He lashed out at the suggestion in arecent interview with Paris Match, describing ISIS as an enemy and saying that the "army is winning" its fight against terrorists.

"They both recognize there's a mutual benefit in crushing other groups"
However, JTIC's data shows that his counterterrorism operations — more than two-thirds of which were airstrikes — skew heavily towards groups whose names aren't ISIS. Of 982 counterterrorism operations for the year up through Nov. 21, just 6 percent directly targeted ISIS.

Henman said the figures suggest ISIS and Assad's security forces have embraced the "clever strategy" of mostly "ignoring each other."

For now, ISIS appears focused on emerging as the dominant Islamist, non-state actors and operating in areas where Assad's troops have largely withdrawn. Assad is focused on destroying opposition to his rule from the same groups ISIS wants to dominate — and engaging more in recent months with ISIS as that comes to pass.
"They both recognize there's a mutual benefit in crushing other groups," Henman said. That's because eventually ISIS is going to have to take on Assad's government — and both sides want the battlefield to be clear of other potential competitors.

"It's a confrontation that's coming — and both sides know it," he added.
Just ask Abu Hafs, a local ISIS leader from Aleppo who is intent on expanding the militants' Islamic state —or caliphate.

What is a Caliphate?

"We are not ignoring the Syrian regime but we are focusing on the rebel areas," he explained to NBC News. "You can't jump to step two. You have to do the first step first. To fight successfully against Bashar Assad's regime, we must first take over the rebel areas."
That doesn't mean his fighters haven't directly fought the regime. Abu Hafs said they had "achieved great victories," such as taking over the Tabqah military airport.

"We are fighting for the expansion of the Islamic caliphate area to include all the liberated areas and also the regime areas," he added.
For the year until November 21, ISIS carried out at least 923 verifiable attacks in Syria — an average of 2.84 per day. During that time period, ISIS attacks resulted in the deaths of 4,990 militants — including its own fighters.
Analysis of the JTIC database on a regional level showed that there were 238 counterterrorism operations in Aleppo for the year through Nov. 21 — but just 14 of those targeted ISIS. In the militants' stronghold of Raqqa, there were 22 counterterrorism operations but just half targeted ISIS.

Some rebels suspect coordination between the Syrian regime and ISIS. Yusuf Abu Abdullah, one of the leaders of the Al-Mujaheddin Army in Aleppo, said when his fighters have attacked regime bases, they have come under separate attacks from ISIS. That's forced them to withdraw and battle the other militants instead of Assad's forces.
"Most of the front lines between ISIS and the regime are very quiet — you wouldn't even hear the sound of firing," he said. "The exact opposite is on our frontlines, which are very dangerous and where the fights don't stop for 24 hours."

If ISIS was interested in fighting the regime, he said, they would have gone to Aleppo — a city besieged by Assad's forces. Instead, they chose to fight for Kobani where there is no Syrian army presence.
"Kobani revealed ISIS and showed to the world that this terrorist organization doesn't seek to fight the regime, but is trying to kill the rebels and end the Syrian revolution, Abu Abdullah said.

Signs are emerging that the final showdown may soon be approaching. In the past several weeks, Assad's forces have been stepping up their attacks against ISIS. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had documented more than 2,000 regime airstrikes around Syria in the past 50 days. It said Wednesday that nine airstrikes hit an ISIS regional office in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor.

Inside Kobani: Behind Kurdish Lines as Fighters Confront ISIS

The information provided from the IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center Database was mined from open sources and double-sourced wherever possible to ensure the greatest level of accuracy. It does not include information from social media that cannot be verified through conventional and trusted news sources.

IHS JTIC / NBC NEWS Data on Syrian regime operations against ISIS and ISIS attacks against Syrian government forces.

Wisdom from Doctrine (ADP 6–22 — Army Leadership)

Encouragement and inspiration characterize leadership whereas coercive techniques run counter to Army leadership principles. Subordinates respond well to leadership that encourages commitment to achieve shared goals, thus improving the leader’s ability to use indirect influence in situations where clear lines of authority do not exist. Leadership seeks to influence others through the communication of ideas and common causes. Positive, empowering influence comes by knowing how to lead, relate to others, and free other to manage tasks. — Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6–22 Army Leadership

Two points are worth noting about this paragraph from ADP 6–22 — Army Leadership. 

When was the last time you encouraged and inspired your team? The guidance clearly states that Army leaders are to develop their leadership styles based on “encouragement and inspiration” and that coercive influence is not acceptable. It’s very easy to focus on task accomplishment and forget the emotional component of performance. Truth is, that’s what most people respond to; we all like to find encouragement and inspiration. And it doesn’t have to be the soft and cuddly encouragement; your team likely won’t respond to that. Connect your team to the unit’s or the Army’s history; remind them of the higher purpose of serving; or highlight the long line of sacrifice that others have made. In accordance with ADP 6–22, find ways to create a positive environment…not one that is simply absent of negativity. There’s definitely a difference. 

