23 December 2014

A big, bold invite from Modi

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December 23, 2014

PTI“The fact that Prime Minister Modi and President Obama agreed to hold two summits within a six-month period is testament to their mutual commitment to reviving ties.” Picture shows them in the White House in September.

Barack Obama’s attendance at the Republic Day celebration will signal that the days of Indian obsession with non-alignment are ending

It’s hard to believe that merely seven months ago, speculation was rife that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would hold a grudge against the U.S. for revoking his tourist visa for nine years and keep American officials at arm’s length. The opposite, however, has occurred.

With his invitation to President Barack Obama to be the chief guest at the 2015 Republic Day parade, Mr. Modi is overcoming decades of Indian sensitivity over its foreign policy tradition of non-alignment. He’s demonstrating that he is unafraid of the inevitable charge that he’s leaning towards the U.S.

Aside from marking the first time an American leader will serve as an honoured guest at the Republic Day celebration, Mr. Obama’s visit will also make him the first U.S. President to visit the country twice while in office. During his first visit to India in November 2010, Mr. Obama declared the U.S.-India relationship one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century and reached agreement with his counterpart of the time on a wide range of issues.

Commitment to reviving ties

Unfortunately, it was not long after his visit that relations between the two countries began to stagnate as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh became distracted by a series of corruption scandals and internal disputes within his own party. The fact that Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama agreed to hold two summits within a six-month period is testament to their mutual commitment to reviving ties. Mr. Modi wants U.S. investment to pull Indian growth rates back up and create jobs for the rapidly expanding working-age population. Mr. Modi met with several top CEOs in the U.S. and delivered a clear message about his commitment to economic reform and the creation of a private-sector-friendly business environment.

The visit rekindled U.S. investor interest and raised expectations that Mr. Modi is serious about reforming the economy. The recent cabinet approval of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill and a government pledge to increase FDI caps in the insurance sector will further encourage foreign investors.

But there also is likely strategic purpose behind Mr. Modi’s outreach to the U.S. Building diplomatic, military and economic ties with the U.S., along with reinforcing ties to countries such as Japan and Australia, allows New Delhi to strengthen its hand in its dealings with China, and helps deter any potential Chinese border aggression.

For his part, Mr. Obama recognises that building relations with India is smart foreign policy. India is an emerging economy that provides opportunities for U.S. trade and investment; a strategically important country in maintaining a stable balance of power in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean; and a democratic nation with a large Muslim minority that provides a model of an ethnically and religiously diverse society maintaining freedom for its citizens.

Improving Indo-U.S. ties is one of the few issues on which there is broad bipartisan consensus, which means President Obama will find support from the new Republican-controlled Congress for his India initiatives. In fact, incoming Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain castigated the Obama administration for lack of a strategic plan for engaging India at a congressional hearing last summer.

Deepening defence cooperation

Conversion and freedom of religion

December 23, 2014

While organised events of conversion can incite violence and hatred, the enforcement of a national anti-conversion law, as some advocate, is not the panacea. Besides inflicting greater damage, it would render our rights to freedom of conscience and religion valueless, and derail efforts at achieving a peaceful, democratic society

One of the oft-repeated theories in the wake of the general election this past May was that Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed power by presenting a single-minded commitment to developing India’s economy. In truth, campaigns, in many parts of the country, were intensely divisive affairs. Many of those who canvassed for votes, and who have since been accorded important positions in the ruling party, often trod treacherously beyond communal boundaries. This dissonance, which was inherent in the attitude of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) towards the election, has now grown further, and it increasingly appears that the government is incapable of deviating from what is quite plausibly its real agenda.

As much as Mr. Modi would like us to believe that it is his plank of a developmental model that continues to hold the primary sway in his policies, his stark reticence in dealing with the acrimonious practices of the BJP’s allied groups seems to paint a different picture. The state, under the BJP, is slowly progressing towards more pervasive involvement in matters of ethical choice such as religion. And, the Sangh Parivar has only been emboldened by the attitude of the new regime. Week after week, its agenda of Hindutva has seen the imposition of new and stridently discordant measures. The latest salvo involves the organisation of programmes of “Ghar Vapsi,” for the conversion (or “reconversion” as the Hindu Right would have it) of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.

The right wing and conversion

The Dharam Jagaran Samiti (DJS) — an offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bajrang Dal — only recently announced that it aims to meet a target of converting one lakh Muslims and Christians into Hinduism every year. Earlier this month in Agra, the DJS reportedly converted some 200-odd Muslims to Hinduism. The event came to light after the supposed converts, many of who are among the most impoverished sections of the society, alleged that they had been misled into believing that they would be offered Below Poverty Line cards by consenting to the conversion. In spite of these contentions, the Sangh Parivar remains unmoved in its agenda. According to a report on the website Scroll.in, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has already made plans to mark the 50th anniversary of the group’s founding on February 6 with a Ghar Vapsi in Faizabad next year. Making matters worse, the VHP has claimed, as The Hindu reported, that those Muslims or Christians who reconvert to Hinduism in such programmes would be allowed to choose a caste for themselves once the VHP has investigated the tradition, faith, and culture of the convert’s ancestors.

