20 December 2014

Enemy at the gates

Abhijit Bhattacharyya

It was a chance meeting in 2013 with one Lieutenant Colonel Sankalp Kumar in a defence institute library that understandably led us to an animated discussion on Pakistan, jihad,terror. One vividly recalled the gist of our conversation after seeing on television the body of that bright, young officer of the Indian army on the funeral pyre. Late Sankalp had put across some very simple and matter-of-fact questions, the answers to which I could perhaps dare suggest, but never pass on, to the Indian establishment headed by the popularly and jocularly termed "Delhi gang". This is a minority Indian elite group, constituting the "exclusive club members of aman ki asha" - a few establishment hand-picked peaceniks with deep-rooted Indo-Pakistan business interests (even at the cost of the unity and integrity of the Indian nation); the "legendary Lahore lovers" (for whom Lahore is the mid-point of the universe); the "guided" (should one say misguided?) tourists who swear by the "charm offensive" hosts serving biryani, gosht and kebabs of "exotic Lahori bazaars"; a few retired diplomats, handful of ex-generals and "club class" intellectuals - openly meeting Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai 26/11 attacks (and following it up with a press conference declaring how "fruitful" the meeting has been). All of them have the best of intentions, no doubt. But nobody has the wherewithals to implement the "lofty theory into lovely practice". Why? Because, for these well-intentioned Indians, 21st century is the era of "international interest", in which "national interest" at best comes as a footnote.

A few sample questions posed by the late soldier re-surfaces and crosses one's mind. "Sir, why do we not understand and analyse the psyche of the Pakistanis? Why is our establishment so namby-pamby and shy of planning and executing suitable counter-covert operations to nip the enemy in the bud? Why are we destroying the morale of our forces by tying their hands behind their back when Pakistani elements have penetrated deep into our soil? Why is our own government so pro-Pakistan when the whole world knows and avoids the terrorist State of Pakistan and the nationals thereof as potential terrorists? Are our leaders serving India or the enemy Pakistan?" There were some more penetrating analysis by the youngster which one rarely hears even from civil service officers dealing with the subject from the high tables of diplomacy in air-conditioned rooms. It transpired that the young officer had experienced bullet injuries and long hospitalization and that he did not mind facing the enemy in the battlefield once again.

Unfortunately, the true soldier that Sankalp was, he did not "face" the enemy in the battle field. Instead, he had to deal with the religious jihadists, allegedly recruited and trained by the Pakistan government-army-ISI-religious heads/fanatics combine to crush India. The true colours of Pakistan emerges through the utterances of Hafiz Saeed of Jama'at-ud-Da'wah on December 5, 2014: "Pakistan was not created to befriend India or to promote secularism. We created Pakistan for Shariat (Islamic rule). This is our destiny. We will continue supporting... our Muslim brothers... India is our enemy, not friend." What profound honesty and candour of the terror mastermind and hatemonger! In contrast, what a remarkable deaf-dumb and blind policy and lack of understanding and plan of action on the part of the government of India over the years! So much so that it is open knowledge that at least two pro-Pakistan prime ministers of India, wittingly or unwittingly, willingly or unwillingly, destroyed the assets of the nation to counter the threat emanating from our western neighbourhood. A sizeable number of "elite" Indians also appear to suffer from a short memory owing to the fact that no government of India was either capable or competent enough to take sovereign decisions about its core national interests for 25 years (from 1989 to 2014) because of coalition politics in which the chariot of the State had too many horses pulling in different directions, with the chariot driver looking helpless and doing nothing other than maintaining his exalted seat. Consequently, irreparable damage has already been inflicted on the State, as can be seen from the posturings of a universally acknowledged terror-epicentre, Pakistan.

The slips are showing - To be civilized, a democracy needs education


Sunanda K. Datta-Ray 

An elderly Westernized woman who worked closely with Lady Mountbatten in Delhi told me once how horrified both women were during a boat ride with Jawaharlal Nehru when he leant over the side and, scooping up a handful of water, splashed it on his face and head. They saw it as clear evidence of the creator of modern India subordinating hygiene to primitive faith.

Others, too, have recounted such incidents. Nirad C. Chaudhuri hinted that Nehru was not unaware of the havans performed for his welfare. When the British journalist, James Cameron, described Nehru peeling and feeding him apples at breakfast, it sounded suspiciously like the increasingly common ritual of stuffing a laddoo into someone's mouth in token of goodwill. So, Bharatiya Janata Party politicians who imagine they achieved a tremendous coup by whipping out a letter in which Nehru wanted Rajiv Gandhi's horoscope cast should think again. Andre Malraux's description of Nehru as an "un-English English gentleman" was a reminder that Macaulay was less successful than he imagined in reinventing the educated Indian. Like millions of others who are "exiled at home" (in the words of Ashis Nandy - a definition that must surely also apply to the author?), Nehru reflected the still continuing tussle between instinct and reason. Without that resistance, India might have been engulfed in the obscurantism that Churchill predicted would be inevitable after Independence and of which there are now many dangerous signs.

It might be wrong to call Narendra Modi's government the active agent of this drift; on the contrary, it is credited with persuading a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh organization to abandon plans for a December 25 conversion ceremony in Aligarh. But would the group have dared to hold the recent Operation Dharam Parivartan to convert 57 Agra families if the BJP hadn't been in power? Or the Hindu Mahasabha demanded Nathuram Godse's statues in all cities? Many other such events can be traced to the expectation of official patronage from a government that has not dispelled the perception that it is committed toHindutva. Decisive action to upgrade the infrastructure and rationalize land and labour laws would help to project a more modern image. All we have now are PR gimmicks. Without being the willing agent of retrograde change, the BJP can be the unwitting catalyst of changes that reflect a shift whose manifestation is religious but which is inherent in universal adult suffrage in a country where even those who pass for literate are so often virtually illiterate.