The other interesting point within the text is that leaders who create trust through positive leadership and shared values create the impetus to accomplish the mission when “clear lines of authority do not exist.” Essentially, this builds an environment where team members excel even when they aren’t required to, which can be powerful for an organization. 
Bottom Line

“Not being toxic” is not enough for Army leadership. Our Soldiers and officers deserve more. They deserve leaders who build their leadership personas on positivity and inspiration, knowing that such an environment will allow their teams to accomplish more.

India and Israel's Secret Love Affair


December 10, 2014 
The Indo-Israeli defense relationship is once again in focus following BenjaminNetanyahu's "sky is the limit" comment after meeting Narendra Modi in New York back in September—and especially after the signing of the long-delayed$144 million deal on Barak I missiles in October. Another milestone was crossed in November when New Delhi and Tel Aviv successfully tested the Barak 8 anti-missile system—a joint project developing an aerial defense system for naval vessels. Moreover, since Modi took power this summer, New Delhi has purchased a whopping $662 million worth of Israeli arms.

So is the Indo-Israeli strategic relationship likely to be fundamentally different now that Modi is in power?
Although Indo-Israeli ties are undoubtedly on the upswing, history suggests that Modi is not likely to have a fundamental impact on the substance of the bilateral relationship.

During the early part of the Cold War, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru briefly considered inviting Israel to the1955 Bandung Conference, but eventually decided against doing so in order to appease Arab and Middle Eastern states. While this carved out India’s Cold War foreign policy of opposing Israel and siding with Palestine, New Delhi’s military ties with Tel Aviv, however modest, began by the 1960s. Not only did Israel provide military assistance to India in its wars in 1962, 1965 and 1971, but Tel Aviv was also one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh following India’s victory in its 1971 war against Pakistan. When the traditionally pro-Israel and Hindu, right-wing, Jan Sangh-led government was briefly in power from 1977 to 1979, Israeli foreign ministerMoshe Dayan paid a secret visit to New Delhi in August 1977 to further expand bilateral ties.

While Prime Minister Indira Gandhi mostly maintained her father’s pro-Palestine position, her son and successor Rajiv Gandhi met his Israeli counterpart in September 1985 during the UN General Assembly’s annual meeting, which was the first such open meeting between the prime ministers of the two states. Indian concerns over the fast-advancing Pakistani nuclear program are believed to have facilitated these improved ties. However, it was not until 1992—after the end of the Cold War and India’s 1991 economic liberalization—that New Delhi formally established diplomatic relations with Israel. Nevertheless, it is important to note that even without formal diplomatic relations, Indo-Israeli military ties existed during the Cold War. These ties have certainly increased in volume since the 1990s.

The Lashkar project

December 11, 2014 

He appeared on horseback before the iconic Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore last Thursday, the beast swaying somewhat alarmingly below his not-inconsiderable girth, to proclaim before thousands of cheering cadre brought in on special trains that it was the eve of the Ghazwa-e-Hind. Neo-fundamentalists believe that the Prophet said the war to establish Islamic rule in India would be waged by an army rising from the fabled deserts of Khorasan before the day of judgement. “The Ghazwa-e-Hind is inevitable,” announced Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), parent organisation of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). “Kashmir will be freed, 1971 will be avenged and the Gujarat victims will get justice, god willing.”

Ever since last Friday’s lethal attack on a military station in Uri, believed to have been conducted by a LeT assault unit, India’s security services have been wondering if bombs and bullets could follow the barrage of hostile words. After 26/11, international pressure pushed Pakistan to force the LeT to retreat. In recent years, though, it has steadily become more visible. These fears are well founded. The unleashing of Saeed is rooted in the existential crisis faced by Pakistan’s army-led establishment. For them, the LeT is a critical line of defence against jihadists who threaten their survival — a lifeline, as it were, that the state hopes to use to drag itself out of a rising jihadist tide.

Ever since 2010, as Pakistan slipped slowly towards a full-blown war with Islamists seeking to overthrow the state, Saeed emerged at the head of a jihadist coalition that cast itself as the defender of Pakistan. In March 2010, a jihadist convention held at Kotli drew speakers from terrorist groups collectively calling themselves the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC). The LeT’s Muzaffarabad-based commander, Abdul Wahid Kashmiri, addressed the Pakistan government: “You beg water from India, whereas we are battling to levy jizya (a tax on conquered non-Muslims)”.


10 December 2014

India has paid tribute to the 1.5 million Indian soldiers in the UK who fought along with British troops during the World War-I.

India's High Commissioner to the UK, Ranjan Mathai noted there were 1.5 million Indian volunteers or active soldiers who took part in World War-I, out of which 50,000 died, 65,000 were badly wounded and 10,000 reported missing.

Mathai was speaking at a World War 1 commemorative event held at the Gandhi Hall of the Indian High Commission here last evening. The Indian soldiers served in Mesapotamia, Egypt and Palestine "Wherever they went they served with great distinction."

The Indians won 13,000 medals including 12 Victoria Crosses. "We are rightly proud of the services of Indian armed forces," Mathai said. The British Minister for Defence Equipment, Philip Dunne said it was a great honour for the British defence ministry to pay tribute to the vast number of Indian armed forces who made the supreme sacrifices while fighting with the British forces.

