24 January 2015

A new moment in India-US defence ties

By: Stephen P. Cohen and Michael O’Hanlon
January 24, 2015 

Great powers are often characterised by a worldview that is widely shared from generation to generation — a strategic culture, and a good deal of consistency in vision and strategic priorities. The present visions of US and Indian elites go back to roughly World War II. The US sought — in that war and in the subsequent Cold War — to create a world order in which its economic and ideological interests would be protected; this vision was implemented through a strategy of alliance, institution-building and democracy promotion. India — which became the world’s largest democracy when it became a republic in 1950 — saw a desirable world order as one in which colonialism was rooted out and replaced by a non-aligned block that would be free of Cold War pressures, allowing it to take its proper place as one of the great civilisational powers, even if its economic and military power measured in traditional terms might not immediately rival some of the other great powers. These visions were, in their historical context, like ships that pass in the night.

A new period of strategic engagement began after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and there were discussions, albeit futile, of American technology sales to India, especially the development of a light combat aircraft. Americans had serious doubts about India’s technical capabilities; India had doubts about America as a reliable source of technology (in the end both were correct). However, India’s nascent nuclear weapon programme intruded and both Indian and Pakistani nuclear and space programmes fell under US sanctions.

The US-India nuclear agreement of 2005 was a positive milestone. But more recently, the joint statement of September 30, 2014 by US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced another new beginning. Like earlier statements, it placed defence cooperation — embodied in the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) — at or near the core of the relationship. This time, however, three developments may make the promise of a transformed defence relationship more likely to be realised.

A fifty-fifty democracy - Seven threats to freedom of expression

Ramachandra Guha
January 24 , 2015

India, I have long maintained, is a fifty-fifty democracy. In some respects - such as free and fair elections, free movement of people - we are as democratic as any other country in the world. In other respects, we lag noticeably behind. One such area is the freedom of expression.

The first threat to freedom of expression is the retention in our statute books of archaic colonial laws. In his now notorious case against Wendy Doniger's book, The Hindus: An Alternative History, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activist, Dinanath Batra, cited six specific sections of the Indian Penal Code that he claimed the book could be banned under. These were: Section 153 ("Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot"), Section 153A ("Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony"), Section 295 ("Injuring or defiling [a] place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class"), Section 295A ("Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs"), Section 298 ("Uttering, words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person"), and Section 505 ("Statements conducing to public mischief").

The IPC was originally drafted by Thomas Babington Macaulay - a man whom the RSS professes to despise. The RSS also often inveighs against the contamination of Indian culture by alien British rule. Yet, when it suits its purpose, it is perfectly willing to use colonial laws drafted by Macaulay. That it is allowed to do so is a result of the postcolonial State having done nothing to repeal laws clearly unsuited to a democratic age. Apart from the sections cited above, there are other provisions in the IPC and the Criminal Procedure Code allowing books or films to be banned. The State also retains the power to ban or confiscate publications.

The useful friendship

January 24, 2015 

What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, India and the United States were embroiled in bitter controversy after American authorities arrested an Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade. Next week, US President Barack Obama, will be guest of honour at India’s Republic Day parade.

Equally striking, a year ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, was an outcast to a large segment of Washington officialdom because of his alleged inaction during anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002. In the course of the past year, however, both parties have opted for pragmatism over moral misgivings, on one side, and grudge-bearing, on the other. Now, in a matter of days, the once-scorned chief minister will be hosting the president of the country that so recently found him unworthy of diplomatic intercourse.

But what sort of Obama will be coming to India? A “lame duck” whose party was soundly rebuffed by the voters in last November’s congressional elections? A rejected president whose political adversaries now control both houses of Congress? A leader without followers?

Arms and the honoured guest

Abhijit Bhattacharyya

Barack Obama of the Occident is coming. India of the Orient is getting ready to receive the honoured guest. Suddenly there are hundreds of unknown faces across Delhi preceding the arrival of the VVIP. They are Americans in India for Obama's safety and security. They have emerged from nowhere, to be visible and active here, there, everywhere. They could have been tourists in normal times but cannot afford to be mere tourists in testing times of terror. They are 'on duty'.

Why? What is their mission deep in an alien territory? Does not the host country have its security apparatus in position? Yes it does. Yet the guest does not appear to have any confidence in the 'Old World' host's ability to take care of the president of the 'New World'. Hence those on duty are cold, careful, watchful, demanding and constantly looking sternly at all and sundry. It is India, an aspiring 'super power' of 1.20 billion heads. It has the nuclear bomb but cannot take care of the nitty-gritty of internal security.