The final frontier of Hindutva?

December 20, 2014 

Photo: The HinduMAKING INROADS: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has found a new mission in capturing political power in Jammu and Kashmir and is undoing whatever little is left of the State’s special status.” Picture shows him at an election rally in Srinagar.

Would Kashmir be the crown of Indian democracy or a frontier of the clash of civilisations, which the Sangh Parivar believes in?

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s aggressive foray into Jammu and Kashmir politics in the current election suggests that it sees the State — the only Indian State with a Muslim majority — as the final frontier of Hindutva politics. “A Hindu Chief Minister in the State is part of our imagination though we will be careful” — that is how an activist of the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), who did not want to be named, responded when questions pertaining to their agenda in the State were asked.

BJP strategists list three factors to claim that its line on Kashmir is working: the best ever electoral turnout, the lowest impact of militancy and the best performance of the BJP, particularly its outreach into the Valley. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Srinagar on December 8 had modest crowds, but it was an act of daring for a Hindu nationalist party to organise one in the Valley. Mr. Modi stood on the dais without the protection of a bulletproof enclosure.

For the time being, the BJP is content with a triumphalist narrative of the wide participation in the State election as a victory of India, and a warning to Pakistan and separatists. These points are easily contestable and Ayesha Pervez (“Interpreting the Kashmiri vote,” The Hindu, December 13) has listed multiple reasons for the increased participation. A senior official in the State government said voting in Jammu and Kashmir could also be the result of a sense of dispossession and powerlessness.

“The Modi-Amit Shah combine has reduced the ‘Kashmir question’ into one of ‘development’ in their mercantile approach to politics — that money can buy everything”

Obama warns North Korea over Sony hack: 'We will respond'

Dec 20, 2014

Obama, addressing reporters after the FBI said Pyongyang was to blame, said Washington would never bow to "some dictator" but admitted he believed Sony had erred in pulling the film.

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama on Friday warned North Korea it would face retaliation over a cyber attack on Sony Pictures and pledged not to bow to dictators, as an envoy for Pyongyang denied involvement. 

Threats issued after the November attack prompted the movie giant to cancel the Christmas Day release of "The Interview," a madcap satire about a CIA plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. 

The anonymous hackers invoked the memory of September 11, 2001 in threatening attacks on cinemas screening the film, prompting major theater chains to say they would not screen it. 

In addition to the threats, Sony has seen the release of a trove of embarrassing emails, scripts and other internal communications, including information about salaries and employee health records. 

Obama, addressing reporters after the FBI said Pyongyang was to blame, said Washington would never bow to "some dictator" but admitted he believed Sony had erred in pulling the film. 

"We will respond. We will respond proportionately and we'll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose," Obama said. 

"I'm sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake," he said. 

"We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States." 

Earlier, the FBI said it "now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions." 

"Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior," the agency said in a statement. 

A Sony source had told AFP that the studio also believes Pyongyang was behind the attack. 

Pyongyang's mission to the United Nations, however, denied any involvement. 

"Our country has no relation with the hacker," North Korean political counselor Kim Song told AFP. 

The attackers used malware to break into the studio and render thousands of Sony Pictures computers "inoperable," forcing the company to take its entire network offline, the FBI said. 

Peshawar attack mastermind — a volleyball player, child killer

Dec 19, 2014

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban claims responsibility of attack

DERA ISMAIL KHAN (Pakistan): The most hated man in Pakistan is a 36-year-old father of three and volleyball enthusiast nicknamed "Slim".

His real name is Umar Mansoor and the Pakistani Taliban say he masterminded this week's massacre of 132 children and nine staff at a school in Peshawar - the deadliest militant attack in Pakistan's history.

A video posted on Thursday on a website used by the Taliban shows a man with a luxuriant chest-length beard, holding an admonishing finger aloft as he seeks to justify the December 16 attack. The caption identified him as Umar Mansoor.

"If our women and children die as martyrs, your children will not escape," he said. "We will fight against you in such a style that you attack us and we will take revenge on innocents."

The Taliban say the attack, in which gunmen wearing suicide-bomb vests executed children, was retaliation for a military offensive carried out by the Pakistani army. They accuse the military of carrying out extrajudicial killings.

The accusation is not new. Many courts have heard cases where men disappeared from the custody of security services. Some bodies have been found later, hands bound behind the back and shot in the head, or dismembered and stuffed into sacks.

This photo released by the Taliban show 6-7 men carrying guns in front of a white banner.

Some security officials say privately the courts are so corrupt and afraid, it is almost impossible to convict militants.

"You risk your life to catch terrorists and the courts always release them," said one official. "If you kill them then they don't come back."

The country is so inured to violence that the discovery of such bodies barely rates a paragraph in a local newspaper. Despite this, the school attack shocked a nation where traditionally, women and children are protected, even in war.

Six Pakistani Taliban interviewed by Reuters confirmed the mastermind was Mansoor. Four of them said he is close to Mullah Fazlullah, the embattled leader of the fractious group who ordered assassins to kill schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai.

"He strictly follows the principles of jihad," one said. "He is strict in principles, but very kind to his juniors. He is popular among the juniors because of his bravery and boldness."

Pakistani Taliban jihadists at their hideout in Bader, Northwest Frontier Province, Pakistan.

Mansoor got a high school education in the capital, Islamabad, two Taliban members said, and later studied in a madrassa, a religious school.