"The Indian contingent played a crucial role in the First World War. They fought side-by-side with the British forces to make this world a better place to live." He also praised the Indian armed forces saying they are "completely non-political army," and their "valour could never be forgotten."

Lord Karan Bilimoria, whose father had served in the Indian army said,"it is the spirit of camaraderie in the Indian army that wins the war and not the weapons."

Baroness Shriela Flather, the brain behind the Memorial Gate built here for the Asian soldiers who had fallen during the World Wars said "it is extremely important to make the youth to know the sacrifices made by Indian soldiers during the war."

Beijing’s southern moves

Tien-sze Fang
December 10, 2014

It is fair to argue that South Asia had not been a priority for China’s foreign policy, although China has been an observer at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) since 2005 and a strategic ally of Pakistan. However, China’s interest in South Asia has increased considerably. Its fresh bid for full membership to Saarc reflects South Asia’s growing importance for Beijing’s foreign policy agenda.

Chinese President Xi Jinping paid state visits to Sri Lanka and the Maldives in September. Xi is the first Chinese head of state to visit the Maldives since the establishment of their diplomatic relationship in 1972. Maldives President Yameen Abdul Gayoom was quoted by Chinese media as saying: Other South Asian states were wondering how the Maldives could invite a Chinese president to visit the tiny country. Similarly, Xi’s state visit to Sri Lanka was the first by a Chinese president after 28 years. It has now clearly emerged that China is more interested in South Asia than ever.

China’s growing interest in South Asia has been driven by three main strategic considerations. First, with its rising power, China is expanding its influence beyond its immediate neighbourhood, including South Asia and the Indian Ocean. Despite India’s displeasure, a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine docked at the Colombo port. For the first time, Beijing did not keep the stopover confidential. Instead, it termed the episode as “nothing unusual”. That means China is trying to make its military presence in South Asia a “usual” affair. But, like many pundits argue, China has not been deemed a South Asian state. Therefore, its presence in this region has always raised eyebrows. The Saarc membership will serve as a solution since it will grant China a “South Asian” identity, with which Beijing can play an insider role in the region.

Delhi, Dhaka and a new moment

Alyssa Ayres
December 11, 2014

At a public meeting in Assam a few days ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated his government’s intention to pursue the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh. This agreement, developed through close negotiations between Indian and Bangladeshi officials, had been announced in September 2011 during the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka. Sadly, India’s politics got the best of the bill and it has languished ever since. While resolving the border with Bangladesh may seem like a quiet regional development compared with the turmoil in Afghanistan or competition with China, it will in effect deliver a political hat-trick of historic proportions. By resolving this nearly 70-year-old border dispute, India will be able to advance its trade and security ties with Bangladesh. Doing so will position India and its Northeast as a gateway to Southeast Asia. Importantly, it would demonstrate that Modi’s government can overcome even the highest political hurdle and restore global confidence in India.

The border itself, as an article in The Economist noted three years ago, is the “land that maps forgot”. Literal islands of extraterritoriality dot the most complex parts of this border, with around 200 of these patches of land known as “enclaves” dating back to Partition in 1947. It is hard to administer and unfairly deprives citizens of both countries of access to basic services like electricity, transportation and education. For the estimated 50,000 citizens living in these enclaves, regularisation of the territory to create contiguous land will finally allow them lives unimpeded by the anomaly of being engulfed by another country. That will in and of itself deliver humanitarian gains.

Work to no end- The outcome of the NREGA will be disastrous

Ashok Sanjay Guha
December 11

The heated debate on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act focuses on two issues - the scale of leakages from the scheme and its financial cost and consequent contribution to the fiscal deficit. These are largely empirical questions of implementation - but any policy needs also to be considered in its idealized, perfectly implemented form so as to discern its inherent design and logic. Let us therefore assume zero leakages from the NREGA and negligible financial cost without any impact on the fiscal deficit. Suppose that every rupee spent on the scheme seeks out its target with infallible accuracy and is fully funded by a non-distortionary lump-sum tax.

Suppose also that the NREGA raises wages significantly - a result that is hailed by advocates of the scheme as its greatest triumph and one that is probably factually true. In the perfect world ruled by these assumptions, the NREGA would surely shine as the most resplendent accomplishment of the United Progressive Alliance, the most dazzling legacy of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and the national advisory council?

Economics, unfortunately, is too complex for such grand simplifications. The NREGA assures every family anywhere in the Indian countryside of 100 days employment annually at or above minimum wages. It thereby erodes incentives for labour mobility from unproductive agricultural regions to higher productivity employment elsewhere. To each worker, the NREGA offers an opportunity for reasonable wages without migrating to an alien, possibly hostile, milieu, an increase in options that he often eagerly embraces. For him, this is a dominant strategy since he believes, correctly, that he personally can do nothing about the economic environment. But when millions of workers choose likewise, the economic environment is transformed: labour supply for the production of marketable goods dwindles, it 'tightens', in the words of the NREGA's passionate advocates, thus inducing the rise in wages that they celebrate. A possibly unintended - but inevitable - consequence of this 'tightening', however, is a sharp contraction of output, resulting in a powerful impetus to inflation even if the NREGA is fully tax-financed and therefore adds nothing to money income and demand. The NREGA, even a balanced-budget NREGA, imposes an inflation cost on the poor which may neutralize the benefit of the increased employment options that it offers. Since the rural worker was never offered the choice between price stability without the NREGA and inflation with it, one doesn't know what he would have preferred. The notion that the NREGA makes the rural poor better off is a classic example of the Keynesian 'fallacy of composition', the belief that what is true for the individual is necessarily true for the aggregate.