The Taliban’s ‘alarmingly efficient’ war on education

December 23, 2014

Last week’s Pakistani Taliban attack in Peshawar, which claimed the lives of 141 people, mostly children, was the worst terrorist atrocity the country has suffered. But Peshawar Public Army school was far from the first Pakistani school to be targeted by the fundamentalist militants: according to a comprehensive report released earlier this year by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), a coalition of organisations including Human Rights Watch, Save the Children and Unicef, at least 838 were attacked between 2009 and 2012. Hundreds were destroyed.

As symbols of government authority and, in the words of the International Crisis Group, accused of “promoting western decadence and un-Islamic teachings,” schools have proved a soft target for the Pakistani Taliban in their northwestern strongholds.

According to the GCPEA, many, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the so-called federally administered tribal areas, have been attacked at night, blown up or razed to the ground with small, improvised bombs set with timers. Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission reported more than 500 schools damaged or destroyed in this way in 2009 alone. But several have also been attacked in the daytime, including with grenades, rockets, rifles and machine guns, and school buses have also come under attack. In one such incident, in September 2011, Taliban fighters “fired a rocket at a school bus transporting students home from Khyber Model school near Peshawar,” the GCPEA says. “When the rocket missed, they opened fire with guns on the other side of the vehicle.” Twelve schoolchildren were injured in that attack, while four more, and their driver, died.

A careful compilation of local media and aid group reports suggests at least 30 schoolchildren lost their lives in attacks on schools in Pakistan between 2009 and 2012, the report says, and more than 97 have been injured, including Nobel Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai, 15, who was shot in the faceand neck on her school bus for “promoting secular and anti-Taliban values” by campaigning for girls’ education. At least 138 pupils and staff have also been kidnapped, of whom more than 40 are thought still to be in Taliban captivity.

The report also says at least 15 teachers have been killed over the same period; one was shot because he refused to follow the Taliban’s dress code, and another because he declared suicide bombings un-Islamic. Eight more were injured, including four women who were victims of acid attacks. In January 2013, five women teachers and two health workers were shot dead in KP province.

US, PAK & ISI - Generals and the red carpet

Dec 23, 2014

Raheel Sharif's trip lasted a staggering 2 weeks.
WASHINGTON: While Pakistan gets trashed in `Homeland', in reality, the US approach to Pakistan and its intelligence agency, far from being castigatory or punitive, is feckless to the point of embarrassing. Despite repeatedly and even publicly admonishing Pakistan for supporting terror groups, and even citing ISI hand in the Mumbai attacks and for funnelling money into the US political system (through the Kashmiri separatist Ghulam Nabi Fai), Washington has done little to rein in the terror-backing spy outfit and its proteges, evident given the ease with which Hafiz Saeed and now Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi have been protected by the Pakistani establishment. 

In fact, according to ProPublica, former Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Kayani bluntly rejected the request of his Amer ican interlocutors to divest Lakhvi of his cellphone in prison.As if to rub it in, they even allowed him conjugal visits through which he fathered a child, say Indian sources familiar with the developments, adding, with a degree of envy , that the "Pakistanis run rings around Americans." The Indian side also believes that successive Pakistani army chiefs have made fools of Americans by alternately adopting an attitude of complete submission or threatening a reck less suicide scenario. Every Pakistani general is greeted by Washington as a liberal, westernized, professional soldier, just because he plays golf or smokes or has pet dogs, one Indian official said in a recent conversation, recalling the glowing, credulous profiles that accompanied the ascension of Pervez Musharraf and Kayani. Every Pakistani gen eral is a jihadi because it is written into their DNA and their motto `Iman, Taqwa, Jihad fi Sabilillah', the official added bleakly. 

It was against this background that the Indian side closely watched the visit last month of the new army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, once again hailed by Pakistani apologists as a man who would take on terrorists. It was an unusual visit by any standard, lasting a staggering two weeks. 

Prefaced by ratcheted up coverage in the Pakistani media of an imminent ISIS takeover of the country (and "scarily", its nukes), the trip was aimed ostensibly at repairing damaged relations with the US, and more importantly to extract money from Uncle Sam, longtime patron of its informally designated terrorist client state. 

"Arab Spring has now turned into a winter"

December 23, 2014

Interview with renowned Lebanese academic Gilbert Achcar and author of The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising (2013) on the struggle for democratisation in the Middle East and North Africa.
It began on December 18, 2010, as a popular uprising triggered by the self–immolation of Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, protesting against the country’s corrupt and autocratic regime. What it eventually led to was a chain of revolutionary uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), toppling dictatorial governments in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen. Popularly known as the “Arab Spring”, the movement has since descended into chaos, with Islamic fundamentalist forces gaining in power. In this interview given over Skype, the Professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, said hope is not lost yet for the region.