***A Conditional Caliphate : Mahatma Gandhi’s Short-Lived Support for an Islamic State

DECEMBER 16, 2014

In an effort to unite Muslims and Hindus, Mahatma Gandhi gave his support to the growing Caliphate movement in India. (Wikimedia)

Lost in the outcry over the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS) recent declaration of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria is the fact that Mahatma Gandhi was the first modern leader to demand a caliphate for Muslims. In 1919, determined to unite Hindus and Muslims to challenge British rule, Gandhi formed an alliance with a range of Muslim leaders—from clerics to Oxbridge graduates to poets and businessmen—in an aptly named Khilafat, or Caliphate, movement.

Gandhi did not actually believe in a caliphate. His support was tactical. He reached out to Indian Muslims at a moment when they were vulnerable. They were struggling with uncertainty over their fate after the collapse of the Mughal dynasty in 1857, as well as with the despair they felt after the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. The Ottoman caliphate had been the last symbol of Islamic power, and after its defeat, all Muslim lands were either a European colony or under occupation. Even the holy cities of Mecca and Medina had been lost. Therefore, for Indian Muslims, the caliphate became an ideal more powerful in memory than it had ever been in reality. A mournful lament—"Islam in danger!"—morphed into a powerful war cry.

Gandhi, a devout Hindu, had consistently maintained that politics without religion was immoral. He saw nothing wrong with the Muslims’ emotionally charged expressions of faith as a vehicle for protest. He did, however, force Muslim leaders to accept two conditions in exchange for his allegiance: nonviolence and his undisputed authority as the "dictator" of the whole independence movement. (At the time, the term "dictator" was still associated with its original meaning of dictation.) Gandhi famously took orders from only one source: his own conscience. India's Khilafat movement, which was folded into Gandhi’s campaign for non-cooperation, thus became the only jihad in history that was both nonviolent and led by an "infidel." 

But as the tempo of mass mobilization picked up, passions rose. Violence entered the Muslim rhetoric and, eventually, practice. In 1921, at the height of Gandhi's movement, which involved nonviolent forms of civil disobedience against the British Raj, a rogue group of Muslims attempted to establish a small caliphate in southern India. They killed or forcibly converted hundreds of Hindus. The British put down the uprising, but the cost was high: 2,337 Islamic rebels were killed and 45,404 were sent to prison.

Modi must moderate the Sangh

Manoj Joshi
18 December 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power riding on the crest of a wave of nationalism. Across the country, and, indeed, the world, Indians rallied to him as the person who would cut through the divisions of the past, fight corruption, energise India's foreign policy and provide the impetus to economic growth that would make India great again. 

The PM's and his government's agenda have been unexceptional: push economic growth; transform the infrastructure of the country; bring about a social transformation that will make India a nation of better educated, highly-skilled people with clean streets and a good environment. 

But this agenda appears to be in danger of being drowned out by a cacophony of voices from Hindutva organisations, with ideas that seek to not only divide the country, but to take it to a place which they think existed in the mythical past. Where the PM is emphasising a "new nationalism", the Hindutva outfits insist on what can politely be termed "cultural nationalism." 


Having bested the Opposition parties at the hustings, Modi is finding his real headaches are coming from within the Sangh Parivar. This extensive family includes the parent Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh and autonomous organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, along with a clutch of organisations that pop up in these times like the Dharm Jagran Samiti and the various cow protection organisations. 

The RSS agenda is well known and strongly articulated by its leader Mohan Bhagwat - that India is a Hindu nation and Hindutva is its identity. The other organisations have taken up issues ranging from conversion and genetically modified food, to Hindu girls allegedly being seduced by Muslim boys in a "love jihad." 

Lending colour to all this are people like Dina Nath Batra and the new ICHR chief Y Sudarshan Rao, whose ideas of history are based more on imagination than fact, and plain kooks who believe that the Taj Mahal was a Shiv temple, that ancient Hindus cloned humans and developed nuclear weapons or that Gandhi's assassin was a patriot of some kind. 

Their Hindutva upsurge arises from a sense of triumph in the Sangh Parivar based on Narendra Modi's election victory. They are now convinced that the time has finally come to put in place the agenda they have collectively been pushing for the past century. 

Two Days After School Attack, Pakistan Court Lets Terrorists Walk Free

Chris Allbritton

Calls to hang terrorists in Pakistan will accomplish little. They’re rarely convicted anyway.

It’s been a rough week for Pakistan. On Tuesday, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistani Taliban) attacked a school for the children of army officers, killing at least 141 people, among them 132 kids.

Many commenters, including me, said this was a tragic example of chickens coming home to roost—that Pakistan’s decades-long strategy of playing both sides in the war on terror and thinking it could control brutal Islamic militants was unsustainable.

Despite the attack uniting ordinary Pakistanis in grief and fury, Pakistan’s government did little to dispel a reputation for ineptitude and duplicity. The day after the school attack, Pakistan reinstated the death penalty for terrorism. However, on Thursday, two days after one of the most brutal terrorist attacks in memory, a Pakistani anti-terrorism court granted bail to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, one of the organizers of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people.

From afar, it certainly appears Pakistan follows a terrorism for thee, but not for me approach. If it’s attacks on Indians and foreigners, that’s regrettable but not Pakistan’s problem. If it’s an attack on Pakistanis, that’s terrorism. But it’s not that simple.
Since 2007, more than 2,000 terrorism suspects have been acquitted and released.

How the Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan is being Funded?

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its latest Afghanistan Opium Survey 2014 suggests that poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has hit an all-time high in 2014. It was estimated at 224,000 hectares in 2014, a 7% increase from the previous year, surpassing the previous high of 209,000 hectares of poppy in 2013.

The international community is concerned about prospects of its impact on future funding of the Taliban, as the Afghans are growing more poppy today than at any point of time in modern history. The survey identified a clear link between insecurity and the rise in the opium cultivation, as the vast majority (89 per cent) of the opium cultivation is taking place in nine Afghan provinces in the southern and western regions, the most insecure in the country. The Chief of Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Spoko underlined that the narcotics trade not only poisons the Afghan financial sector and undermines the Afghan state's legitimacy by stoking corruption, but is also providing significant financial support to the Taliban.

