6 January 2015

No change in Afghanistan drawdown plans: White House

Jan 6, 2015

"The Afghans are now solely responsible for the security of their country," a White House statement said.

WASHINGTON: The White House has ruled out any change in its draw-down plan from Afghanistan asserting that Afghans are now solely responsible for the security of their country. 

"What the President has been really clear about is what our strategy in Afghanistan is; that after the end of the year, we are now in a situation where the combat mission in Afghanistan for US military personnel has ended. 

"The Afghans are now solely responsible for the security of their country," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. 

Earnest was responding to questions on the statement made by the new Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, in which he said that the United States should consider reexamining its timetable for taking US coalition troops out of Afghanistan. 

There is an enduring US military presence and NATO coalition military presence in Afghanistan to carry out two other missions, Earnest said. 

"The first is a counterterrorism mission. We continue to see remnants of al Qaeda that do have designs on destabilizing the region and US interests. 

"We also continue to see a need for US military personnel to play an important role in training and equipping Afghan security forces to continue to take the fight to those terrorist elements and to preserve the security situation in the country of Afghanistan," he said. 

Lauding the US and coalition forces, Earnest said there are a lot of hard-won gains that have been made in Afghanistan as a result of the bravery of US military personnel and our coalition partners. 

"Much of that work -- many of those accomplishments are due to the effective coordination between United States military and Afghan security forces, and we want to see that kind of coordination continue, even as Afghans take sole responsibility for their security situation," he said. 

The United States, he said, continues to have military personnel in Afghanistan to carry out these two missions. 

Give us 10 lakh, Pak. crew told handlers

January 6, 2015 

The fishing boat carrying explosives before it was intercepted by Coast Guard off Porbandar, Gujarat, on Wednesday.
A view of the suspicious Pakistan vessel, which exploded 365 km off Porbandar. Photo courtesy: Indian Coast Guard

Coast Guard officials believe it was not a case of bootlegging

Intercepts by the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) show that the crew of the suspicious Pakistani boat were negotiating the monetary terms of the mission they were to undertake.

Members of the crew were heard talking to their ‘handlers’ in Karachi, discussing a ‘certain transaction,’ a senior Defence official told The Hindu.

“Not Rs. 4 lakhs, we want Rs. 10 lakhs for this operation”

“Chaar lakh nahi, iss keliye 10 lakh chahiye (Not Rs. 4 lakhs, we want Rs. 10 lakhs for this operation)” one of the crew members was heard saying. The agency suspects this could either be a code or a demand made by the crew for ferrying the ‘illicit cargo.’

Subsequently, after the intercept, a second boat was seen approaching the first one, which was seen ‘disembarking some suspicious objects’ and it later changed its course towards Thailand. The suspicious vessel, however, started moving towards the Indian waters.

Defence sources have told The Hindu that both the Western Naval Command and the West Region Command of the Coast Guard were kept in the loop by the Coast Guard Commander, North West Region. The agencies were also privy to the information transmitted by the NTRO on the movement of the suspicious Pakistani vessel.

The information gains significance in the light of the row that has broken out over the operation carried out by the Coast Guard. The agency is battling allegations that it did not share the information with other agencies and that it resorted to ‘extra judicial’ use of force.

On December 31 morning, after receiving the information, the Western Naval Command got in touch with the Coastguard West Region, but it is still not clear why the Navy did not step in. Asked about it, an official said the Navy perhaps did not consider it serious enough to merit its involvement. However, there was no clarity on why the Navy did not guide the Coast Guard on its operation.

Simultaneously, the Coast Guard West region was also preparing to deploy a ship if the vessel moved into its jurisdiction, The Hindu has learnt.

“We had kept a ship on standby and were coordinating with the headquarters and the North-West region on the movement of the suspicious boat. We later learnt that the boat had started moving ‘northwards’ [towards Pakistan]. An operation was subsequently launched by the North-West region, but the crew set the boat ablaze,” the source said.

While what the boat was carrying is still in the realm of debate and probe, Coast Guard officials believe it was not a simple case of bootlegging or smuggling.

“With law against smugglers not stringent in India, it is rare for smugglers not to surrender. In the past, whenever we have intercepted a smuggling consignment and have asked the crew to surrender, they have obliged,” said another source.

U.S. denies Pakistan got clean chit, funds

January 6, 2015

"No certification sought for funds to Pakistan, and no funds disbursed since 2013," said State Department spokesperson

The U.S. government has denied Pakistan’s reports that the U.S. Congress had cleared $532 million to Pakistan on the Kerry Lugar Act that needs certification on action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.“No certification has been sought for funds to Pakistan, and no funds disbursed since 2013,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki. A report in The Hindu had quoted the Associated Press of Pakistan, and an official Pakistan government release that the $532 million had been cleared, as reportedly disclosed by U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. In Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs had criticised the reported certification that cleared the aid to Pakistan.

“How the Government of the United States of America decides to spend U.S.taxpayers’ money is entirely its prerogative,” said spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin in an official statement.“However, India does not believe that Pakistan is showing “sustained commitment” or making “significant effort” or ceasing support” or dismantling “bases of operations” of the Laskhar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Haqqani network and quite possibly the al-Qaeda.”