Universal rights and universal violations

December 11, 2014 

PTIDERELICTION OF DUTY: “In India, the bulk of human rights problems relate to atrocities by the police and security forces.” Picture shows members of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons protesting on Human Rights Day in Srinagar.

As we mark the 66th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, disclosures of mass human rights violations have highlighted the need for greater accountability

In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which stands as a beacon for the international community on the standards it should set for the defence and promotion of human rights. The Declaration was drafted over a period of two years on the initiative of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, through members from various nationalities and political backgrounds, including the noted Indian freedom fighter, educator and reformist, Dr. Hansa Jivraj Mehta.

It was in keeping with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Paris Principles that countries across the world, including India, established their respective National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). In India, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was established by The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.Widespread violations

Confronting the right wing

Return to frontpage
December 11, 2014

The rise of the Modi regime has led to a decline of the political, the lack of debate, a blunting of civil society and where the media is tom-tomming establishment approval. The way out is for civil society, social movements and human rights activists to challenge the right wing to an open debate

Every social scientist is doubly a witness, first as a citizen and second as a scholar. As an academic who watches politics, I begin my observations often as a lament, as a bit of nostalgia and then add to them a touch of despair. Hope takes a bit of time to ignite but more because I do not want it to be a window dressing. I see politics as a life-giving activity, and I enjoy and celebrate the cultural life of political debate and difference.

As a witness, I now sense that the grand celebration we call the rise of the Modi era, has led to a decline of the political. There is a decline of the political at the level of information. There is a real scarcity of gossip, which also helps set thought experiments in politics off. Beyond the absence of news, there is an absence of debate. This sense of absence takes two different forms. There is first a lack of opposition. The Left, as a social force, has failed to mount a systematic critique of the Modi regime. This is compounded by attempts by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to domesticate and banalise Gandhi’s teaching. When the RSS talks of Gandhi, it has the historical memory that Gandhi, like Tagore, was critical of nationalism and the nation state. For the RSS, for its Shakha, the nation state is both god and the ultimate good. Its sanitisation of Gandhi has to be seen as an attempt to banalise Gandhi so that he is no longer a subversive challenge to them. The regime has also blunted civil society, equating its dissent on development to sedition.The rise of the RSS

At this stage, where the political is literally somnolent, where the media is tom-tomming establishment approval, what can a Left or liberal academic, with a faith in the creativity of civil society do? In a strategic and tactical sense, he has to challenge the RSS to open debate. If politics is the art of difference, and if politics is in Carl Schmitt’s classic sense the domain — where struggle moves from enmity to rivalry — civil society, social movements and human rights activists have to challenge the RSS to an open debate.

EU says CIA torture report 'positive step'

Dec 10, 2014

This is a copy of the cover of the CIA torture report released by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen Dianne Feinstein D-Calif on Tuesday, Dec 9, 2014. (AP Photo)

BRUSSELS: The European Union on Wednesday said a US Senate report exposing brutal yet ineffective CIA torture of al-Qaida suspects was a "positive step" in recognising the programme's failings.

"The report raises important questions about the violation of human rights by the US authorities," European Commission spokeswoman Catherine Ray said, noting that US President Barack Obama had ended the programme in 2009 when he took office.

"This report is a positive step in confronting publicly and critically the Central Intelligence Agency's detention and interrogation programme."

Ray added that the EU "condemns all forms of torture and ill-treatment, under any circumstances including in counter-terrorism."

But she said she could not address earlier allegations that several EU member states were implicated in the CIA's global anti-terror network, including in the secret renditions of suspects to the US security forces for interrogation.

Asked about the role allegedly played by countries such as Poland and Romania, among others, Ray said the US report made no mention of third countries and so she could not comment.

EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini issued a separate statement earlier Wednesday to mark UN Human Rights Day, calling for the elimination of torture worldwide.

Without specifically mentioning the US report, Mogherini noted that while the UN Convention against Torture was adopted 30 years ago, "torture is still widely practised around the world."

"This demands our urgent attention," she said. The report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee said the CIA had misled the White House and Congress about the effectiveness of the programme which included harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.

It also detailed the use of techniques including "Russian Roulette" to intimidate and humiliate detainees.

CIA report sparks prosecution calls

Dec 11, 2014

CIA 'torture' report out; agency accused of lying, brutality

WASHINGTON: A day after a Senate investigation report charged the CIA with using brutal torture techniques and lying about it, American torment was on full display with the US intelligence community closing ranks to defend its methods and liberal elements raging that such activities are un-American and has brought shame on the country. 

Not since the Church Committee Report in the 1970s that accused the CIA of domestic spying, botched assassination, drug use and other misconduct has the agency been subjected to such withering scrutiny. It has forced the country's top spymasters to lash back at lawmakers acting as the country's conscience keepers. 