It is 'socialist and secular' since 1976; that is what its Constitution enshrines vide the 42nd Amendment Act. But some of its leaders, with impressive criminal curricula vitae, have the most undesirable expertise and experience in violating the Constitution with impunity owing to their intellectual arrogance as well as their ignorance of the contents of the Constitution. Has not it been recently reflected in a recent book that 'Emergency' provisions do not appear to have been known by the rulers in the 1970s? Little surprise, therefore, that during the course of India's 67-year-independence, it saw the assassination of the 'father of the nation', Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi; the untimely and mysterious demise of a serving prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, in a foreign land while on an official visit; the unexpected death of Indira Gandhi's politically active son, Sanjay Gandhi; the assassination of Indira Gandhi in her own official residence when she was prime minister and the killing of the ex-prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, by a suicide bomber.

Intangibles and deliverables

Jayant Prasad
January 24, 2015 

When they meet, the core challenge before Narendra Modi and Barack Obama will be how best to harness their personal and national goodwill towards each other for positive outcomes that relate to the concerns of the common people

In two days, U.S. President Barack Obama will grace India’s Republic Day celebrations with his presence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to him to do so was not impulsive, though it took Mr. Obama by surprise. It is an affirmation of India’s willingness to invest in its relationship with the United States, and signals India’s belief that the two countries are good for each other. During his visit to Washington last September, Mr. Modi got a sense of the perception of India held by the U.S. leadership — its administration, business, and Congress. Finding positive resonance, he decided to request a return visit from Mr. Obama, who accepted the invitation upon realising its significance.

It is in its intangibles that this visit will be evaluated, not just on the balance sheet of deliverables. “The Obama visit served its main purpose simply when announced,” quipped Ambassador K.S. Bajpai. “It signalled that India can again be taken seriously, and that America is in the forefront of doing so.” Much of what will happen next will depend on India’s economic trajectory and the diligent management of relations by the leadership of the two countries.

A launching pad for Indo-US defence ties


Obama’s visit can pave the way for technology transfer in a range of areas, including cyber security and homeland security

Barack Obama’s visit to India is marked by two rare distinctions — he will be the first US president to be chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade and also the first president to visit India twice.

Both these aspects are significant and give a clear indication of the potential of the India-US relationship, particularly in defence.

Higher potential

Defence and strategic security are a major area. From a regime of mistrust and stagnation two decades ago, we have arrived at a situation of healthy engagement. Ten years after the Framework Agreement signed in 2005 (dealing with bilateral defence relations), now due for renewal, much has changed.


By Sai Shakti

Crude oil, which is an important factor in the global geo-politics, is seeing wide swings in the international market. From record highs, it has now fallen to record lows, surprising the world. Since June 2014, there has been a staggering 40% drop in the oil price — from $115 per barrel to below $50. Two main factors that determine the price of crude oil are, first, the basic economic principle of supply and demand and second, expectation — the amount of oil that could be purchased on the international market at a given point of time. Demand is also influenced by weather conditions. During winter, the demand spikes in the southern hemisphere and countries that use air conditioning have a significantly greater need during summer. Weakening of economies world over, an investment drought, growing efficiency of vehicles and a switch from oil to more sustainable sources of power have all resulted in sharp decline in demand.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is no longer the largest producer of crude oil. That title is now held by the USA, earlier a huge importer. Though the United States doesn’t export the oil they produce, they aren’t buying either. Considering they were a major buyer, 9-10 million barrels per day, it is no great surprise that the price has dropped as there is a lot more surplus oil available for sale. Countries like Iraq and Iran, which were pre occupied with internal conflict, have now become stable enough to start supplying again. The massive increase in oil prices earlier had resulted in large investments in oil exploration and drilling. All these factors led to a jump in the supply. But there was no reciprocate rise in demand. Rather, there was a slump in demand, forcing oil prices way down.

To Beat China, Be China

JANUARY 22, 2015 

For years, economists have argued that the Indian economy should grow faster than China’s. Is it finally on track to do so? 
Rupa Subramanya is a Mumbai-based economist and co-author of Indianomix: Making Sense of Modern India.