The course of any insurgent movement is contingent upon a number of elements-primarily, the organisational strength, leadership and most importantly finance, besides ideology. At one level, all these factors are inseparably interlinked and determine the success or failure of the movement. The Taliban insurgency is one such movement posing a direct threat to the national security of Afghanistan. And the role of poppy cultivation and opium production in financing and sustaining Taliban insurgent movement in Afghanistan, cannot be ignored.

The insurgency and the opium economy

The Taliban movement in Afghanistan had never been short of sources of fund to budget its insurgency. These include donations from charities and individuals from Gulf States, Hawala networks, extortion, protection money from convoys seeking to resupply international forces in Afghanistan, smuggling of goods, and various other illicit activities like kidnapping. However, income from narcotics production and trafficking is the one of the biggest fund raising source for Taliban.

In 2000-2001, the Taliban had declared poppy cultivation illegal. Counter-narcotics expert Vanda Felbab-Brown explicates it as an attempt to appease the international community, to buy recognition as a legitimate government, boost opium prices, and possibly also consolidate its control over Afghanistan's drug trade. Since 2001, when Taliban government was ousted from power; Taliban promoted poppy cultivation and started levying a ‘tax’ on opium farmers. The income generation sources of Taliban are: money lending and charges on opium farmers, lab processing and trafficking and charges on protection and drugs transportation.

The future of China-Pakistan relations

December 2014

THE dropping of Pakistan from Chinese President Xi Jinping’s travel itinerary for South Asia in mid-September 2014 prompted speculation in some quarters that it was indicative of a dilution in China’s ‘all weather’ relationship with Pakistan, described by leaders of both countries as ‘higher than the highest mountain, deeper than the deepest ocean and sweeter than honey.’ While there are undoubtedly some difficulties in the Sino-Pakistan bilateral relationship, such speculation is presently unrealistic. A scenario depicting rapid deterioration in Pakistan’s political stability and security, where Islamist extremists acquire increased salience could, however, cause Beijing to pause and rethink its policy toward Pakistan and South Asia.

Facts are that even a week before Xi Jinping’s visit (17-19 September 2014) was officially announced, the visit to Pakistan had been confirmed and was very much on the agenda. The domestic political scene in Pakistan, however, witnessed dramatic changes and heightened political uncertainty, which raised doubts about the continuance of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the possibility of violence, prompting China to reassess the feasibility of a visit by its President, Xi Jinping. Beijing is usually loathe to alter programmes once they are finalized and, particularly, to give the impression that it does not stand beside a friend going through troubled times.

A high level delegation of China’s Ministry of State Security (MoSS) headed by its Minister, 63-year old Geng Huichang, therefore, travelled to Islamabad to assess the situation firsthand. The Pakistani authorities, and especially Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who was keen on the visit and later expressed disappointment at its cancellation, also offered Lahore and Karachi as alternate venues to China’s MoSS minister, but the Chinese were not satisfied about the security situation at any of these places. The visit was consequently and rather, unusually deferred reflecting the serious doubts that exist in Beijing about the instability in Pakistan.

Within days of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India, however, there was visible demonstration that relations between the two nations remain strong. A flotilla of Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ships, which included the guided missile destroyer Changchun and guided missile frigate Changzhou, paid a 5-day visit to Karachi from 27 September 2014. Earlier, a Chinese Song-class diesel-powered attack submarine for the first time ever sailed to Colombo port, where it stayed for five days overlapping with Xi Jinping’s visit to Sri Lanka and India. In early October 2014, the Chinese Navy announced that it would deploy Type 093 Shang-class nuclear-powered attack submarines for anti-piracy operations off Somalia, thereby raising the real prospect that PLAN’s Type 093 Shang-class nuclear powered attack submarines could regularly begin visiting Karachi in the very near future. This will expand the scope of extant military contacts between the two countries.

Significant in the context of Sino-Pak military ties is China’s growing influence on Pakistan’s military establishment, indicated by the number of Pakistan military personnel going for training to PLA establishments. Their number, at least since 2010, already exceeds those going to the US, which for many years was the traditional source for training of Pakistan military officers. Similarly, weapons sales have steadily increased and between 1978 and 2008, China sold almost US$ 7 billion in military equipment to Pakistan. As China emerged as the world’s largest arms seller with global sales estimated at approximately US$ 2 billion, Pakistan had by 2013 become the largest purchaser of Chinese weaponry accounting for nearly 47 per cent of China’s total arms sales.

China's Quest to Oust Foreign Tech Firms

December 19, 2014

If the Chinese government has its way, foreign technology will be absent from “key sectors” in China by 2020. 

China wants to eliminate the use of foreign technology in key sectors by 2020, Bloomberg reportedWednesday, citing people familiar with the campaign. The goal is to have domestic Chinese technologies in place in banks, state-owned enterprises, key government agencies, and the military.

The Bloomberg report merely solidifies other signs that China was looking to replace foreign technology firms with domestic ones, both for security reasons and as part of China’s push to ramp up domestic innovation in the high-tech sector. Back in February ,at the first meeting of the Internet security and informatization group, President Xi Jinping called developing domestic technologies and ensuring cyber-security “two wings of a bird” – equally crucial parts of China’s cyber strategy moving forward. To be a cyber power, Xi said, China must develop its own technology.