On Wednesday, six former directors of the CIA wrote a joint op-ed maintaining that the Senate Intelligence Community's report released on Tuesday "cherry-picked" arguments against the CIA interrogation programmes' effectiveness. 

However, UN experts and the human rights community are calling for prosecution of CIA operatives and other contractors who used waterboarding and other torture techniques. Two Washington-state psychologists who fine-tuned the techniques and were paid $80 million by the CIA for their work have come under particular scrutiny. 

Top intelligence mavens fanned out on radio and television to defend the agency, warning that exaggerated and distorted accounts of the CIA methods were bound to inflame America's enemies and invite a blowback. 

Conservative Republican lawmakers also railed against their liberal counterparts, only stopping short of accusing of them of treason for their indiscretion in releasing the report, even though only a summary of the 6,000-plus page study, with many parts redacted, was made available. 

Even that was sufficient to reveal a stomach-churning chronicle of torture and abuse. Rectal injection became the latest term of discussion at office water coolers as Americans wondered, as one magazine asked evocatively, if the CIA went rogue after 9/11. 

The Senator at the centre of the expose, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who at 81 is the oldest serving member of the chamber, and who has had an uneasy equation with the country's intelligence community, revelled in the spotlight in the evening of her distinguished career. 

Feinstein has ignited a scrutiny that has both damaged and enhanced US reputation across the world depending on where one stands — damaged because of the appalling methods CIA used and enhanced because only in US could there be such a self-lacerating public examination of a national security programme. It is both America's moment of shame and glory. 

How social media is denting the army's image in Kashmir

December 09, 2014

With the increasing use of social media for instant communication, the armed services need to find a quick solution to this new challenge they face, says Nitin A Gokhale.

Fighting a well-trained, heavily-armed enemy is routine for the Indian Army in Kashmir. It, however, appears clueless in the face of an almost daily ambush by warriors of the social media.

While brave troops eliminated six suicide attackers in Uri on Friday, December 5, in less than six hours, the army leadership is fighting a losing battle of perception triggered by a couple of WhatsApp messages apparently sent by junior army officers.

The message, referring to the Uri attack and the heavy initial casualties suffered by the army reads: 'As per reports, soldiers on the sentry duty on the army camp did not fire upon the approaching terrorist vehicle due to caution imposed on them after the Anantnag incident.'

The message continues: 'When (the) Anantnag incident took place last month, the corps commander of the 15 Corps and army commander of the Northern Command had both called it a mistake... Should not the Army Cdr (commander) and Corps cdr (commander) consider resigning for this goof up.'


December 10, 2014

When Lt-Gen Asad Durrani, a former head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, delivered a speech on Afghanistan in London last month, it was hard to miss the note of triumph. Afghanistan, he said, had already seen off two major world powers – the British Empire in the 19th century and the Soviet Union in the 20th. Now a third, the United States, was heading for the exit. For anyone who believes Pakistan’s aim in Afghanistan all along has been to turn the clock back to Sept 10, 2001 – when it exercised its influence over the country through its Taliban allies – it could almost have been a victory speech.

Durrani, who remains close to the Pakistani security establishment, was quick to blame the United States for the many mistakes it made in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. He also found a cause in Afghanistan itself by declaring it “the graveyard of empires” – a worn Anglo-centric trope which says far more about politics than history. (The British Empire not only won its Afghan wars after initial setbacks, but it also flourished after its first invasion of Afghanistan in 1839-42; the Soviet Union was rotting economically from within long before it sent troops into Afghanistan in 1979.) There was no mention of Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban; only of the other side of that coin: that Pakistan alone could help provide peace. It was Pakistan, he said, which had delivered a safe retreat to the Soviet Union by ensuring the mujahideen did not shoot Soviet troops in the back as they left in 1989. By implication, it was Pakistan alone which could help the Americans manage their own retreat.

What was striking was not so much the comments, some of which have been made before by Pakistani officials, but the confidence – all the more so since it came in a speech delivered not to a domestic Pakistani audience in need of reassurance and bluster but in a western capital whose troops had also fought the Afghan war. When Durrani said the Taliban had “weathered the onslaught of the world’s mightiest allies,” was he really talking about the Taliban, or about Pakistan?

Losing Ground to India

Pakistan’s geopolitical successes and failures cannot easily be measured without reference to India, its own Islamist insurgency, and the events of 2001. By most objective measures in that context, Pakistan has fared badly. More than 55,000 Pakistanis have been killed since 2001, including nearly 30,000 alleged militants, nearly 20,000 civilians and 6,000 members of its security forces, according to figures collated by the South Asian Terrorism Portal. Pakistan lost a friendly Taliban regime in Afghanistan to one which was sympathetic to India. Its influence in Kashmir has waned as a separatist revolt against India ebbed and Pakistan’s own problems made it seem far less appealing to Kashmiris. After Pakistan re-established strategic parity and blunted India’s conventional military superiority by testing nuclear weapons in 1998 – in response to Indian tests – Pakistan has steadily lost influence to its much bigger neighbor. Not since 1971, when East Pakistan broke away with Indian help to form Bangladesh, has Pakistan lost so much ground to India. Indeed, the rise of India’s economic and political clout globally probably means its dominant position vis-à-vis Pakistan is irreversible. A nuclear deal agreed with the United States in 2005 effectively recognized India as a nuclear-armed power and firmed up the – albeit bumpy – process of turning India into Washington’s favored strategic partner in the region. This shift will be graphically illustrated whenPresident Barack Obama visits New Delhi as the guest of honor at India’s Republic Day ceremonies on January 26, the first American president to do so.