Since the 2010-11 uprisings, except in Tunisia, the model of liberal democracy has not taken off in MENA countries. Is there still hope or do you even see liberal “electoral” democracy as an answer to the ongoing crisis in the region? We saw, for instance, how despite elections in June this year the dictator Bashar al-Assad of the Ba’ath Party remained in power in Syria…

The question of democracy in the MENA region cannot be reduced to one of liberal democracy as it presently prevails in the West. Even if you take liberalism in the political meaning alone, Arab countries are far from implementing it, and this applies to Tunisia too where a formally democratic government is now in place. The MENA region is suffering from a very deep social and economic crisis, which is at the root of the general turmoil and upheaval. In order to solve the ongoing crisis, there must be a shift away from the neoliberal socio-economic model in the region, which led to the crisis. The real stumbling block is the combination of a heavily repressive and corrupt “deep state” with crony capitalism of the worst type. This combination has not been dismantled in any of the region’s states, including Tunisia. In Syria, where the Ba’ath dictatorship is entrenched in power since half a century, the elections lacked any democratic legitimacy. To achieve real democratisation, what is needed is a radical dismantling of the “deep state” that continues to uphold the existing social-political order in the region.

The initial wave of hope for liberating the Arab peoples from the autocratic regimes seems to have been dashed. When the movement started in 2010 there was a great deal of euphoria, not anymore. Where is the movement headed in your analysis?

The euphoria, when the movement began, was based on illusions, but was justified by the fact that the peoples of the region started to come out massively on the streets wanting to impose their will.

However, the fact that they got onto the streets was not enough in itself to achieve the outcomes to which they aspired. We had a tremendous massive popular uprising in the MENA region, but with only weak and/or disoriented progressive forces. Even in a country like Tunisia where there is a strong progressive organisation in the form of a trade union movement dominated by the left, the latter suffers from a lack of appropriate strategy. They fell into the trap of the bipolarity between two equally reactionary forces – the old regimes on the one hand, and the Islamic fundamentalist opposition forces on the other.

Strengthening accountability

December 23, 2014

In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court recently quashed a “two-judge committee” set up by the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court to probe allegations of sexual harassment against a judge of the court. By insisting on the strict implementation of in-house procedures in cases of complaints against judges, this judgment marks a step towards greater transparency and certainty in proceedings relating to judges. In this case, the charges of harassment were levelled by a former Additional District and Sessions Judge of the Madhya Pradesh Higher Judicial Service. Her writ petition claimed that the in-house procedure envisaged by the Supreme Court was ignored by the High Court. Looking at how the judiciary addressed her complaint, the Supreme Court concluded that the prescribed procedures were not followed, and ordered a fresh probe. This commendable move reasserts the Court’s seriousness of purpose in ensuring a gender-sensitive process of internal investigation on sexual harassment complaints.

One of the first investigations into judicial misconduct was the impeachment process against Justice V. Ramaswami of the Supreme Court, in 1991. That case brought to the fore the inadequacies of the impeachment process under the Constitution and made evident the absence of legal authority in the Chief Justice of India to take any action in such situations. In a subsequent case of allegations against Chief Justice A.M. Bhattacharjee of the Bombay High Court, the Supreme Court for the first time laid down an in-house peer review procedure for “correcting [the] misbehaviour” of judges. In 2008, these in-house procedures were employed in investigating allegations against Justice Soumitra Sen, leading to impeachment proceedings. The Supreme Court has now taken this prescription further by declaring that these procedures be widely publicised and made available on the judiciary’s websites. 

However, it has to be noted that apart from the far-fetched impeachment process prescribed under the Constitution, there is as yet no institutional design or statutory law that can adequately support a transparent process of judicial inquiry, so as to enhance the accountability and legitimacy of the institution. The courts continue to be insular, oblivious to the principle of open justice — a stand justified on the ground of safeguarding judicial dignity and independence. Be it over criticism against judicial appointments or judgments like Swatanter Kumar (2014) that prohibited media reporting of sexual harassment allegations made by an intern against a judge, the judiciary has often been too defensive, deflecting criticism and hardly acknowledging the need for transparent accountability.

Spy agencies failed to prevent 26/11: report

December 22, 2014 

Policemen pay tributes to the victims of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack at CST railway station in Mumbai. File photo

The 26/11 Mumbai attacks happened as a result of one of the “most devastating near-misses in the history of spycraft” in which the United States, British and Indian spy agencies failed to pull together all the strands gathered by their high-tech surveillance to thwart the assault on India’s financial capital, according to an investigative report said.

A detailed report by the New York Times, ProPublica and the PBS series Frontline titled ‘In 2008 Mumbai Killings, Piles of Spy Data, but an Uncompleted Puzzle’ said “that hidden history of the Mumbai attacks reveals the vulnerability as well as the strengths of computer surveillance and intercepts as a counter-terrorism weapon.”

“that hidden history of the Mumbai attacks reveals the vulnerability as well as the strengths of computer surveillance and intercepts as a counter-terrorism weapon”

“What happened next may rank among the most devastating near-misses in the history of spycraft. The intelligence agencies of the three nations did not pull together all the strands gathered by their high-tech surveillance and other tools, which might have allowed them to disrupt a terror strike so scarring that it is often called India’s 9/11,” said the lengthy report.

Citing classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, it said although electronic eavesdropping often yields valuable data, even “tantalizing” clues can be missed if the technology is not closely monitored, the intelligence gleaned from it is not linked with other information, or analysis does not sift incriminating activity from the ocean of digital data.