The report in The Hindu had also highlighted how the two groups and their leaders Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar had addressed public rallies in Muzaffarabad and Lahore in 2014, the operative year for the disbursement of the funds. The Kerry-Lugar act, as the Enhanced cooperation with Pakistan act is commonly known has seen the US State department certify Pakistani government actions routinely since 2010.

The government also warned the U.S. that the two groups, based in Pakistan’s Punjab state were targeting Indian and other diplomats in Afghanistan as well. “With increasing citings of Punjabi/urdu speaking elements operating with terrorist groups inside Afghanistan, we now also know that these very groups also pose a significant threat to members of the international community working in Afghanistan including to Indian diplomatic personnel working in the Indian Embassy in Kabul and our four Consulates,” Mr. Akbaruddin said.

Resolving the nuclear liability deadlock

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January 6, 2015

By putting in place a comprehensive, fair and pragmatic legislation on civil nuclear liability, there is no reason why India cannot reap the long-term benefits of civilian nuclear energy and resolve a prickly foreign policy issue

On January 26, Barack Obama will become the first U.S. President to attend India’s Republic Day celebrations. It will also mark nearly 10 years since the first announcement on the India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement. In contrast to those heady days when the promise of nuclear power meeting India’s gargantuan energy needs was in the air, the present situation is bleak. A target of installing 63 Gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2032 has been reduced to 27.5 Gigawatts and none of the landmark deals envisaged has been struck. The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act, 2010 which contains a speedy compensation mechanism for victims of a nuclear accident has been deemed responsible for this deadlock. Specifically, provisions on recourse liability on suppliers (Section 17(b)) and concurrent, potentially unlimited liability under other laws (Section 46) have been viewed as major obstacles in operationalising nuclear energy in India and bilateral relations with key supplier countries.

A question of recourse

Under Section 17(b), a liable operator can recover compensation from suppliers of nuclear material in the event of a nuclear accident if the damage is caused by the provision of substandard services or patent or latent defects in equipment or material. This is contrary to the practice of recourse in international civil nuclear liability conventions, which channel liability exclusively to the operator. Specifically, it contradicts Article 10 of the Annex to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), an international treaty which India has signed.

“U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit is an opportunity to address misgivings over the nuclear liability law and to also meet foreign governments and the supplier community halfway on the issue.”

That Section 17(b) is contrary to the global norm is undeniable. However when the global norm itself is inequitable, there are justifiable reasons to depart from it. The inclusion of Section 17(b) recognises historical incidents such as the Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984 for which defective parts were partly responsible. The paltry compensation paid to the victims was facilitated by gaps in legislation and an extraordinarily recalcitrant state machinery. This is not a peculiarly Indian phenomenon — accidents such as Three Mile Island occurred partially due to lapses on the part of suppliers. More recently, forged quality certificates were detected for parts supplied to nuclear plants in South Korea. That Section 17(b) incentivises supplier safety and reduces the probability of a recurrence of such instances is equally undeniable.

A step too far

Can India catch up with China?

January 6, 2015

In India’s noisy political democracy, the problems are compounded by the existence of multiple political parties with no coherent approach to development

The average Indian was slightly better off than the average Chinese in the initial years after Indian independence. But China’s approach to development has varied markedly over the last 40 years and has been so successful that it now ranks as the second most important economy in the world. India has made good progress but is still substantially behind China.

In the first decade of this century, India’s growth reached a take off stage that prompted many people to ask when India would catch up with its neighbour. It was also thought that democratic India may even overtake China. Will that dream come true?

China and India, despite being such large countries, accounted for only 4.5 per cent and 4.2 per cent of global GDP in 1950 in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP$) terms. The ratio of China’s GDP to India’s was 1.18 in 1913 ($241 billion/$204 billion); in 1950 it was 1.08 ($239 billion/$222 billion). Estimates of per capita income made by Angus Maddison and Dharma Kumar suggest that India might have had a higher per capita income. However, there was not a marked difference in the level of human development.

Both countries, in the course of history, have feared foreign domination, have considered the state as the driver of growth and have suspected the private sector’s initiatives. For India, the problems were achieving unity in diversity and accommodating various languages and religions in a democratic set up. On the contrary, China’s hard state enabled it to pursue a single goal with determination and mobilise maximum resources to achieve its goals.

Growth in China


By Amit Cowshish
Source Link

At a conclave held in New Delhi on 12-13 December 2014, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said that the government is working on legalising defence agents and middlemen and that a clear policy will be in place by January 2015.1

The statement is somewhat puzzling since a policy on Indian agents of foreign suppliers already exists. It was notified by the Ministry of Defence vide Letter No. 2250-A/JS(O)/89 dated 17 April 1989 based on the Office Memorandum No. F.23(1)-E.II(A)/89 dated 31 January 1989 issued by the Ministry of Finance.

More than 12 years later, the Ministry of Defence notified another set of supplementary instructions (No. 3(2)/PO(Def)2001 dated 2 November 2001) to regulate

“representational arrangements through a system of registration; categorical and open declaration by the foreign suppliers of the services to be rendered by their Authorized Representatives\Agents; and the remuneration payable to them by way of fees, Commission or any other method.”