India’s Cyber Challenge: Indian Mujahideen

By Melanie Schweiger
December 09, 2014

India’s most widely known terrorist organization is the Indian Mujahideen (IM), an Islamic terrorist group. Because of the organization’s close relations with the Islamic terrorist groups Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), its earliest origins are unclear. However, the first attack that was linked to the IM was the Varanasi bombing in February 2005. That was followed by the Mumbai train bombings in 2006, serial bombings in Ahmedabad and Delhi in 2008, and the attack on the “German Bakery” in Pune in 2010.

Most of these attacks involved pressure cooker bombs, bicycle bombs, and car bombs, but rarely firearms. However, the organization does have a trademark: Before each attack, IM terrorists sent emails to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) or government departments, in which they communicated the attack’s purpose. Then, shortly before the attacks, hackers penetrated Wi-Fi networks to cover their traces and make it more difficult for investigators to identify them.

For example, before the Delhi blasts in 2008, IM members spread messages about the forthcoming event by hacking into an open Wi-Fi in Mumbai, aiming to send the intelligence team to the wrong location. The IM has also been known to use cyberspace to gather knowledge, recruit new personnel, and disrupt national security by spreading terror and propaganda online. This has been in evidence recently. In August 2014, the IM wasaccused of helping the Islamic State with recruitment and propaganda. By offering financial incentives and using YouTube videos as a medium to promote jihadism, the IM is using the Internet to attract and persuade poor Indian Muslims to join the fighting in Iraq. By the time of the report, more than 100 young Indian men were reported missing, believed to have gone to the Middle East to join the Islamic State.

Previously, the IM was known to operate only within India, targeting territories with strong Islamic ideological bonds, such as Kerala, Karnataka, the northeastern states bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar, rural areas in Uttar Pradesh, and Jammu & Kashmir. This recent cooperation with the Islamic State suggests the organization is expanding its ties towards the Middle and Far East. In response to this rising terrorist presence online, the Indian government is planning to issue a new cyber security policy within the next six months.

According to Kaspersky Cybermap, India is one of the most frequently targeted countries for cyber attacks and cyber activities. Despite being a global outsourcing hub for IT services and software solutions, IT infrastructure security is poor in India, making it vulnerable to attach. Authorities sought to address this issue by proposing a National Cyber Security Policy in 2013, calling for 50,000 high-skilled security experts by 2018 and stricter surveillance systems.

That was a step in the right direction, but the policy has been poorly implemented and has failed to improve cyber security standards in India. The main stumbling block was budgetary. India’s cyber security budget for 2013-2014 was a mere $7.76 million, a tiny fraction of the 2014 U.S. budget of $5.1billion. According to Subimal Bhattacharjee, the Indian government must at least double its investment if cyber security is to begin to be effective. However, with the government of Narendra Modi focused on other massive development initiatives (such as Make in India), allocating a large share of the annual budget to cyber security looks hard to justify at this point.

Still, the government has taken some initial steps on cyber security: 

Backsliding in Afghanistan

DEC 6, 2014 

No one has sounded more determined to extricate the United States from Afghanistan than President Obama. It is “time to turn the page,” he said in May when he announced plans to reduce American forces to 9,800 troops by the end of December, with a full withdrawal by the end of 2016. That goal appeared to be on track — until now. Mr. Obama’s recent turnabout and other developments seem to be sucking America back into the Afghan war, a huge mistake.

First, Mr. Obama authorized a more expansive mission for the American military in 2015 than originally planned. His order would put American troops right back into ground combat by allowing them to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militants. He had previously said that the residual force would be engaged only in counterterrorism operations aimed at remnants of Al Qaeda. The new order also permits American jets and drones to support Afghan military missions.

The decision by Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, to lift the ban on night raids imposed by his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, could also push American troops into direct fighting. The Afghan special operations forces, which are to resume night raids in 2015, could bring along American advisers, backed by American air support. While military officials say night raids are an effective tactic, enabling the Taliban to be seized in their homes, such intrusions are offensive to many Afghans and likely to provoke a new wave of anti-American sentiment.

Already, the number of American troops to remain in Afghanistan after December has been increased by 1,000, up to 10,800. NATO allies are supposed to provide 4,000 troops next year, bringing the total of foreign forces to 12,000 to 14,000. Secretary of State John Kerry has said that any additional American troops above 9,800 are temporary and are merely covering for NATO allies that are still trying to decide how many forces to contribute.

Pakistan Concerned That India Is Moving to Deploy New Nuclear-Capable Weapons Systems by 2016

Tom Hussain
December 8, 2014

ISLAMABAD — India has embarked on a series of crucial weapons-systems tests that will result in the first deployment by air, sea and land of nuclear weapons by rival powers in Asia, in 2016.