In one of the most glaring intelligence failures, the report said Indian and British intelligence agencies monitored online activities of a key 26/11 planner Zarrar Shah, the technology chief of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group, “but couldn’t connect the dots” before the attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

In the fall of 2008, Shah “roamed from outposts in the northern mountains of Pakistan to safe houses near the Arabian Sea, plotting mayhem in Mumbai, India’s commercial gem.”

He was, however, unaware that by September, the British were spying on many of his online activities, tracking his Internet searches and messages, the report said.

“They were not the only spies watching. Shah drew similar scrutiny from an Indian intelligence agency,” it said, citing a former official briefed on the operation.

***** In 2008 Mumbai Attacks, Piles of Spy Data, but an Uncompleted Puzzle

by Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica, and James Glanz and David E. Sanger, New York Times Dec. 21, 2014

Indian and British intelligence agencies monitored the online activities of a key plotter but couldn’t connect the dots. 

Flames and smoke billow from the historic Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai on Nov. 27, 2008. (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)

This story was co-published with the New York Times and Frontline

In the fall of 2008, a 30-year-old computer expert named Zarrar Shah roamed from outposts in the northern mountains of Pakistan to safe houses near the Arabian Sea, plotting mayhem in Mumbai, India’s commercial gem. 

Mr. Shah, the technology chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani terror group, and fellow conspirators used Google Earth to show militants the routes to their targets in the city. He set up an Internet phone system to disguise his location by routing his calls through New Jersey. Shortly before an assault that would kill 166 people, including six Americans, Mr. Shah searched online for a Jewish hostel and two luxury hotels, all sites of the eventual carnage. 

But he did not know that by September, the British were spying on many of his online activities, tracking his Internet searches and messages, according to former American and Indian officials and classified documents disclosed by Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor. 

They were not the only spies watching. Mr. Shah drew similar scrutiny from an Indian intelligence agency, according to a former official who was briefed on the operation. The United States was unaware of the two agencies’ efforts, American officials say, but had picked up signs of a plot through other electronic and human sources, and warned Indian security officials several times in the months before the attack. 

Missed Signals Before the Attack

Intelligence agencies in three countries followed key figures with high-tech surveillance tools in advance of the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people in 2008, but they did not put the pieces together that could have helped them disrupt the plot. It was not until the attacks started that the agencies shared the surveillance they had gathered and the picture came into focus.
By September 2008

U.S. Using their own intelligence sources, U.S. agencies picked up signs of a plot. In addition, the wife of one terrorist, David Coleman Headley, warned American officials three times in 2007 and 2008 that Mr. Headley was a terrorist conducting missions in Mumbai.

Britain By September, British intelligence was spying on many of the digital activities of Zarrar Shah, the technology and communications chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba, tracking his Web searches and messages.

India An Indian intelligence agency carried out similar monitoring of his communications.

Mr. Shah and his co-conspirators used Google Earth to show Pakistani terrorists the targets and attack routes in Mumbai.

Free market model has failed: Kaushik Basu


“World Bank too has changed its goal to fighting no longer for just eradication of poverty but also for shared prosperity”

There is now a consensus the world over that the free market economic model does not work, said World Bank chief economist and former Chief Economic Adviser to the government of India Kaushik Basu on Sunday.

Dr. Basu was speaking at a function organised here by the ‘Ideas for India’.

Just as complete state control fails, leaving all decisions to markets results in grave inequalities and so it doesn’t work even politically, argued Dr. Basu. “The things that were ideologically rooted on the extreme right and extreme left, those fringes have now fallen off.”

Now, “sharing of the pie” with the bottom 40 per cent of people is gaining traction even with the International Monetary Fund and economists such as Thomas Piketty, Dr. Basu said.

Reflecting the new consensus, Dr. Basu said the World Bank formally changed its goal to fighting no longer for just eradication of poverty but also for shared prosperity.

Dr. Basu’s statement assumes significance as the Economic Survey states that the Narendra Modi government plans to bring in a “pure market economy” through legislations and new processes where the role of the state would be limited to intervening in case market forces fail.

The need for policy intervention is getting recognised globally, said Dr. Basu, since a large part of the inequality in the world is being inherited at birth and getting dynastically transmitted from generation to generation. “Since there can be no distinction on the lines of hard-working babies and lazy babies, the issue of inequality at birth has come to the policy makers’ table.”

Education paradox

As a case in point, he cited the problem of India’s education paradox: “India’s small elite are able to receive world-class education but the masses get very poor quality education… Literacy levels were till 10 years ago below some sub-Saharan countries.”

Dr. Basu also said that the World Bank was planning to create an ‘Ease of Living Life’ rating of countries that would be on the lines of the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ in which India ranks poorly. The rating being planned will rank countries on the costs incurred by ordinary people in interface with the bureaucracy.

India's Modi Looks East—To the Asia-Pacific

December 22, 2014 

India is attempting to build partnerships with key states in the Asia-Pacific, with a particular focus on Japan, Vietnam, Australia and ASEAN. 