Apparently, these instructions seem to have gone into oblivion, so much so that the standard clause on agents and agency commission in defence contracts also do not seem to be completely in sync with these guidelines.

Any new policy, even if it is a rehash of existing instructions, should be in sync with contemporary realities and requirements. To do that, a number of issues need to be addressed, beginning with the standardization and definition of the terms that best define the activities that could be undertaken. Terms like ‘representative’, ‘agent’, ‘middleman’, ‘stockist’, ‘lobbyist’, ‘consultant’, ‘advisor’, and many more, have different connotations – some even pejorative. The resultant confusion could make it easy for unscrupulous elements to circumvent policy directives.


By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

While many countries still regard cyber security and space security as ‘future challenges’, or issues that will need to be dealt with in the coming years, India is already tackling them today. Unlike in the more traditional security realm, where a global architecture exists to handle problems as they arise, the cyber security and space security domains are characterised by limited understanding, few accepted global definitions and a lack of clearly articulated norms and regulations. These issues must be addressed in order to articulate sound policy, including at the national level. The space domain is slightly more advanced than the cyber domain: It has some broad agreements in place, although they lack a number of elements, including definitions of key concepts in space security. There is a clear need for new architectures that will fix these anomalies and establish new parameters of responsible behaviour for the long-term sustainable use of these domains.
Cyber security policy: Strengths

A large pool of available talent and capabilities: India’s significant talent and capabilities in cyber security is one of its biggest strengths. With a highly educated, technologically skilled workforce, the country possesses one of the largest talent pools in the world.

An ideal blend of Western and Eastern approaches: One can argue that India has found an ideal blend of Western and Eastern approaches to cyber security. Its approach to cyber security is driven by two factors: national security and social harmony. At the global level, there are two schools of thought regarding cyber security: The Western approach, led by the United States, looks at cyber security through a national security prism. The Eastern approach, driven by China and Russia, emphasizes social cohesion. Until several years ago, India viewed cyber security predominantly from a national security perspective, with its primary concern being the protection of critical infrastructure. Lately, however, it has increasingly emphasized social harmony and cohesion. Thus the Indian view today combines the Western and Eastern approaches.

Lack of a comprehensive policy: The lack of a clear and comprehensive cyber security policy is one of India’s major weaknesses. The Indian government issued a National Cyber Security Policy (NCSP)in July 2013, but the document came under sharp criticism because it did not clearly articulate the policy’s objectives.

Government policy that has been slow in exploiting the available talent pool: The government’s inability to exploit the large pool of available talent in the country is another key challenge. The NCSP’s lack of clarity reflects the inadequacy of talent and innovation in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, which was responsible for producing the document.

Lack of a holistic approach: The country also lacks a holistic approach to cyber security. In order to develop a comprehensive policy, it would be important to involve experts from the information and communications technology field as a whole rather than information technology experts alone. India has not done so. Insufficient private sector input, including public-private partnerships (PPPs) that involve only large corporations. The policy-formation process in India does not allow for sufficient private sector input into cyber security policy. The NCSP was also criticized because the government made a minimal effort to obtain input and expertise from other sectors. Although it engaged with industry groups such as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the process was half-hearted at best.

A Wake-Up Call for Pakistanis

By Shairee Malhotra
January 04, 2015

Pakistan and the world were shocked by the deadly and heartbreaking attack by the Pakistani Taliban on a school in Peshawar that killed more than 130 children, many the sons of Army personnel. Yet just a few days later, Pakistan’s courts decided to grant Zaikur Rehman Lakhvi, the terrorist mastermind behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks, bail.

The debilitating situation in Pakistan is the natural outcome of a strategic culture that is entirely the creation of the Pakistan Army. A perpetual hostility towards India is a keystone of the ideology of the Army, and by extension, the Pakistani state, given that Pakistan is an army with a country. Its strategic depth theory, whereby Pakistan is undefeated as long as it continues to challenge and resist India’s rise, has seen it resort to asymmetric warfare and encouraged it to solicit the support of dangerous non-state actors. Indeed, the Taliban has been famously funded and supported by the Pakistan Army to heighten its influence in Afghanistan, at the expense of India’s. The Pakistani elite has allowed geopolitics and its desperately ambitious agenda to destroy the internal state of the country, while sustaining its material interests. True, the Army has become wary of an Islamist takeover – especially after the Pakistan Taliban conquered the Swat – which would alter its unparalleled grip on power, and so has finally begun cracking down on such groups with Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

Meanwhile, ordinary Pakistan’s have been rightfully condemning the Taliban, yet by and large they consistently fail to consider the role of the Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in creating and perpetuating an untenable status quo. Pakistanis have historically viewed the Army as their protector, and have granted it a legitimacy that has been perpetuated by the sustained myth of the Indian threat and by the failure of civilian governments to govern, more often than not because of the Army’s penchant for coup d’états. (When the Army has ruled Pakistan, as it has done for much of its existence, it has fared little better.) Through the successful political manipulation of the general public, the Army has effectively guaranteed that ordinary Pakistanis share the Army’s strategic concerns and priorities. This has encouraged widespread support for the Army and its policies, despite the heavy costs these policies impose on ordinary Pakistanis.