This became an urgent goal for China after revelations from Edward Snowden about U.S. cyber espionage on Chinese institutions. The Snowden leaks crystallized long-standing Chinese uneasiness about over-reliance on foreign firms like Microsoft and IBM for its technology needs. There’s also a growing sense of confidence in China that domestic alternatives are now realistic in a way they weren’t in the past. China released its firsthome-grown operating system this year with much fanfare. Bloomberg’s report notes that the recent drive to eliminate foreign tech by 2020 ramped up after a successful test where Microsoft’s Windows was replaced with China’s own NeoKylin OS and foreign servers were replaced with Chinese-made ones.

China has shown signs of a new determination to oust foreign firms for months. Back in May, China targeted U.S. technology companies in what appeared to be a concerted attempt to lessen their market share. Beijing banned the use of Windows 8 on government computers and encouraged Chinese banks to switch away from IBM servers. Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, and other firms came under heavy fire as national security risks. These moves were partially in retaliation for the U.S. decision to indict five PLA officers on charges of economic espionage, but the Bloomberg report suggests the campaign against U.S. tech firms was only part of a larger strategy. More recently, Microsoft and Qualcomm became targets of a broader anti-monopoly campaign that some argued was a thinly-veiled pretext for hamstringing the operations of foreign firms within China.

For China, the push to replace foreign technology with domestic tech is a perfect fusion of national security interests and economic goals. Part of China’s economic reform involves transitioning away from being a top manufacturer for other global brands in favor of fostering Chinese innovation – especially in the technology sector. The Snowden leaks provided the perfect cover for a concerted push in this direction. The U.S. can complain about overt economic favoritism giving an unfair advantage to Chinese domestic firms, and could even potentially bring suit against China in the WTO. However, national security concerns provide a blanket excuse for China to justify its actions. After all, the U.S. itself all but blocked the Chinese firm Huawei from the U.S. market citing security concerns; China can argue it is simply returning the favor.

China and India: Nationalism and Nuclear Risk

By Ali Ahmed
December 18, 2014

When considering nuclear escalation between China and India, don’t forget the effects of nationalism. 

Following Gaurav Kampani’s recent essay inInternational Security, another paper by the author was published by the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies. This new paper is quite compelling and deserves a close look, especially where he notes two tendencies increasing deterrence instability between India and China. However, there may be a blind spot in Kampani’s analysis.

But let’s start with the first tendency noted by Kampani: As both militaries have entered nuclear strategic decision making – with the Indian military lagging behind by about a decade – there is a push to move from minimal to limited deterrence. This involves, in part, seeking to enhance deterrence by building in options for limited nuclear use. The second tendency is in the negative implications this carries for no-first use (NFU), which is currently the professed policy of both states. This was particularly evident in the now-defunct Indian debate on the expected revision of its nuclear doctrine.

Taken together, the two beget a situation of instability described by Kampani as: “… limited options render deterrence more credible and are more likely to achieve intra-war deterrence … The net strategic effect of these operational changes will be the lowering of the bar for nuclear weapons use in the future.” Kampani rightly notes that there are mitigating structural and institutional features, namely large and strong militaries and balancing institutional pulls from political and scientific establishments, that make for stability.

Kampani’s case is that while “there is reason for concern, the case for nuclear pessimism in the China–India nuclear dyad is overstated,” so can’t we, on account of that stability, leave well enough alone?

To be sure, the two states have considerable depth in both territory and forces, thus precluding the ready or early resort to nuclear weapons. However, nationalism is growing stronger in the politics of both states. Chinese nationalism is being fanned by the nationalist turns in Japan, and this year India elected a nationalist government.

The impact of nationalism on strategic rationality is to force everything towards the hard option. During crises or conflicts, there are also media-induced nationalist pulls and pressures magnifying this force. Of course, this force is further strengthened by both states being on the cusp of rising to the next echelon in power, with China poised to become a superpower and India a great power. The adverse effect of downward movement by either will be taken as impacting its standing. In India’s case this would include its regional salience in relation to Pakistan. Finally, while nationalism in both states can prove fatal, it is bad enough in just one as that would suffice to ensure a mirroring in the other.

China's Military Is about to Go Global

The burgeoning need to protect commercial assets and Chinese nationals abroad will inevitably lead Beijing to develop new military capabilities and take on missions further afield. 

THE CHINESE armed forces are on the move—but to where? For over a decade, academics, policy wonks and government officials have been engaged in a relentless debate about Beijing’s military capabilities and intentions. To some, China is an expansionist country akin to Wilhelmine Germany. Others argue that while China’s assertive behavior in its regional island disputes is disconcerting, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is completely focused on domestic stability and therefore lacks global ambition.

This debate about current Chinese capabilities and intentions is widespread, fervent—and beside the point. While the Chinese leadership would prefer to stay focused on internal development and regional issues, facts on the ground will increasingly compel the CCP to develop some global operational capabilities. Specifically, the burgeoning need to protect commercial assets and Chinese nationals abroad will lead the country to develop some global power-projection capabilities, regardless of its current plans. Even though the Chinese leadership will embark on this path with very limited goals in mind, Chinese thinking on how and when to use force could change once its strategy, doctrine and capabilities evolve to incorporate these new roles.

While the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will seek an increased global presence, this does not mean it will begin fighting major wars and stationing troops abroad. If we define global military power by the standard of the United States, no other country qualifies. Even the second tier of established military great powers—such as Russia, France or the United Kingdom—would probably not be able to sustain major combat operations outside their respective regions. The question here is not whether China would have the capacity to invade and occupy far-off countries, as only the United States can, but whether, like other second-tier powers, it will develop the capacity to project limited but meaningful force outside its immediate region.

Contrary to the extremes of the current debate, the Chinese military will be neither hollow nor a juggernaut. It will be neither a third-rate force confined to its region nor one that will embark on large-scale overseas combat adventures. Instead, over the next decade the PLA will likely develop certain capabilities designed to protect Chinese overseas interests. Personnel recovery, noncombatant evacuation operations (NEOs), and the ability to threaten other countries’ assets to coerce, deter, compel or punish will be some of the main objectives of a global PLA.