The U.S.-India-Japan trilateral took place in New Delhi this past week, capping off a big year in foreign policy for India’s new government. With an eye on China, India has in recent years made a concerted effort to carve out a more serious role for itself in the Asia-Pacific. Under Modi, India has invested particular effort in strengthening ties with its East and Southeast Asian partners. Last week’s trilateral is a clear example of India’s growing role in the evolving strategic dynamics of the Asia-Pacific.

Despite the preelection assumption that the BJP government would prioritize domestic reform, Prime Minister Modi has devoted an unexpected level of attention to foreign policy. Achieving an outright parliamentary majority, the 2014 elections delivered the BJP the largest electoral mandate of any Indian government since 1984. This parliamentary strength will give the Modi government a historic opportunity to enact significant policy change, including in foreign affairs and security.

The Modi government’s early foreign-policy decision making hinted at a prioritization of India’s own South Asian neighborhood. In an unprecedented move, Modiinvited the heads of state of SAARC countries, plus Mauritius, to his inauguration. Soon after, both Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made their first international visits to South Asia (Bhutan and Bangladesh respectively). Modi is aware that a stable environment in South Asia is crucial to ensuring India’s own security and economic growth. However maintaining stability in South Asia does not need to come at the expense of broader global engagement, and Modi has indicated his government’s intention to pursue a more ambitious foreign-policy agenda for India.

What have we left to fear for? We have already buried our sons

Sayed Shah, shows a picture of his son Zulqarnain, 17, a student who was killed in last Tuesday's Taliban attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. —AP 

I wish I could say, “We didn’t see it coming.” But that would be a lie. We saw it coming, but chose to ignore all the warnings until it was too late to prevent our children from being murdered before our very eyes.

Peshawar, my ancestral city, is dying a slow death at the hands of religious fundamentalists. Slowly, but surely, the City fell to mullahs, madrassahs, and militants.

It all started rather inconspicuously in December 1974, when a bomb explosion injured two at the American Centre in Peshawar. Many did not think much of it. However, dozens of bomb blasts and thousands of civilian deaths later, it became obvious who the enemy was.

Still, not much was done against those who murdered civilians in cold blood. The perpetrators were ‘strategic depth’ and hence were assets for wars to be fought in the future.

Peshawar unknowingly became the nerve centre in a war between two superpowers. The Americans, supported by the West and bankrolled by the Saudis, turned Peshawar into a dormitory for Arab and Pakhtun militants who were brainwashed and trained in warfare in camps scattered in and around the city. Peshawar’s affluent suburbs became home for western spies and affluent Arab militants.

The Peshawaris became refugees in their own city.

The City was changing right before our eyes.

Overnight, the entire urban transportation fleet transformed in Peshawar. Mercedes buses from Afghanistan replaced wagons and other paratransit. Local restaurants were pushed out of business by the new Afghan eateries. Pants and shirts were replaced by beards and skullcaps. A city known for its sense of humour was giving way to fear and hate.

Turning point Peshawar?

Written by Hamid Mir 
December 22, 2014 

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The Peshawar tragedy seems to have given Nawaz Sharif some strength to take bold steps to eradicate terrorism.

The president of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decided to execute 17 terrorists last week. When the president and prime minister were discussing these executions, they were informed that an Islamabad anti-terror court had granted bail to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who is charged with planning the November 26, 2008, attacks in Mumbai. This was like a bombshell for them. The prime minister immediately discussed the issue with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, and it was decided that Lakhvi would not be released and that his bail would be challenged in superior courts. The authorities have since detained Lakhvi for three months under the Maintenance of Public Order Act. The Peshawar tragedy seems to have given Nawaz Sharif some strength to take bold steps to eradicate terrorism.

Pakistan has been weeping since last Tuesday. We have wept many rivers of tears in just a few days. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) announced that it would launch more attacks the very day after the brutal massacre. The TTP proudly released pictures of the seven militants who killed 133 young students of Army Public School, Peshawar, their principal and teachers. It declared that “seven soldiers of Islam took the revenge of our children who were killed by the infidel army of Pakistan”. Common Pakistanis are not ready to accept this justification. They want quick action to be taken against those who give a bad name not only to Pakistan but also to Islam. This episode is a turning point in the history of Pakistan. This national tragedy has forced the government and opposition to put up a united front against terrorism.

Limited by Poor Weaponry, Lack of Intelligence and No Air Support, Afghan Army Troops Struggle to Hold On to Territory

Sudarsan Raghavan 
December 21, 2014 

In a strategic valley, a glimpse of Afghan troops’ future after most U.S. forces leave 

BABA, Afghanistan — Clutching M-16 rifles, the Afghan soldiers nervously stood watch on a sand-colored ridge next to a mud house blown apart by gunfire. A week earlier, their unit pushed out the Taliban from this village. Now, the insurgents were only a mile away, determined to recapture the territory. 

Every day, the 15 soldiers have felt the pressure — and their own limitations. 

“They are opening fire on us during the night, even just last night,” said Sgt. Mohammad Mirwais. “We are not enough to protect the village from the Taliban.” 