While some leading analysts have been critical of the Army’s policies, ordinary Pakistanis are failing to connect the dots between the Army and the acts of violence. Pakistanis condemn the Taliban and other militant groups, but not the force that propels them. With its skewed thinking on security and threats, the Army has used Islamism and militant groups for strategic purposes, creating an enormous infrastructure conducive to the terrorism and violence that pervades the country.


By Monica Bernabe
While millions of Afghans have fled to Pakistan over the past four decades, Pakistanis are flocking to Afghanistan. There are not only those who flee Pakistani military operations in Waziristan, but also Pakistani Balochs who say that they flee from repression by the Pakistani government, linked to latest Baloch insurgency activities. In Afghanistan, they live in precarious conditions. The Afghan authorities seem to exert a hand-off approach, and the UN sees them as a marginal issue.

(ANA) – Abdul Waheed’s mutilated corpse was found on December 1, 2010, 20 kilometers from the town of Kalat, in Pakistan’s troubled Balochistan province, the largest, but least populated of the country.

“He was my relative. He worked as a school teacher,” Jahangir Khan says. All that remains from him in Khan’s possession is the photo of a corpse with the face disfigured by acid on a newspaper clipping. “He was identified because he had a piece of paper with his name written in one of his pockets,” Khan’s newspaper article says.

“Abdul Waheed was arrested in May 2007, accused of having blown up an electricity pylon in Kalat,” Jahangir Khan says. He produces some documents issued by the judge of the special anti terrorism court in the Khudzar district of Balochistan. They conclude that Abdul Waheed was innocent due to a lack of evidence and even questioned whether the alleged terrorist act ever took place.

“The Pakistani authorities opened false cases against many Baloch, but as the courts didn’t find them guilty and released them, they used another tactic: enforced disappearances and killings,” Jahangir Khan recalls. “That is what happened to Abdul Waheed,” he adds.

In 2007, Khan himself, too, was accused of being involved in terrorist attacks in Balochistan. He lost his job as an attorney in Quetta, the province’s capital. He also was proven innocent by the court.

The Islamic State's War on Al Qaeda Heats Up

January 5, 2015
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The latest edition of Dabiq, the flagship publication of the group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS), includes an eviscerating, accusation-laden polemic against al-Qaeda’s central leadership in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The article, titled, “Al-Qa’ida of Waziristan – A Testimony of Within,” was written by Abu Jarir al-Shamali, an al-Qaeda commander who spent around seven years in an Iranian prison followed by three years in FATA, and defected to IS earlier this year (some media reports claim al-Shamali actually spent the immediate post-9/11 years in Iraq rather than Iran).

Al-Shamali’s salvo, which is perhaps unprecedented in its detail and airing of dirty laundry, is the latest in the public war of words between al-Qaeda and IS that has been taking place for much of the past year. One pro-al-Qaeda commentator speculates that the article could lay the groundwork for takfir (excommunication) of al-Qaeda’s central leadership by IS.

Al-Shamali’s account is a striking attempt at offering an alternative narrative of the global jihad to counter the one shaped by al-Qaeda. His revisionist narrative places Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, the founder of al-Qaeda in Iraq (the progenitor of IS), at the center. Al-Zarqawi, according to al-Shamali, isolated himself in Afghanistan from the doctrinally impure jihadists of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Al-Qaeda, rather than being the vanguard of the global jihad, has been an irja’i group, or one that works in the service of current infidel regimes. Bin Laden may have had his heart in the right place, according to al-Shamali, and the 9/11 attacks demonstrated the “truthfulness in his soul,” but he had to be convinced to declare the rulers of Saudi Arabia as apostates and later wrongfully resisted the implementation of shari’ah (Islamic law) in Pakistan.

Footnotes from ‘war on terror’

The writer is a researcher and consultant. 

A NEW narrative is in the making, that the fight against terrorism has been compromised because of civilian failures. That it has been lost so far is seared into our consciousness with the blood of 140 children. It is said that massive trauma can lead to partial or full amnesia. The emerging narrative seems to be counting on that.

While the army support for the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s and the Kashmir mujahideen in the 1990s and their mutating into local Taliban is often lamented, the pallbearers of that era are now relevant only as prime-time TV fodder. What needs more scrutiny is what happened in the early years of this round, the initial days of the ‘war on terror’ from 2002 to 2006. This was the time span when the problem of Taliban terrorism was nascent, manageable and not so widespread. Since then, it’s become terminal.

We are now told we need military courts because civilian courts have freed terrorists. The conviction rate of terrorism cases has been abysmally low and prosecution lax — no arguing with that — but the TTP top hierarchy has never been brought to court.

Combating terrorism should not mean we forget our long history of placating the enemy.

Nek Mohammad, Abdullah Mehsud, Baitullah Mehsud, Maulana Sadiq Noor, Faqir Muhammad, Sirajuddin Haqqani, Asmatullah Muawiya, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Mangal Bagh could roam around because of formal and informal peace deals that offered them amnesty. The formal accords included features such as demolishing army check posts, freeing arrested militants, promising not to arrest them again and returning their weapons, in return for them withdrawing their support to ‘foreign militants’.