Welcome to China and America's Nuclear Nightmare

December 19, 2014

Nuclear weapons will come to loom larger—and perhaps much larger—than they have since the Cold War over U.S. and Chinese military planning.

FOR ALL the focus on maritime disputes in the South and East China Seas, there is an even greater peril in Asia that deserves attention. It is the rising salience of nuclear weapons in the region. China’s military buildup—in particular its growing capabilities to blunt America’s ability to project effective force in the western Pacific—is threatening to change the military balance in the area. This will lead to a cascade of strategic shifts that will make nuclear weapons more central in both American and Chinese national-security plans, while increasing the danger that other regional states will seek nuclear arsenals of their own. Like it or not, nuclear weapons in Asia are back.

For seventy years, the United States has militarily dominated maritime Asia. During this era, U.S. forces could, generally speaking, defeat any challenger in the waters of the western Pacific or in the skies over them. Washington established this preeminence and has retained it in the service of a strategy motivated both by parochial interests such as protecting American territory and commerce as well as by more high-minded aspirations to foster the growth and development of prosperous, liberal societies within the region. Military primacy has been the crucial underwriter, the predicate of broader American strategy.

This primacy is now coming into question. China’s advancing “anti-access/area-denial” (A2/AD) capabilities as well as its expanding strike and power-projection capabilities will present a mounting challenge to the U.S. force posture in the Pacific region—and thus to America’s strategy for the Asia-Pacific as a whole. Beijing appears to be seeking to create a zone in the western Pacific within which the military power of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will be able to ensure that Chinese strategic interests are held paramount—in effect, to supplant the United States as the military primate in the region. The oft-cited DF-21D “carrier-killer” ballistic missile is only one small facet of this much broader Chinese effort, which encompasses the fielding of a whole network that integrates a range of increasingly high-quality platforms, weapons, sensors, and command, control and communications systems. Because of this effort, U.S. forces attempting to operate in maritime Asia will now have to struggle for dominance rather than simply assume it.

The Fog of Law: China's Great South China Sea Dilemma

December 19, 2014

Lawfare is in full swing in the South China Sea. How will China respond to an unfavorable legal ruling? 

Recent months have witnessed an impressive Chinese diplomatic blitzkrieg, with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang feverishly courting friends and foes alike, proposing ambitious trading agreements and acquiescing to various confidence building measures (CBMS) aimed at de-escalating geopolitical tensions in the region. But China’s intensifying legal battle with the Philippines has injected new uncertainties into the picture. What has emerged in recent days is a new chapter of confrontation between Beijing and its Southeast Asian neighbors, particularly Manila and Hanoi. Interestingly, the United States has joined the legal fray by expressing its stance on—or, to put it more accurately, criticism of—China’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea.

On the one hand, there have been considerable diplomatic gains in the past few weeks. To prevent accidental clashes in the high seas and the skies, Beijingsigned CBMs with Washington and green-lighted the resumption of (mid-level) talks between Chinese and Japanese agencies, which oversee security and foreign-policy issues. China has also proposed a defense hotline with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), dangled $20 billion in development loans and offered to host a high-profile meeting between the defense minister of China and his Southeast Asian counterparts next year. Chinese and Vietnamese defense ministries also reportedly signed (an additional) hotline, with both Communist countries agreeing to revive deeply frayed bilateral relations.

The Future of Cyber Policy in China

Joshua Bleiberg and Darrell M. West 
December 17, 2014 

China has ambitious plans to establish itself as a military and economic superpower. In the 21stcentury, neither of these goals are possible without a thriving innovation economy that relies on advanced Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). If China is to transform itself into an ICT powerhouse, the nation must institute large policy changes. At arecent Brookings event, Greg Austin a Professorial Fellow at the EastWest Institute discussed his new book Cyber Policy in China, which addresses the challenges the country will face in efforts to usher in an ICT revolution.
The State of ICT in China

China has numerous strengths that will aid its efforts to become an ICT superpower. For example, the Chinese firm Lenovo is the world’s largest PC manufacturer. China also has more netizens than any other country in the world. Chinese scientists were the first to successfully teleport quantum information between remote particles. And Chinese engineers are taking a leading role in the development of Internet Protocol Version 6. Many of the world’s fastest super computers are in China. Despite these many achievements, however, China has faced some unexpected ICT challenges. The country fell in the World Economics Forum’s Network Readiness Index from 36th in 2011 to 62nd in 2014, despite recent government efforts focused on improving its worldwide position.
Creating a Generation of Innovators

China made a massive investment into universities throughout the country in 2000, so as to develop greater numbers of Information Technology experts. However, the influx of cash has not had the desired results. Approximately 40 percent of Chinese students who study abroad return to their home, which is below government expectations. In some cases, Austin argues that one reason researchers do not come home because they prefer the "social environment" in other countries.

Four Takeaways about the Future of Chinese Cyber Policy 
China faces many self-imposed barriers that will make it more difficult for the country to become an advanced technology society, including the closed nature of the education system and government censorship of the Internet. 
Chinese leaders have a deep anxiety about building a highly-functional innovation society. This is partially fueled by the tepid results of ICT policies over the past two decades. 
China can’t shield itself off from the revolutionary and transformative effects of the Internet. 
The country’s leadership continues to place an emphasis on building China into an advanced information society. 

Asia Isn't Ready for a China Crash

DEC 16, 2014

As China's first full year of rebalancing draws to close, how has President Xi Jinping done? Reasonably well, it seems. Growth appears to be moderating gently, stocks continue to soar and most economists still foresee a soft landing rather than market-shaking meltdown for the world’s second-largest economy.