Since March, Mirwais’s Afghan army battalion has been steadily confronting the Taliban in the Chak Valley, southwest of the capital Kabul. Their performance has been a rare sliver of success in an unprecedented year of death and anguish for the country’s security forces. 

But even here, pushing back the insurgents is a grinding and treacherous task. The unit’s experience is a portent of how Afghanistan’s 13-year war could shape up in the months after the formal end of the U.S.-led combat mission. Beginning next year, Afghan forces will assume full sovereignty over security with the help of a much smaller — and restricted — NATO presence. 

In this valley, the Taliban have retreated only 18 miles since Afghan forces launched an operation nine months ago, and the insurgents still control a large area. No longer aided by U.S. forces and their air support, the Afghan battalion isstruggling to hold onto its gains on a landscape where front lines are blurred and the enemy melds into the terrain. The force grapples with shortages of manpower and equipment and a population that has little faith in its ability. 

Even as they proclaim success, Afghan commanders here in strategic Wardak province warn that the withdrawal of most American and international forces at the end of the month is premature. 

“From a military perspective, it’s too early for them to leave,” said Col. Sami Badakhshani, second in command of the Afghan army’s 4th Infantry Brigade. “We need more armored vehicles, more tanks. We need better training. . . . We don’t have enough soldiers to fill in the gap when the foreign troops leave.” 

The stakes are high. Whoever controls the Chak Valley could control the fate of the capital next year. The area flanks the Kabul-Kandahar highway, a key gateway to the city. Many of the roughly 13,000 U.S. and international troops that will remain after the drawdown will be based in Kabul. 

The Taliban have grown bolder in recent months, targeting the country’s roughly 380,000 security forces on numerous fronts and seizing territory outside their traditional strongholds. About 5,000 Afghan security-force members have been killed this year, a record number that exceeds the total coalition death toll since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. 

Last month, Afghan soldiers in Helmand province barely fended off a Taliban assault on Camp Bastion, a former British base handed over to the Afghans in October. And in Kabul, Taliban suicide bombers have unleashed a wave of deadly attacks in recent weeks, despite the presence of thousands of Afghan soldiers and police. 

Mass Bridal Disappearance in Hebei

By Luke Corbin
December 22, 2014

The mysterious disappearance of hundred young Vietnamese women underscores China’s problem with trafficking. 
Police are investigating how a hundred people came to be missing recently in Handan County, Hebei. The disappeared aren’t protesters or dissidents, they aren’t journalists, they aren’t teachers; they haven’t been victim to a mud slide, a coal mine collapse or a flood. They are a hundred young Vietnamese women, brokered into marriage to Chinese men across the border mere months ago, and now gone.

Public, verifiable facts on the case are scarce; even on the barest nature of the crime. Are the disappeared women victims or co-conspirators with their traffickers? Did they move on willingly, clandestinely, or were they forcibly kidnapped? How could a hundred people remove themselves from their new husbands without a trace left behind?

One local official says it looks like the men were scammed by a marriage broker who had lived in the county for twenty years before disappearing with the women.

Wu Meiyu was herself a Vietnamese bride, moving to the county and raising a family there with her new Chinese husband. Wu is alleged to have travelled widely this year in search of lonely male bachelors to sell Vietnamese brides to. She successfully administrated one hundred illegal marriages to these men, importing each bride individually through associates in Vietnam for a hefty fee.

On the evening of November 20, all one hundred of these women disappeared en masse. They apparently told their husbands they were attending a dinner party, but none returned at evening’s end. Except, possibly, for one.

It has been reported that one of the brides returned to her home town and filed a police report. The report claimed that upon arriving for a dinner party she was told by an unspecified person that a new husband was going to be found for her. At some point she fell unconscious and after awakening managed to make her way back to her adopted village.

This incredibly vague, frustrating anecdote raises more questions than it answers, but if true, appears to imply that the women have been trafficked against their will. On the other hand, this is the only piece of evidence pointing to the forced nature of the disappearance. If it is untrue, the likelihood of the women being scammers themselves increases.

Whether these women are victims or co-conspirators, the scale of the movement of people involved highlights the robust, entrenched criminal networks involved in human trafficking in the region – and the suffering trafficking incurs for all involved.

Dragon on the High Seas: China's 3 Most Lethal Weapons of War on the Water

December 20, 2014 

Chinese military might is growing—especially in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. 

Modern China has finally achieved a long-held dream: secure land borders. The Mongols, western colonial empires and the Japanese have all carved out significant portions of the country in the past. Although China could never be truly conquered, such disruptions caused considerable loss of life and property and halted Chinese political and economic progress. China is now free to develop however it wishes.

Part of China’s new direction is the creation of a modern, world-class navy. The protection of Chinese interests, which are now global, the support of Chinese territorial claims and the ability, if necessary, to keep the Americans at bay are key goals. To support those goals, China is building everything from new patrol boats to aircraft carriers. With that in mind, here are three of China’s most lethal weapons of war on the water.

Type 052C/D Anti-Air Warfare Destroyer

The 052C/D series of destroyers are designed primarily with the air defense mission in mind, protecting high-value naval assets such as aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships. The ships resemble the U.S. Arleigh Burke and UK Daring class anti-air warfare destroyers both externally and in mission.