In 2003, MIT’s Yasheng Huang and Tarun Khanna of Harvard Business School argued in Foreign Policy that India would eventually overtake China. It was a case of fundamentals: Driven by fickle and unreliable foreign investment and technology, the Chinese economy would peter out while India, buoyed by more reliable drivers such as domestic savings and entrepreneurship, would one day thrive — and at China’s expense. Huang and Khanna’s controversial argument made a big splash at the time. To many then and now, suggesting that India could overtake China seemed outlandish.

Outlandish or not, many experts were sympathetic to the notion that democratic India ought to do better than authoritarian China. But China stubbornly refuses to undergo the existential political crisis that many Western observers have predicted for decades. And India’s democracy, especially during Manmohan Singh’s left-of-center government, failed to accomplish much in the way of structural economic reform and instead became a case study in policy paralysis.

Yet here we are in the first weeks of 2015: China finally seems to be cooling off, and India may, at long last, be warming up. Could Huang and Khanna’s theory be ready to bear fruit?

According to the World Bank’s latest Global Economic Prospects report, India’s real GDP growth will reach 6.2 percent this year, 6.8 percent next year, and 7 percent in 2017, just overtaking China, whose growth is expected to slow to 6.9 percent. And the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook predicts that in 2016, India’s 6.6 percent growth rate will overtake China’s 6.3 percent. If these forecasts hold true, India will become the world’s fastest-growing large economy for the first time in living memory. The World Bank and the IMF say these improved growth projections are due, at least in part, to the Narendra Modi government’s renewed vigor for economic reform.

State versus Nations in Pakistan: Sindhi, Baloch and Pakhtun Responses to Nation Building

The present monograph traces the origins of the Pakistani state and the processes that encouraged the state-sponsored efforts to build a Pakistani nation, and seeks to isolate various problems associated with such nation-building efforts. It introduces various conceptual categories of state, nation, nation-state and state-nation, and identifies the superfluity in the argument that state and nation must be coterminous for a state to survive— an argument which has been unquestioningly taken up by the leaders of the India and Pakistan in their nation-building endeavours. Based on such a proposition, the prolonged effort of the Pakistani state to impose an artificial identity, privileging certain markers of nationalism unacceptable to local identities, has resulted in demands of the latter for secession and self-determination. The monograph tries to identify and compare the separate markers of state-nationalism and the Sindhi, Baloch and Pakhtun identities, and argues that dissonances among the way these identities are projected and internalised would continue to make the process of nation-building difficult for the elite in Pakistan. It recognises the potential of the Pakistani state to evolve a neutral, and territory-based civic-nationalism as an antidote to the ongoing confrontation between the state and the ‘nations’, but concludes that the present power-elite in Pakistan may not be ready for such a transformational change in its outlook.

Ashok K Behuria is Research Fellow at the Indian Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). Dr Behuria is Coordinator, South Asia Centre at IDSA and is also associated with IDSA Projects on Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). He is a Ph. D. in International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, and has written his thesis on “India-Pakistan Relationship During the Eighties”. He has been a close observer of developments in Pakistan for the last two decades and was awarded the prestigious K Subrahmanyam Award for excellence in strategic studies in 2009 for his research. He has published many research articles on strategic issues related to ethno-cultural and sectarian issues in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and strategic developments in different South Asian countries, in Indian and foreign journals. He has edited books on South Asia and continues with his work emphasising the need for regional and inter-state cooperation to unleash the collective potential for growth and prosperity for states in the region. 

Recent Activities of the Chinese Nuclear Missile Force

Jeffrey Lewis
January 21, 2015

Chillin’ With the Second Artillery

“China Deploys Nuclear Missiles at Mt. Baekdu,” screamed the headline in theThe Chosun Ilbo, ending with a warning from a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, “If China has deployed DF-21 missiles at Mt. Baekdu, it’s a warning to the military alliance among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo.”

No, no and no. It’s not a deployment, it’s not at Mount Baekdu and it’s not a warning to anyone.

Elements of China’s 810 Launch Brigade, based in Dalian, have probably conducted a DF-21 training exercise out of the training base near Jingyu, in Jilin Province. The news? It was in the snow. The original Chinese story is clear about that fact, both by explicitly describing the deployment as a temporary training exercise and providing enough information to identify the unit in question. Can’t anyone read?

Since the late 1960s, Chinese launch units have trained at Jingyu, which is about 100 km from the peak of Baekdusan (Mt. Baekdu, also known in China as Changbaishan). On December 29, the PLA published a story with photographs of one such exercise. (The story has been taken down, but you can see all the pictures here.) On January 15, a Chinese-language news story appeared in theInternational Herald Leader, which is a Xinhua publication. In that story, an expert used weather reports and an analysis of the trees to geolocate the position of the exercise near Changbaishan.