Next year, however, Xi's team will have to get to the hard stuff: taming an opaque, unwieldy financial system. My question isn’t so much whether China will or won’t crash. It’s whether the rest of Asia is ready for the possibility of 5 percent or even 4 percent Chinese growth, as predicted by pundits like Larry Summers and Marc Faber. It’s almost certainly not.

Historically, hedge funds betting against China haven't done very well. This week, in fact, the government is expected to revise 2013 GDP figures upward by as much as $275 billion, which on paper should help meet its target of 7.5 percent growth for the year.

For anyone who thinks China is operating even close to that number, though, I have two words: iron ore. Even more than the precipitous drop in oil, the halving of prices for these pivotal rocks and minerals -- as well as a 44 percent plunge in oil and tumble in coal and other commodities -- suggests that China may be braking rapidly.

It’s important to remember that however large, China’s economy is no more developed than South Korea's was when it imploded in 1997. The Chinese financial system is less evolved than that of the Philippines and less open than Indonesia's. Beijing’s $3.9 trillion of currency reserves are useful when market turmoil hits, as has happened in emerging markets this week. But that stash is dwarfed by the $19 trillion in credit extended by the banking system since the 2008 Lehman crisis, according to Charlene Chu of Autonomous Research Asia. And remember: China's vast and opaque shadow-banking system obscures Beijing's true liabilities.

Many policymakers appear to believe the worst is over. In the past year, they stress, Chinese leaders have taken bold steps to shift growth away from excessive investment and exports towards consumption and services. But it's a fantasy to think 10 percent growth will soon return -- or even 7.5 percent.

Islamic State: Is it the disease or the cure?

Dec. 12 2014

There is something reassuring about the latest atrocities committed by the Islamic State militants, whether a beheading video or this week’s protocols on how to abuse the women they take prisoner. These are obviously bad men, unsalvageable and inhuman. Many of the core fighters are foreigners – like a foreign virus – so by dealing with them militarily, so the theory goes, Canada and the rest of the U.S.-led coalition are finally applying the right medicine.

Outside Iraq, this contagion theory plays well because the Islamic State is so outlandish, like something out of a horror film.

But what if the metaphor is wrong? What if the Islamic State is not the problem but part of the solution – like a high fever caused by a powerful immune response fighting the virus?

After visiting Iraq recently, I found it hard not to leave with the impression that the West is fixated on the wrong problem, which is just what the militants want. While the world’s attention is focused on gruesome beheadings and gun battles, the fate of the group also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), will in fact be decided by politicians and religious leaders in Baghdad.

This is because ISIS is the result of a long process that began with the American invasion and has its roots, as well as its solution, in the politics of Iraq. Foreign military intervention is, at best, triage; at worst, counterproductive. As the Americans have proved, waging war there is the easy part.

On my way into Baghdad, I met in Amman with a wealthy Iraqi businessman whom I was told lost $200-million when ISIS took over one of his factories in Anbar, a vast desert area west of Baghdad and one of three provinces the militants partly control. It was a big loss, he said, but he’d gotten over it quickly because it was “for the people,” by which he meant his fellow Iraqi Sunni Arabs, many of whom are now suffering horrifically under the yoke of ISIS.

And yet what would ISIS do if he returned to his factory? “They would kill me,” he said.

Later that evening, I spent three hours with Dr. Mohammed Bashar al-Faidhi, spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars, the Sunni Arab spiritual body often said to have been behind the resistance to the American occupation.

Dr. Bashar is an adherent of Sufism, a spiritual movement despised by ISIS, and comes from Mosul, the city whose capture six months ago this week put ISIS on the world’s radar. A fierce critic of ISIS who has condemned it on television, he too would be killed if he returned home. And yet after a lengthy explanation of the group’s origins during the occupation, he spent an hour explaining why he feels that bombing ISIS is not only pointless but will only make it stronger.

Central Asia’s Hydropower Spat

By Elmurad Kasym
December 19, 2014

Uzbekistan’s repeated attempts to block Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan from building hydropower plants are futile. 
Uzbekistan continues its quest to choke its two poorer neighbors’ plans to attain and secure energy independence. During an official visit to Kazakhstan late November, Uzbek President Islam Karimov made sure to bring up the “dangers” the hydropower plants Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan want to build could pose. According to Karimov, the plans are “not coordinated with countries downstream,” i.e. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Flanked by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Karimov said, “We have affirmed our common position regarding the construction of new hydro technical facilities upstream of the Syr Darya and Amu Darya Rivers, which must strictly conform to recognized norms of international law and UN conventions as well as mandatory coordination with all countries located in the lower reaches of these rivers.”

Karimov conveniently forgets his administration bills Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan for natural gas exports. Moreover, said gas is frequently shut off as a means of coercing the two countries, which are planning to build power-generating facilities on Central Asia’s two largest rivers. For instance, Kyrgyzstan has been struggling with not just a shortage but an absence of Uzbek gas, for most of 2014. Because mountainous Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan sit high above sea level, harsh winters create shortages of already scarce electricity, and any insufficiency of Uzbek gas only makes the two countries more anxious to secure energy independence.

From Russia With Love?

Timothy Ash: Putin hints no compromise with Ukraine

Dec. 18, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin during his Dec. 18 press conference.

Timothy Ash is head of emerging market research for Standard Bank in London.

I think that the U.S. warming in relations with Cuba could somehow be an attempt by U.S. President Barack Obama's administration to send out an olive branch also to Moscow – “look, we, the U.S, can live in peace with our neighbors, surely you (Russia) can live with yours (Ukraine). And that we should not view our neighbors as threats, but work to build bridges (but not to Crimea, that is)."

Listening to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s session with journalists, I did not hear anything that hinted of compromise from Russia with respect to the crisis in Ukraine.