Chinese-North Korean Relations Have Sunk to New Low

Jane Perlez
December 21, 2014

Chinese Annoyance With North Korea Bubbles to the Surface

BEIJING — When a retired Chinese general with impeccable Communist Party credentials recently wrote a scathing account of North Korea as a recalcitrant ally headed for collapse and unworthy of support, he exposed a roiling debate inChina about how to deal with the country’s young leader, Kim Jong-un.

For decades China has stood by North Korea, and though at times the relationship has soured, it has rarely reached such a low point, Chinese analysts say. The fact that the commentary by Lt. Gen. Wang Hongguang, a former deputy commander of an important military region, was published in a state-run newspaper this month and then posted on an official People’s Liberation Army website attested to how much the relationship had deteriorated, the analysts say.

“China has cleaned up the D.P.R.K.’s mess too many times,” General Wang wrote in The Global Times, using the initials of North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “But it doesn’t have to do that in the future.”

Of the government in North Korea, he said: “If an administration isn’t supported by the people, ‘collapse’ is just a matter of time.” Moreover, North Korea had violated the spirit of the mutual defense treaty with China, he said, by failing to consult China on its nuclear weapons program, which has created instability in Northeast Asia.

The significance of General Wang’s article was given greater weight because he wrote it in reply to another Global Times article by a Chinese expert on North Korea, Prof. Li Dunqiu, who took a more traditional approach, arguing that North Korea was a strategic asset that China should not abandon. Mr. Li is a former director of the Office of Korean Affairs at China’s State Council.

In a debate that unfolded among other commentators in the pages of Global Times, a state-run newspaper, after the duel between General Wang and Mr. Li, the general’s point of view — that North Korea represented a strategic liability — got considerable support. General Wang is known as a princeling general: His father, Wang Jianqing, led Mao Zedong’s troops in the fight against the Japanese in Nanjing at the end of World War II.

Efforts to reach General Wang through an intermediary were unsuccessful. The general’s secretary told the intermediary that the views in his article were his own and did not reflect those of the military.

How widespread his views have become within the military establishment is difficult to gauge, but a Chinese official who is closely involved in China’s diplomacy with North Korea said that General Wang’s disparaging attitude was more prevalent in the Chinese military today than in any previous period.

Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill “U.S.-China Diplomacy And Grand Strategy”

December 11, 2014

China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies

I wish to begin by thanking the China Foundation for

International and Strategic Studies for inviting me to this


The United States and China bear preeminent responsibilities

to promote international stability, prosperity and peace – in

Asia and across the globe. This means in the first instance

doing everything possible to avoid a crisis in U.S.-China

relations. Despite the feel-good atmospherics of the November

Obama-Xi Summit in Beijing, I worry that both sides may be on

a downward path to such a confrontation. This would produce

nothing less than a prolonged international convulsion, with

consequential and damaging effects in Asia and around the


For example, take into account the negative consequences for

each country’s formidable domestic challenges if the U.S. and

PRC seriously mismanage their relationship. Imagine the

tumultuous effects on the global economy. Consider the

dramatic increase in tension throughout Asia and the fact that

no country in this vast region wants to have to choose between

China and the United States. Envision the corrosive impact on

U.S.-China collaboration on climate change. Picture the fallout

on attempts to deal with the nuclear weapons programs of

North Korea and Iran.


By Selcuk Colakoglu

China claims to South China Sea 

The South China Sea is known for its complex maritime disputes. Though parties involved in the disputes have been careful to keep the issue of sovereignty discussed within the frame of diplomatic debate, the problem has nonetheless seen recent escalation. From an energy security perspective, it seems that the situation might make the global agenda that much busier.

The South China Sea (SCS) has hosted and still hosts the world’s most complex system of maritime disputes. Besides disagreement on the border of the continental shelf and the delineation of exclusive economic zones, there are disputes in the Sea over who has sovereignty over various small islands and skerries.

Bordering the SCS, there are seven parties involved in the disputes over sovereignty of the islands, namely, Brunei, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. The Paracel and Spratly island groups, consisting of rocky archipelagos, are more or less controlled by all of these seven countries. Here, each party’s sovereignty claims overlap with those of at least two or three of the other countries, regardless if the island is a livable habitat, a rock, an atoll or a reef. Among the parties to the problem: (i) China cites two thousand year-old legislation that claims all maritime areas in the territorial waters of the other countries, including all the islands; (ii) Vietnam claims rights to the Paracel and Spratly islands, as well as the western half of the SCS; (iii) the Philippines, claims rights to the Spratly islands and the area surrounding them (iv) Taiwan claims the Paracel islands; and (v) Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia have overlapping exclusive economic zones and claims to the continental shelf.
The risk of escalation

Seeing that it is an area over which multiple actors claim sovereignty, preventing the risk of escalation in the SCS is the most important item on the agenda for the involved parties as well as the international community. In fact, in 1974 and in 1988, bloody clashes broke out between China and Vietnam over control of the Spratly and Paracel islands. In recent years, growing tension has risen among the involved countries as a result of the SCS disputes. In 2012, China created a new prefecture named Sansha that consists of the Paracel and Spratly islands, an act that was met with strong protest by Vietnam and the Philippines. Again in 2012, the blockade of Vietnamese research vessels in the SCS by the Chinese navy caused a rise in political tension between the two countries.