The creation of what military planners call a nuclear theater in South Asia would pit India against neighboring foes China and Pakistan, nations with which India has fought a total of seven wars since 1947. The region comprises a population of 2.8 billion, nearly 39 percent of the world’s people, according to 2014 estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau.

India fought a 1962 war with China and has had six conflicts with Pakistan since attaining independence in 1947, mostly territorial disputes left unresolved by departing British colonial rulers.

The strategic game change in South Asia comes as India perfects its ability to hit targets anywhere in China with nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles and establishes an ability to launch nuclear missiles from submarines.

The completion of India’s air-, land- and sea-based nuclear weapon triumvirate would place it on rough strategic par with China, its major rival for power in South Asia and Pakistan’s key ally.

“The reality of an arms race in South Asia is quite evident. For most Indian decision-makers, it is the China factor that remains the most important issue. (New) Delhi also fears a China-Pakistan axis, and so it feels the needs to be prepared for a ‘two-front’ war,” said Harsh V. Pant, an Asia security expert and professor of international relations at King’s College London, a British university.

China’s Maritime Machinations: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Mark J. Valencia 
December 10, 2014 

Beijing needs to improve its image on the South China Sea. A new white paper is a positive first step. 
On December 7, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a white paper on the “Matter of Jurisdiction in the South China Sea Arbitration Initiated by the Republic of the Philippines.” It is an articulation of China’s legal and political position regarding the issues surrounding its maritime disputes. The paper argues that the questions of territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation are central to the case and that thearbitral tribunal has no jurisdiction over such issues. Moreover it alleges that the Philippines is abusing the compulsory dispute settlement procedures and that it has violated agreements with China to settle their disputes through direct negotiations. 

Whether or not the paper satisfies China’s legal and political critics, it is a significant document that implicitly recognizes existing international law and addresses some of the concerns and criticisms of its neighbors. As such it confounds its more severe critics and moves the argument into the arena of international law – where the issues can be debated ad infinitum. In doing so it enhances China’s political standing in the region. 

China has been taking a bashing by many analysts for its policies and actions in the maritime sphere. Indeed some Asian governments and their nationalistic analysts and media seem to be on a “blame and shame” campaign that demonizes China as an arrogant and dangerous bully. But like many countries, China’s maritime policies and behavior have been a mix of good and bad. 

Unlike the United States, the home of some of the China-bashing, China has joined the 164 countries in ratifying the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). China has not abided by all its provisions but neither have many other states. UNCLOS is young, having come into force only in 1994, and adherence to it, its interpretation, and state practice are still evolving. Some key terms like “freedom of navigation,” “peaceful purposes,” “abuse of rights,” “due regard,” and “marine scientific research” are ambiguous and undefined in the Convention and thus have been interpreted differently by different countries. China has also begun to fulfill its duties under the Convention by promulgating and enforcing – the latter so far mostly in its near-shore waters – pollution, environmental protection and fisheries laws and regulations. 

China has also joined the anti-piracy effort off Somalia. Despite allegations by the U.S. and others, China has not interfered with freedom of commercial navigation – and in fact has publicly endorsed the concept. How it is defined and whether it includes intrusive, provocative intelligence gathering or maritime interdiction are subsidiary issues to be negotiated. 

China has reached a creative boundary agreement with Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin that includes a joint fisheries zone and with Japan in the East China Sea on sharing of fisheries, prior notification of marine scientific research in disputed waters and, at least in principle, joint development of parts of the contested area. It has reached a similar agreement with North Korea although the details are unknown. Moreover China has agreed to an ASEAN Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and is discussing with ASEAN a more formal Code of Conduct for activities there. And when China feels it needs to enforce its jurisdiction and regulations it uses mostly civilian vessels. 

Chinese Bombers and Spyplanes Flying More Missions Around Japan and Threatening Guam

Chen Chu-chun
December 9, 2014

Chinese H-6 bombers. (Internet photo)

Just as China-Japan relations had begun warming up, Japan reported on Dec. 6 that five Chinese military aircraft were observed flying over an area between Okinawa’s main island of Okinawa and Miyako island. The five aircraft are believed to have been capable of posing a threat to Guam, according to a military expert.

Chinese military commentator Li Xiaojian said the jets may have departed for the Western Pacific to take part in a large-scale naval and air combat exercise, in which Chinese naval ships also participated. This also signals that China has the joint combat capability of combining its naval and air power.

Japan’s defense ministry said a Chinese Y9 intelligence gathering plane, two Y8 early warning planes and two H6 bombers had flown southwards over the East China Sea and were headed towards the vicinity of the main island of Okinawa before entering the Western Pacific ocean. They then flew back over the East China Sea. In response, several Japanese Self-Defense Force planes were also assembled to take flight in response.