The government, we are told, led these negotiation efforts in Fata. But the ‘government’ in these cases invariably was the political agent directly under the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. And from Musharraf’s October 1999 coup till 2008, when the democratically elected government took back the reins, throughout the ‘war on terror’ , the KP governors have been men from the armed forces directly appointed by and reporting to Gen Musharraf: Lt-Gen Muhammad Shafiq, then Lt-Gen Iftikhar Shah, followed by Commander Khalilur Rehman and later Lt-Gen Ali Jan Aurakzai.

Just because the economic sorcerers of the Musharraf regime decided that the pension of retired army men should come from the civilian portion of the GDP doesn’t make them civilians.

The very notion of civilian control of and responsibility for Fata is incredible. While the powers of the political agent have been corroded over the years, locally elected parliamentarians from the areas still cannot legislate for their areas. The Political Parties Act did not extend to Fata till 2008; people didn’t even have the right of vote till 1997.

Analysts have been emphasising the need for structural reforms in Fata as a long-term solution. The Peshawar High Court noted in May 2014 that the internment centres across Fata and KP where high-level Taliban operatives are kept were being run by the army and not by the provincial government, in contravention of the law.

We are also being told that the civilian political leadership decried terrorism as not being our war. Whatever opposition the politicians had, it was the army that sent the receipts of expenses incurred in fighting the war on terrorism for reimbursement to the US government. That doesn’t indicate ownership. They also accepted head money for Al Qaeda fugitives caught on behalf of the US. We remember the fracas over the then Kerry Lugar Bill that directed aid to the civilian government.


The year 2014 was a momentous year for Afghanistan. Afghans successfully concluded a presidential election, transition of security responsibilities to Afghan forces, peaceful transfer of power from one elected president to another, signed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States and Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) with NATO and now there is a unity government in place with Drs. Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah in the lead. They have a long and hard road to address the many challenges of Afghanistan. The least of which entails the implementation of their unity government agreement.

However, the year 2015 will be decisive and the year of consolidation of years of international investment in the country. With the signing of BSA and SOFA – in 2015 the nature of US/NATO military, diplomatic and economic engagement will change. In this year – Afghans will be in complete charge of their security, economy and political institutions.

Following are the six key trends to watch for in 2015 for Afghanistan.
1. Constitutional Loya Jirga and Unity Government: The Question of Premiership and NUG Survival

The National Unity Government agreement signed by President Ghani and CEO Abdullah predicts that within two years of the formation of the new government, the President shall call for a Loya Jirga to amend the constitution and create a new position of premiership for the country. This post is currently held by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah who is the Chief Executive of the country based on a presidential decree and has no constitutional basis. There are also other amendments expected in the constitution i.e increasing the number of Vice-Presidents, clarifying roles and responsibilities of minister among others.

Furthermore, based on the history of national unity governments in Afghanistan and the growing number of deadlocks over many issues i.e. including the formation of a cabinet among others, many experts doubt whether this arrangement will last long.
2. Parliamentary Election: Will history repeat itself again?

Afghanistan is due to hold its third parliamentary election within 6 months. One of the key agreements between Dr. Abdullah and Dr. Ghani in their unity government arrangement is to bring fundamental reforms i.e. distribution of electronic ID cards, changing of the election law, appointment of new election commissioners to avoid the experience of the recent presidential election.

Many observers believe that the recent prolonged presidential election has frustrated common Afghans and the turn out will be low. In addition – many of the losing candidates of the upcoming Afghan parliamentary election will try to derail the election or seek for extra-legal arrangements learning from the arrangement between Dr. Abdullah and Dr. Ghani.

The successful conduct, management and implementation of the Afghan parliamentary election will be a key milestone for the national unity government to prove its competence and effectiveness.
3. Peace Process: Ghani’s Quiet Diplomacy

President Ghani since assuming office has declared that he will pursue a quiet diplomacy with Pakistan unlike his predecessor and was the first Afghan President to go to the office of the powerful Pak Army Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Raheel Shariff to ask for assistance directly from the Pak army to bring Taliban to the table of negotiation with the Afghan government.

Indian SIGINT Reportedly Shows Links Between Pakistani Military and ‘Terror Boats’

January 4, 2015

Wireless intercepts indicate ‘terror’ boats were in touch with Pakistani army

NEW DELHI: Electronic chatter shows that two Pakistani fishing boats, one of which sank after being intercepted by the Coast Guard in the Arabian sea in early hours of January 1, were in frequent touch with Pakistan army and Maritime Security Agency of Pakistan through a “contact”.

Sources privy to the wireless intercepts, which led technical intelligence agency NTRO to alert the Coast Guard, claimed that the “contact” also talked to someone in Thailand on a frequent basis.

It was around 8.30am on December 31, that the Coast Guard received the first intercept about two “suspicious boats” headed towards Indian waters from Keti Bandar near Karachi. The Coast Guard then launched a Dornier reconnaissance aircraft, apart from diverting patrol vessel ICGS Rajratan towards the area.

One fishing boat was “positively identified” by the afternoon, while the other could never be traced. Then followed the “hot-pursuit” of the intercepted trawler with ICGS Rajratan firing warning shots at it, which finally ended in the boat sinking — with four people on board — around 365km from Porbander early on January 1.