The general geolocation of the exercise to Jilin Province was accurate. But either the expert or the reporter goes way too far—as we will discuss—concluding that the altitude of the exercise must be 1000-1800 meters and, therefore, on the slopes of Changbaishan. Moreover, the story then engages in a bunch of silly claims speculating about the motives for this “new” deployment that actually is not happening.

All these stories omit a super important detail that is well-known to any PLA-watcher.

Reappraising Relations with China: From Strategic Ambiguity to Recognising Mutual Interests

January 22, 2015

As global economic and strategic concerns shift to Asia, Chinese analysis of global trends has resulted in a strategic shift in China’s approaches to foreign and security policy. This is, for instance, reflected both in the call for a ‘new type of major power relationship’ with the United States as well as in the new outreach initiatives towards Asian countries. Beijing has been among the first to reach out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and our relations with China should not respond merely to its re-emergence but also engage with it in shaping the future regional and global orders.
Re-emergence of China

The re-emergence of China is one of the most transformative processes of our time. As a re-emerging country ourselves, it is vital for us to understand the implications of both China’s and our own rise for global governance, the globalized economy and regional stability.

The key elements shaping China’s foreign policy on these three strategic issues are now becoming evident. First, China has articulated its national goals and analysis of global trends that it will respond to and seek to influence. The Chinese have a focus on Asia where two thirds of future global growth is going to take place. Second, the Chinese emphasis on access to more natural resources is being replaced by access to new markets. This is being spearheaded by investment in infrastructure, as China shifts from being the ‘factory of the world’ to a services- and knowledge-based economy, again, with an emphasis on Asia. Third, China’s military focus primarily responds to the US “re-balancing to Asia” (which involves the stationing of 60 per cent of America’s aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and combat aircraft in the Pacific), by developing new weapons to keep these American assets at bay rather than seeking to match firepower. Analysts differ in their assessments of the intention of the Chinese because these responses are different from the approach adopted by the United States during its own rise in the last century. Today, a very different international system is framing China’s relationships with other countries.

How to Rule the High Seas and Contain an Asian Country That Will Remain Nameless

JANUARY 21, 2015 

U.S. naval forces are about to release a revised maritime strategy. The last one, in 2007, didn't mention China. Don't bet on that this time around. 
James Holmes is an associate professor of strategy at the Naval War College and co-author of Red Star over the Pacific: China's Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy. The views voiced here are his alone. 

Florentine philosopher-statesman Niccolò Machiavelli wrote that keeping pace with the times is the paramount challenge of statecraft. If so, the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, known collectively as the sea services, have embroiled themselves in a truly Machiavellian enterprise.

After a series of fits and starts, sea-service chiefs are preparing to release a “refreshed,” or revised, version of their 2007 Maritime Strategy. Put simply, maritime strategy is the art of using available means — ships, aircraft, ground-pounders, armaments — to fulfill national purposes. The updated strategy, accordingly, should provide clues to how the naval leadership sees the nautical world, and intends to cope with it amid finite and dwindling resources. Assessing that should indicate whether the services are fulfilling their Machiavellian duty to evolve in concert with the surrounding environment.

Soon to be released, the directive will also be worth investigating because the 2007 strategy was ahead of its time: It pivoted to Asia a full half-decade before the Obama administration shifted its own foreign-policy attentions eastward. The 2015 Maritime Strategy, then, may hint at the prospects for success of Obama’s signature policy.

Blandly titled “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower,” the 2007 Maritime Strategy appeared just months before the Great Recession. Economic distress pinched shipbuilding budgets at a time when costs were spiraling upward and major segments of the fleet — tactical aircraft, nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines — were about to go out-of-date. As a result, the fleet stagnated, limiting the means available to execute the strategy.

The State of the Union: Obama’s Challenge to China

January 22, 2015

Obama’s annual address contained a world view that Beijing will find inherently problematic. 
Ah, the State of the Union address – that special time each year when analysts spend hours and hours pouring over a speech that will likely have little to no relationship to actual government policy. Fortunately, I can beg off from most of that tedium by virtue of working for an international affairs magazine. In fact, as of yesterday evening I had no plans to write about the speech at all – unless, of course, Obama said something particularly interesting or relevant to U.S.-China relations. And so he did, and here we are.