By Abhijit Iyer Mitra
As Russian President Vladimir Putin touches down in Delhi on of December 10, there is much to be optimistic about and much to be pessimistic about. While all may not be well in the relationship, the problems are surmountable but require sustained and consistent effort from the leadership of both countries.
Perhaps the biggest sideshow, which is of almost complete irrelevance, to the Modi-Putin meet is Russia’s sale of Mi-35 attack helicopters to Pakistan. While this possibly reflects a rise in Pakistan’s standing in Moscow, the Russians are at pains to point out that this is an obsolete weapon system that can be shot out of the air by the Indian Air Force within the first few hours of a war. The sale is just aimed at gaining some leverage, however minuscule, in Islamabad. The problem is that the Indian side has been quick to absorb the triumphalist and mischievous ‘Russia switches sides’ reports, mostly emanating from Pakistan, rather than absorb the calm reasoned logic emanating from Moscow.

This is a problem not just for the public perception of each other’s countries but also for the leadership. Till a few decades ago, India had strong sources of primary news gathering in Moscow, with a large Press detachment permanently camped out in that capital city. The reverse was also equally true. This allowed each country to view the other from their own perspective, unjaundiced by propaganda and views of the outside world – a system that contributed immensely to the warmth that characterised the bilateral relationship.

China's Big Plans for Pakistan

Gordon G. Chang
December 10, 2014

On November 29, Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif broke ground on a section of the Hazara Motorway, which will connect the outskirts of the capital city of Islamabad to China through the Karakoram Highway. The four-lane, fenced road in mountainous Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province will, according to current projections, take two years to complete and cost $297 million.
The groundbreaking move, China’s Xinhua News Agency proclaims, “signal[s] the implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor agreement.” When the Corridor is completed at the turn of the decade, China will have effectively cut Pakistan in two. At the same time, Beijing will be able to use the Corridor’s new transportation links to faster deploy its forces to areas disputed by Pakistan and India.

In early November in Beijing, Sharif signed Corridor pacts authorizing $45.6 billion in projects in his country. Of that total, $33.8 billion is allocated for electricity generation—the addition of 16,520 megawatts by 2021—and $11.8 billion for transportation infrastructure.

The Chinese Century

When the history of 2014 is written, it will take note of a large fact that has received little attention: 2014 was the last year in which the United States could claim to be the world’s largest economic power. China enters 2015 in the top position, where it will likely remain for a very long time, if not forever. In doing so, it returns to the position it held through most of human history.

Comparing the gross domestic product of different economies is very difficult. Technical committees come up with estimates, based on the best judgments possible, of what are called “purchasing-power parities,” which enable the comparison of incomes in various countries. These shouldn’t be taken as precise numbers, but they do provide a good basis for assessing the relative size of different economies. Early in 2014, the body that conducts these international assessments—the World Bank’s International Comparison Program—came out with new numbers. (The complexity of the task is such that there have been only three reports in 20 years.) The latest assessment, released last spring, was more contentious and, in some ways, more momentous than those in previous years. It was more contentious precisely because it was more momentous: the new numbers showed that China would become the world’s largest economy far sooner than anyone had expected—it was on track to do so before the end of 2014.

Chinese shift poses new challenges to India

By Manoj Joshi

China is changing the ways it deals with the world. This could be both good news and bad. At one level this is happening because of an accumulation of events that have taken place over the last five years. At another, it arises from decisions being consciously taken by the Chinese leadership. 

The events of the last five years are well known. They include greater Chinese assertiveness in the East China Sea and South China Sea, and a changed pattern of incursions on the Sino-Indian border, as well as the response to this in the form of the American “pivot” to Asia to reassure its allies like Japan and the Philippines. 

At a speech to a CEO’s Forum during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in November, China President Xi Jinping pointed to the ways in which China is seeking to align the interests of its neighbours with its rise and thereby convince them that it is not threatening. Pic/Getty Images 

This has fed into the Chinese thought processes manifested in meetings of the party brass and plenums. At the “Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs”, a major event held in Beijing on November 28-29, President Xi Jinping called on his colleagues to create a “more enabling environment” for China’s development. What was unique about the conference was the presence of the entire line-up of the top Chinese leadership the Politburo Standing Committee, the other members of the politburo, the military brass from the Central Military Commission downward, ministers, and high officials. 

5 Questions About Xi Jinping, Answered

December 09, 2014

To understand China’s diplomacy, you need to understand Chinese politics. Diplomacy is an extension of domestic politics; misunderstand the internal machinations of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and you run the risk of misinterpreting China’s foreign policy. This is particularly true now, as the interaction between China’s internal affairs and its diplomacy has only intensified since President Xi Jinping took office.
Take the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) Beijing set up in the East China Sea in November 2013, several days after the Third Plenum. That important CCP meeting made the major decision to establish two new bodies: the leading group for overall reform and China’s National Security Commission. That decision can be considered a direct prelude to establishing the ADIZ.

Just as you can’t discuss Chinese foreign policy without considering domestic politics, you can’t talk about domestic politics without talking about Xi Jinping. Outside of China, Xi is the subject of endless conjecture. In this analysis, I try to answer five major questions about China’s internal politics based on what I have learned as a journalist and long-term observer of China’s development.

Question One: Are Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang rivals or partners?

This question arises because many have noted that while there has been a flood of propaganda about Xi Jinping in China, much less attention is paid to Li Keqiang. The difference is especially evident in comparison with Wen Jiabao, Li’s predecessor and a media darling.