Crew talked of ‘finishing task’

“While the first boat was sinking, another intercept from the second boat talked about it heading back after finishing its task. They could have been involved in a mid-sea transfer of arms and ammunition,” said a source.

The intercepts strengthen the official view in New Delhi that the fishing boats were on a sinister mission. On a day when Pakistan accused India of trying to tarnish its image by orchestrating the “drama”, maintaining that no boat from Karachi had gone to the open seas around that time, defence ministry here stuck to its guns that the “rogue vessel” was carrying some explosives.

The ministry said that those aboard the boat were thwarted from carrying out “a possibly dangerous mission” in “a well-coordinated operation” between NTRO and Coast Guard. “The four people on board either went down with the ship or jumped into the sea after setting it afire,” said an official.

But India is taking no chances. With the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and Vibrant Gujarat events slated to kick-off from next week, the security vigil along the long Gujarat coastline has been stepped up in view of continuing intelligence inputs about terror threats emanating from the sea.


By C. Raja Mohan

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Kathmandu and Dhaka in the last few days underlined, once again, the emergence of Beijing as the most important external economic power in the subcontinent.

India’s challenge of coping with China’s growing economic weight in the subcontinent is far more demanding than dealing with its military power. The problem of closing the military gap with China is not a hard one to think through. It involves accelerating India’s own military modernisation, developing a strategy to deter Beijing’s potential aggression on the long-disputed border and increasing security partnerships with other great powers.

New Delhi is certainly conscious that Beijing’s rising economic profile in the subcontinent will have major long-term consequences for the regional balance of power between India and China. Yet, there is no way Delhi can exclude Beijing, the world’s second-largest economic power, from its own calculus for accelerating India’s economic development. If the Manmohan Singh government sent out ambiguous signals on economic cooperation with China, Narendra Modi appears determined to advance the bilateral economic cooperation with Beijing.

Modi is eager to mobilise Chinese technology, capital and organisational skills to promote his agenda of infrastructure development and manufacturing at home. Delhi does not have the experience of operating at two levels – competing with Beijing for strategic influence and, at the same time, strengthening economic cooperation with China. This problem gets magnified at the regional level.
Bridge States

India has long objected to military cooperation between China and South Asian nations. However, Delhi is in no credible position to oppose commercial cooperation between Beijing and its subcontinental neighbours, because it sees China as a major economic partner at the bilateral and global level.

To make matters more complicated, Beijing is not seeking exclusive bilateral economic engagement with India’s neighbours, but wants Delhi to be an active regional partner through trilateral, quadrilateral and multilateral mechanisms.

China Can Thank Nazi Germany for Its Carrier-Killer Missiles

January 5, 2015 
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The genesis of China's growing arsenal of anti-ship missiles began almost 72 years ago. On September 8, 1943, the Italian battleship Roma was peacefully steaming under sunny Mediterranean skies. Mussolini had been deposed, Italy had secretly surrendered to the Allies (despite promising Hitler it would fight by his side to the end) and the Italian Navy was sailing toward internment in Allied ports.

Nazi vengeance came in the form of a squadron of German Dornier 217 bombers. After three years of seeing their ships sunk by the British, being bombed was a familiar experience for Italian sailors. But these bombs were different. Instead of falling straight down like a normal bomb, they followed their target. One bomb penetrated the Roma's hull and exited the other side. A second landed on the deck and detonated the forward magazine. The battleship sank, killing 1,253 members of her crew.

The Missile Age had arrived.

The weapon that sank the Roma was the Fritz-X, a regular 3,000-pound armor-piercing bomb with radio-controlled fins attached. The bomb glided toward its target under the guide of an operator on the launch bomber, who tracked the bomb by flares burning on its tail.

By today's standards, it sounds like a primitive predecessor of the modern U.S. Joint Direct Attack Munition, which uses GPS to turn regular bombs into smart weapons. Yet by the standards of 1943, it was pure science-fiction, a guided weapon as exotic and terrifying as a Predator drone to a Taliban tribesman.

China’s maritime ambitions impact India

3rd Jan 2015 

China’s naval expansion can deny India freedom of navigation in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. 

A Chinese Navy nuclear submarine takes part in an international fleet review to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in Qingdao, Shandong province in April 2009. REUTERS

ention of a submarine conjures up an image of something subterranean, stealthy and sinister. It is also the more lethal of vessels in the inventory of a country's navy and most capable of launching a retaliatory nuclear counter-strike. The appearance of a Chinese submarine in Colombo, therefore, understandably arouses concern in New Delhi.

Since Mao Zedong, China's leadership has viewed submarines as an essential component of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Beijing's primary concern was to thwart any attempt by foreign powers to frustrate a possible Chinese assault on Taiwan. Today, with its growing economic and military might, expanding overseas interests and enhanced maritime ambitions, China sees advanced nuclear submarines as capable of vastly extending its strategic maritime reach and adding to its ability to deliver a nuclear counter-punch. As China enhances its indigenous capacity to build increasingly advanced, silent nuclear submarines, the PLAN presently has five nuclear and at least 50 diesel submarines. Two more Jin-class nuclear submarines are expected to be operational by 2020.