Opinion: In response to Sony hack, US should focus on China not North Korea

By Jason Healey, Passcode Columnist 
DECEMBER 19, 2014

President Obama has few good options from deterring North Korea from attacking – but he might be able to convince Beijing. 

​It's a story more bizarre than any Hollywood script about out-of-control hackers, but it turns out the North Koreans actually were behind the hack against Sony Pictures.

President Obama said Friday that we will “respond proportionately and in a place and time and manner that we choose.” What this really means for now is that the administration will keep the issue quiet, continue the focus on Cuba, and allow DC to take a year-end vacation.

Mr. Obama’s punt is not a big surprise as there simply are no good options for responding to North Korea. How do you calibrate a “proportional response” when not countering a military attack but one that targets freedom of expression? How do you penalize a dangerous pariah state that might strike out even more dangerously and has been nearly undeterred from far more dangerous behavior?

The way through is for Obama to turn his personal attention to his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Beijing every bit as much as Pyongyang.

To start with, the US government does not need to respond as if this is a cyberwar: no one has died from the digital assault on Sony (and it doesn’t appear that anyone has ever died from any cyber attack ever). And though it is tempting to unleash our own cyber forces, the seemingly mighty US Cyber Command is not likely to offer many promising options. If the assault were still continuing, then US military cyberattacks might have been able to disrupt the adversaries, but now the attack is over and the damage is done.

Likewise, it would be worse than useless for “proportional” to mean a law-enforcement investigation which may or may not result in an indictment, as the Department of Justice did against Chinese officers involved in corporate espionage. The Sony attack has gone beyond spying and needs a stronger response.

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Iraqi Kurds Get Their Groove Back, End Siege of Mount Sinjar


Kurdish forces declared victory and freed Yazidi holdouts, with help from U.S. air power. Is this just a ploy by the Islamic State—or the beginning of the road to retaking Mosul? 

Kurdish forces in northern Iraq celebrated their biggest victory yet over ISIS on Friday after breaking, with U.S. air support, the lengthy jihadi siege of Mount Sinjar and freeing hundreds of trapped members of the Yazidi religious sect. 

The Kurds claimed at least 100 Islamic militants were killed in the two-day battle to lift the siege. The victory by about 8,000 Peshmerga fighters will boost the Kurds’ confidence in their efforts to roll back the territorial gains made in northern Iraq by the fighters for the so-called Islamic State. 

In welcoming his forces’ success, Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani tweeted: “Brave peshmerga have broken the siege of Mount Sinjar. I dedicate this important victory to all Yazidis.” Kurdish forces Friday night wereorganizing the evacuation of the Yazidis from the mountain enclave where they had been trapped since the jihadis launched a lightning offensive in August. 

Lt. Gen. James Terry, who heads the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS, said coalition warplanes had mounted 53 airstrikes in recent days to help Kurdish forces to “maneuver and regain approximately 100 square kilometers of ground” near Sinjar. The Kurds say they’ve recaptured even more territory, claiming they grabbed back about 700 square kilometers, though some analysts questioned that estimate. 

“It was a very big operation and thankfully it was concluded very successfully,” Masrur Barzani, the son of the Iraqi Kurdish leader, told reporters. With considerable bravado he added: “This operation will of course continue to clear all the areas that are still under the control of ISIS but the details of that, or the timing of that, I am not at liberty to discuss at the moment.” 


December 20, 2014

It is widely believed that violent savages such as those fighting on behalf of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) understand only force. This default thinking is reinforced by policymakers’ ready access to military tools. However, violent action is often counterproductive and nonviolent strategies for dealing with ISIL have unexamined potential.

A Counterproductive Violence

ISIL’s unquestioned brutality has encouraged the formation of an international coalition to fight it. This coalition is presently engaged in a bombing campaign though “boots on the ground” are beginning to look more and more likely. Historically, however, armed interventions have a poor record of ending violent conflicts—something not acknowledged enough in U.S. policy and security circles. External armed interventions tend to extend the duration of civil wars and even worse, increase the number of civilians killed. A country has a more than 40% chance of relapsing into civil war within 10 years if the conflict is resolved through violent means. In addition, such military campaigns are expensive. The U.S. military campaign against ISIL has already cost close to $1 billion, while the total cost by the end of the year could range between $2.4 billion and $3.8 billion.

The bombing campaign against ISIL has already created unintended though foreseeable consequences. It increased admiration for ISIL, encouraged other jihadist groups—including some from Egypt, Algeria, Yemen and Libya—to declare their allegiance to ISIL, and potentially caused the divided Syrian jihadist groups to contemplate closercooperation. Perhaps even more importantly, the bombing is generating growing anger among ordinary people on the ground who would not necessarily support jihadists but are now blaming the American-led intervention for food and fuel shortages, power blackouts, and civilian casualties.

ISIL’s Survival Depends on the Local Population