The passage in question reads as follows:

But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and our businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but are also fair. It’s the right thing to do.

There’s a lot going on here that, unfortunately, will reinforce some of the darker suspicions among Chinese officials. Let’s unpack this paragraph, shall we?

First, Obama holds up a stark zero-sum vision of Asia-Pacific trade – something not likely to sit well in Beijing, where leaders constantly bemoan “Cold War thinking” in Washington. If China gets to “write the rules” for Asia-Pacific trade, Obama argues, U.S. companies and workers will be “at a disadvantage.” The underlying assumption is that a Chinese-led system will be inherently bad for the U.S., and (presumably) vice versa, with a U.S.-led system giving its companies an advantage over their Chinese competitors.

How a team of social media experts is able to keep track of the UK jihadis

17 January 2015

A team of analysts at King’s College in London is building an exhaustive database of western Islamic State fighters – through Twitter and Facebook 

A Facebook posting by Collin Gordon, one of the 700 or so western fighters for Isis in the database at King’s College London. He is thought to have died last month with his brother, Gregory, during fighting in Dabiq.
Another Briton had died in Syria, and back in London investigators were busy “scraping” through his online peer network for clues about fellow Islamic State (Isis) foot soldiers.

It was little surprise that Rhonan Malik knew two Canadian brothers, Gregory and Collin Gordon. After all, Twitter rumours suggested that all three had been killed in the same December air strike. More intriguing was the prodigious Facebook presence of Collin Gordon which indicated that, shortly before becoming a jihadist, he had been “quite the party boy”.

On a labyrinthine upper floor of King’s College London is the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR), the first global initiative of its type, whose offices are frequently contacted by counter-terrorism officers, hungry for information on the continuing flow of Britons to the ranks of Isis.

At 4.30pm on Thursday the centre’s researchers were assiduously examining social media “accounts of value”, noting the ongoing ripples of jubilation following the Charlie Hebdo and Paris attacks. A pseudonymous jihadist from Manchester, Abu QaQa, had said that the shootings had persuaded Isis and al-Qaida supporters to bury their differences.

“He’s saying we should be happy that jihad was made against the crusaders. It doesn’t matter that AQ and IS have been fighting each other – if it brings attacks against the west he’ll support it,” said Joseph Carter, research fellow at the ICSR.


By Hasan Selim Ozertem

The gradual rise in the complexity of the Ukrainian crisis in 2014 has necessitated a multidimensional review of relations between Russia and the West. Current circumstances have sparked the emergence of new parameters in the EU-Russia-Turkey Triad with regard to energy policy.

The gradual rise in the complexity of the Ukrainian crisis in 2014 has necessitated a multidimensional review of relations between Russia and the West. While increasing the depth and scope of sanctions against Russia, the EU was also busy formulating new strategies that are to shape its relations with Moscow through 2020.

In this respect, the EU’s revised energy policies actually represent the demarcation of its relations with Russia, which up until then had largely been characterized by the former’s dependency on the latter. Moreover, questions of resource efficiency and supply security came to occupy top positions of the agenda in Brussels. These changes have paved the way for the EU’s reassessment of its existing structure and prompted the emergence of new equations within the EU-Russia-Turkey Triangle.
Stress tests and the growing importance of the Southern Corridor

The EU Commission’s Energy Security Strategy released on 28 May 2014 differentiated EU-wide energy policies between those with short and medium term outlooks. Hereunder, short term measures outlined in the document included “stress tests” that were aimed at evaluating the extent of risks faced by EU members in terms their dependency on Russian gas. Following these assessments, it was to be decided to what extent the following actions should be taken: i) increasing gas stocks, ii) developing new systems that enable reverse flows, iii) reducing short-term energy demand, and iv) expanding the use of renewable energy technologies.

Understanding conflict is the road to peace, prosperity, Stanford scholar says


The Empirical Studies of Conflict project focuses on the causes and characteristics of politically motivated violence.

In a project called Empirical Studies of Conflict, Stanford scholar Joe Felter tries to understand the nature of conflict in the world's most dangerous flashpoints.

Understanding the nature of violent conflict in the world's most dangerous flashpoints may help find ways to peace and stability, according to a Stanford expert.

Once a soldier, now a scholar, Joe Felter knows better than most the intrinsic meaning of war and conflict – he served on the front lines in the U.S. Special Forces in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines.

Today, the senior research scholar at Stanford'sCenter for International Security and Cooperation and research fellow at the Hoover Institution is on a different kind of mission: building knowledge on the subject of politically motivated conflict.