The appearance of Great Wall No. 329, a Chinese Song-class diesel-powered attack submarine in Colombo between 14-19 September, whose carefully timed presence overlapped with Chinese President Xi Jinping's visits to Sri Lanka and India, signalled China's maritime ambitions in India's neighbourhood and in the Indian Ocean. It was the first ever visit by a Chinese submarine in such distant waters. Earlier, apparently timed to embarrass Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his first visit to Sri Lanka in 24 years, a PLAN warship and submarine docked at Colombo port from 7 September 2014.

In early October, China announced that a Type 093 Shang-class nuclear-powered submarine would henceforth join the PLAN flotilla deployed for anti-piracy operations in the waters off Aden. A submarine's effectiveness for anti-piracy operations is minimal and the deployment of a nuclear submarine in these waters underscores PLAN's intention of maintaining a meaningful presence, with strategic deterrence, in the Indian Ocean on par with that maintained by the major powers. Reports reveal that three Jin-class nuclear-powered nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines, presently at the Yalong Navy base in Hainan Island, may conduct their first strategic patrol mission by the end of this year.

India has 'partial advantages' over China's Chengdu Military Region


PLA's soldiers patrol the Qinghai-Tibet highway in Golmud, Qinghai province, Nov. 2008. (File photo/CNS)

India enjoys "partial advantages" over the Chengdu Military Region of China, in the event that a conflict were to break out in the two nations' border areas, Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television reported Friday.

The People's Liberation Army's Chengdu Military Region has recently staged a series of military drills, with India as its proposed target.

According to post-drill reviews conducted by officers in the Chengdu Military Region, which is tasked with guarding China against Vietnam and India, the China-India border area, located mainly in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, has two geographic characteristics–high altitude and cold weather–both of which are equally unfavorable to India and China.

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has an average altitude of 4,500 meters above sea-level.

However, India enjoys "partial advantages" in battle preparedness, especially in the transportation and supply of military personnel and materials in high-altitude mountainous areas, the report said.

Besides, India has largely enhanced its skills in electronic warfare in the surveillance, interference and paralysis of its enemy as a result of military cooperation with the United States, Russia and Israel.

But, the PLA said, its greatest advantage against India is its deployment of the high-accuracy mid-range Dongfeng-16 missiles in Yunnan and Guizhou provinces.

Bangladesh Juggles Chinese, Japanese Interest

By ASMG Kibria
January 05, 2015

In recent months, both Bangladesh and Japan have appeared to be committed to taking the bilateral relationship to a new level. And the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt (BIG-B) has emerged as a cornerstone of Japan’s strategy for South Asia.

The BIG-B concept consists of infrastructure improvement for industrial development, creating a better environment for investment, and improving solidarity and connectedness.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid an official visit to Bangladesh on September 6, 2014. The visit took place just three months after Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Tokyo. The exchange is a clear manifestation of Japan’s interest in revitalizing bilateral relations between two friendly countries.

The Abe administration has vowed to unlock Bangladesh’s huge potential, expedite growth, and take advantage of its geostrategic position. On his last visit to Bangladesh, Abe announced $5.9 billion in aid over the next four or five years to establish the country’s first deep-sea port and build other major infrastructure, most notably a highly efficient power plant.

Japan has already approved $1.18 billion to build the coal-fired Matarbari Power Plant. The facility will be operated using Ultra Super Critical technology, in which Japan is a world leader. As a result, thermal efficiency will significantly increase and toxic emissions will be a fraction of those in the U.S. and France. By 2020, this plant will supply 15 percent of Bangladesh’s energy needs.

Along with 65 senior officials, Abe was accompanied by 22 CEOs from sectors such as trading, construction, energy, power generation, infrastructure development, IT, textile, RMG, pharmaceuticals and automobiles. “I came here with 22 top leaders of business, ranging from infrastructure to safe water, with a strong hope of doing business in Bangladesh,” Abe told a forum in Dhaka.

Bangladesh demonstrated its own eagerness to create a win-win situation, with several positive initiatives. Dhaka has already decided to withdraw its own candidacy for a nonpermanent seat on the UN Secretary Council, and back Tokyo’s bid instead – a sign of its gratitude for Japan’s continued assistance.

Arab spring prompts biggest migrant wave since second world war

03 January 2015

The two “ghost ships” discovered sailing towards the Italian coast last week with hundreds of migrants – but no crew – on board are just the latest symptom of what experts consider to be the world’s largest wave of mass-migration since the end of the second world war.

Wars in Syria, Libya and Iraq, severe repression in Eritrea, and spiralling instability across much of the Arab world have all contributed to the displacement of around 16.7 million refugees worldwide.

A further 33.3 million people are “internally displaced” within their own war-torn countries, forcing many of those originally from the Middle East to cross the lesser evil of the Mediterranean in increasingly dangerous ways, all in the distant hope of a better life in Europe.

“These numbers are unprecedented,” said Leonard Doyle, spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration. “In terms of refugees and migrants, nothing has been seen like this since world war two, and even then [the flow of migration] was in the opposite direction.”

European politicians believe they can discourage migrants from crossing the Mediterranean simply by reducing rescue operations. But refugees say that the scale of unrest in the Middle East, including in the countries in which they initially sought sanctuary, leaves them with no option but to take their chances at sea.