Putin evaded the question as to how many Russian troops are in Ukraine, and all the blame was again heaped on the authorities in Kyiv – albeit he repeated the line that he believed President Petro Poroshenko wanted peace. 

I am never quite sure if Putin actually believes this – i.e. Poroshenko is the man that Moscow thinks it can do business with – or that by “bigging-up” Poroshenko as the man that Moscow respects the aim in fact is to sow division and disharmony in the Ukrainian camp. 

Putin must know by now that no Ukrainian politician can now deliver a peace agreement which is in line with Russia’s demands – no NATO, No European Union and No Maidan (revolution) and no Crimea for Ukraine. It would simply be political suicide, and risk a Maidan II, or III, if you count the first Orange Revolution as the first Maidan-style protest.

Could the Great Oil Price Crash of 2014 Be a Disaster in the Making?

December 19, 2014

The sharp drop in the value of oil in the second half of 2014 is just another aftershock of the financial crisis.

Oil prices have fallen by nearly half in the past year, cheering up American consumers who are under the gun due to persistent inflation in the cost of living. Gasoline prices are below $3 per gallon in many states as crude oil has reached a five-year low on global markets. Low gasoline prices mean more money in the hands of consumers, a happy thought if you are a retailer looking at modest sales data for the 2014 shopping season.

According to AAA, the average cost of gasoline is down almost $0.75 to $2.51 per gallon over the past twelve months, a remarkable change over a very short period of time. Indeed, the striking thing about the move in oil prices in 2014 is how quickly the price has changed and how completely this move has caught traders, bankers and energy producers by surprise. While the benefit to U.S. consumers may be very positive, the sharp and sudden move in oil prices is causing chaos for banks, energy companies, global financial markets and entire nations.

The most obvious negative impact from oil prices is seen in energy-producing nations such as Russia, Venezuela and Nigeria. Natural gas prices have fallen more than 12 percent this year. And oil prices have fallen by over 40 percent due to a glut of new supply and weak demand growth in many developing economies. The International Energy Agency has cut its estimates for demand for crude five times in the past six months, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The price of the Russian ruble has declined in tandem with oil prices, raising concerns about whether Russia will be able to service its hard-currency debt. But the decline in oil prices is more than just a supply phenomenon. The lack of growth in the demand for oil, coupled with rising supplies in the United States and elsewhere, has raised concerns in the minds of investors about the overall health of the global economy. Perhaps the leading concern is Russia, a nation largely dependent upon commodity exports for its survival in a financial sense.

"Putin's Asia Strategy for 2015"

Morena Skalamera, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Geopolitics of Energy Project
December 16, 2014

In the midst of a confrontation between Russia and the West evocative of the Cold War, Russia has reinforced its pivot to Asia. With large-scale international sanctions launched against Russia over Ukraine, the ruble has fallen to near record lows and Western investments have disappeared as Russia’s economy is facing zero growth and a likely recession. To add fuel to the fire, the price of oil has fallen below $70 a barrel at the time of writing, with disastrous consequences for an economy where the energy sector makes up 70% of the annual exports and over half the federal budget.

These economic challenges have made President Vladimir Putin more desperate than ever to dip into China’s robust finances. The West has also imposed many rounds of asset freezes, financial restrictions, and prohibitions on purchases of Russia’s widening debt. At the same time, Russian state banks are now excluded from raising long-term loans in the European Union (EU), and exports of dual-use military equipment to Russia are banned, as are future EU-Russia arms deals and transfers of a wide range of Western energy industry technology. Many in the West hope that toughened sanctions will make Putin change course on Ukraine, but that has not been the case. At home, where he is wildly popular, renewed pride in the country has been far more consequential than retaining Western money. Challenging new threats to isolate Russia, Putin has pledged that the country is again realizing its greatness. But the sober reality is that Russia is a deeply troubled nation, both politically and economically. Brushing off the West will only be possible at a huge cost: becoming a junior resource appendage to China.

In 2015, Putin will appeal to Asia’s resources as a part of his foreign policy toward the region. Asian capital markets, including Hong Kong, Singapore, and Shanghai, are not obliged to accept the sanctions adopted by the United States and the EU. Yet in the last decade the share of Asian investors in Russia’s financial markets has been extremely low, meaning that they are not familiar with borrowers from Russia. Generally, Asian investors are also quite conservative and rarely make quick investment decisions, given that these capital markets are less “deep” than the Western ones. Due to these factors, Asian investors will be more prudent with purchases of Russian debt and building trust will take time. Therefore, we should not expect a rapid influx of Asian capital to Russia.

Japan, Asia’s largest financial market, is now part of the financial sanctions that limit international economic ties to Russia. What is more, at the end of September Japan announced a hardening of sanctions, banning the issuance of securities in Japan by certain Russian banks and tightening restrictions on defense exports to Russia. From Putin’s perspective, these measures emphasize the extent to which Japan’s ability to conduct foreign policy independently from its alliance with the United States and overall alignment with the West is limited.

Regardless, left with very few friends, Russia needs to knock at China’s door. Both Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev have taken great pains to emphasize that bolstered cooperation with China is unrelated to the current political situation. A year ago, Russia’s overtures toward China were motivated by showing the Europeans that Russia had options to the East, while it still hoped to reap the benefits of doing business with both. Today, China is Russia’s only option, and Beijing has immediately risen to the challenge by filling a gap that emerged subsequent to the closing of European capital markets. On October 13, a Chinese delegation in Moscow signed more than 30 agreements with Russia, including a deal on the supply of gas through the new Power of Siberia pipeline and a currency swap of 150 billion yuan ($24.5 billion), which will allow Russia to issue bonds in yuan, the Chinese currency, and convert the proceeds into rubles, thereby bypassing foreign banks.