Lone Successful Iraqi General Criticizes Corruption of Iraqi Army and Erratic US Airstrikes

January 2, 2015

Iraqi General Warns of Military Woes in Fighting Extremists

Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi had 225 fighters, a single Abrams tank, a pair of mortars, two artillery pieces and about 40 armored Humvees when he set out to retake a strategic city in northern Iraq captured by Islamic State militants over the summer.

It took 30 days as his force made an agonizingly slow journey for 40 kilometers (25 miles) through roadside bombs and suicide car attacks, then successfully laid siege to the oil refinery city of Beiji. The campaign earned al-Saadi the biggest battlefield victory by Iraqi forces since Islamic State fighters swept over most of northern and western Iraq in a summer blitz, prompting the collapse of the military.

Yet al-Saadi is deeply pessimistic. In a two-hour interview with The Associated Press, he said Iraq’s military lacks weapons, equipment and battle-ready troops and complained that U.S. air support was erratic. Both the military and the government remain riddled with corruption, he said. Most of the senior generals serving when the military fell apart had skills “more suited to World War II,” he said.

"If things don’t get better," warned the general, "the country could end up divided" between its Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish populations.

The extremists are beatable when confronted with a proper force, he said. But he worries that the military’s multiple woes prevent it from doing so. Already, there is a danger the jihadis could retake Beiji, he said.

A Baghdad-born Shiite with family roots in southern Iraq, al-Saadi complained of “excesses” by some of the Shiite volunteers who joined the fight against the Sunni militants and on whom the military has come to rely.

"I am a military man, and they don’t respect the rules by which we operate," he said. Volunteers, for example, looted homes in government-controlled areas around the Sunni city of Tikrit and tried to intimidate army officers, he said. During his march toward Beiji, some of the volunteers whom he deployed as a rear guard left their posts.

The government and its media consistently praise the volunteers’ role in the war against the Sunni militants.

The U.S.-trained al-Saadi, who is second-in-command of the army’s elite counterterrorism forces, spoke at his office in one of Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad palaces. The chain-smoking general wore a baseball cap and green sweater ? the same outfit he wears on the front lines, without helmet or body armor or indications of his rank. In the Beiji campaign, he was wounded by shrapnel in his arm and dangerously close to his eye, on top of wounds he suffered last summer in the western province of Anbar.

On his office walls hung photos of himself with former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Saadi said he had a close relationship with al-Maliki during his eight years in office. But the Shiite leader, he said, bears the “moral responsibility” for the debacle against the Islamic State group.

Exclusive: U.S. Drone Fleet at ‘Breaking Point,’ Air Force Says

Too many missions and too few pilots are threatening the ‘readiness and combat capability’ of America’s unmanned Air Force, according to an internal memo.

The U.S. Air Force’s fleet of drones is being strained to the “breaking point,” according to senior military officials and an internal service memo acquired by The Daily Beast. And it’s happening right when the unmanned aircraft are most needed to fight ISIS .

The Air Force has enough MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones. It’s just doesn’t have the manpower to operate those machines. The Air Force’s situation is so dire that Air Combat Command (ACC), which trains and equips the service’s combat forces, is balking at filling the Pentagon’s ever increasing demands for more drone flights.

“ACC believes we are about to see a perfect storm of increased COCOM [Combatant Commander] demand, accession reductions and outflow increases that will damage the readiness and combat capability of the MQ-1/9 enterprise for years to come,” Carlisle wrote. reads an internal Air Force memo from ACC commander Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, addressed to Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh. “I am extremely concerned.”

“ACC will continue to non-concur to increased tasking beyond our FY15 [fiscal year 2015] force offering and respectfully requests your support in ensuring the combat viability of the MQ-1/9 platform,” he added.

In other words, the Air Force is saying that its drone force has been stretched to its limits. “It’s at the breaking point, and has been for a long time,” a senior service official told The Daily Beast. “What’s different now is that the band-aid fixes are no longer working.”

In the internal memo, Carlisle says that the Air Force’s current manning problem is so acute that the service will have to beg the Pentagon to reconsider its demand for 65 drone combat air patrols, or CAPs, as early as April 2015. (Each CAP, also known as an “orbit,” consists on four aircraft.)

Obama Envoy John Allen: No 'Short-Term Solutions' for Stopping Islamic State

By Matthias Gebauer and Holger Stark
December 31, 2014

Islamic State fighters parade in Mosul, Iraq in June: "When you can defeat the idea, then you have destroyed the organization" says Obama's envoy tasked to help stop the terrorist group's menace.

In an interview, US General John Allen, Washington's special envoy for countering the Islamic State, discusses why he believes the recent military campaign has reversed the terrorist group's momentum but warns the battle to stop its ideology could take years.

General John Allen, 61, has served as special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State (IS) under US President Barack Obama since September. He previously served for three years as the deputy commander of the US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In an interview with SPIEGEL, Allen uses the Arabic term "Daesh" when referring to IS in order to prevent having to say the word "state".

SPIEGEL: General Allen, congratulations on your new assignment. It seems that you will have a secure job for the next decade.

Allen: Yes, probably. It would seem that my employability and my employment are guaranteed for some period of time.