For example, how are the most casualties suffered and under what conditions? Are there patterns to why rebels are surrendering? And how do armed battles affect development and education in local communities?

Answers to these and other questions are found in the Empirical Studies of Conflict project database, which is led by Felter and Jacob Shapiro, his former Stanford political science classmate, now a professor at Princeton University. The effort focuses on insurgency, civil war and other sources of politically motivated violence worldwide. Launched last year, it currently covers the Philippines, Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Northern Ireland, Mexico, the Israeli-occupied territories, Pakistan and Vietnam. The site includes geospatial and tabular data as well as thousands of documents, archives and interviews.

Since 2009, Felter has collaborated with colleagues at Princeton, the University of California, San Diego, and other institutions in developing the database. Today, they are advising policymakers and military leaders on how best to curb conflict, reduce civilian casualties and promote prosperity.

Felter's research on Filipino insurgencies, for instance, has produced significant results. The senior officials there have invited him to brief their military on battlefield trends and counterinsurgency strategy, as Felter and his colleagues have interviewed thousands of combatants as part of the project.

What do they learn about the insurgent mindset? One Islamic militant chief talked tactics with him, then revealed that his greatest tool was his men's belief that Allah was waiting for them on the other side. Others included a Roman Catholic nun who was running guns and money to help the poor and a young college freshman recruited with the promise of $40 a month to support her family.
Pathways to peace

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should cause much more than a hiccup in relations

By Editorial Board

EUROPEAN FOREIGN ministers met Monday to consider proposals for resuming diplomatic contacts and cooperation with Russia in a range of areas — a strategy pressed by several governments that wish to paper over the breach opened by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Unfortunately for the doves, the discussion came just as Russian forces, after several weeks of relative calm, launched a new offensive in eastern Ukraine. 

By Tuesday, the Ukrainian government and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine were reporting that fresh Russian army units were crossing the border and attacking Ukrainian positions north of the city of Luhansk and at the Donetsk airport. “The situation,” European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told us shortly after arriving in Washington, “is not going in the right direction.” Appropriately, the European ministers concluded there were no grounds for altering the existing sanctions on Russia, some of which will come up for renewal at a summit meeting in March — and the plan for detente came under heavy criticism

Boko Haram, ISIS and al-Qaeda: how the jihadists compare

By Daniel Schwartz
Jan 20, 2015

Nigeria's Boko Haram getting less attention
Boko Haram is suspected of using girls as suicide bombers. Children stand near the scene of an explosion in a mobile phone market in Potiskum, Nigeria, Jan. 12. Two female suicide bombers targeted the busy marketplace the previous day. (Adamu Adamu/Associated Press)

Boko Haram, the vicious jihadist group carrying out attacks in northern Nigeria and neighbouring countries, hasn't received the media and diplomatic attention that al-Qaeda and ISIS get.

But terrorism experts are now seeing growing similarities between Boko Haram and ISIS, which operates in Iraq and Syria.

While the world news media was focusing on the Charlie Hebdo and related killings in Paris, Boko Haram was apparently carrying out even bloodier attacks in northeastern Nigeria. 

All Spin and No Substance: The Need for a Meaningful Obama Strategy

JAN 21, 2015 

It may be unfair to expect any meaningful discussion of strategy and America’s security position in a State of the Union address. But, it is all too clear that President Obama failed to go beyond a few sentences of vacuous spin in dealing with the world outside the United States. The most he did was to claim that the United States has fewer troops at war. He provided no insights at all as to the security of the United States, his future defense policies, and his ability to translate strategic concepts into action

Unfortunately, he has done little better in the past. President Obama has often been strong on concepts, but short on actual plans and progress. He has often talked about the importance of transparency, but has then provided little more than rhetoric and spin. Some six years after taking office, he still seems to find it extraordinarily difficult to get down to actual substance and to provide the kind of supporting data that gives him real credibility.

Consider where the United States now stands and what the president has not addressed in any detail or tangible form: He has decided to rush a withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2016 without issuing any meaningful assessment of the risks, a clear action plan for the critical period between 2015 and the end of 2016, details on what the small number of U.S. forces and civilians left in country will actually do, and a clear explanation of planned U.S. expenditures.

The president said nothing about Russia and the Ukraine. More broadly, his administration has failed to define a clear strategy for dealing with Russia, for strengthening NATO, or reassessing the U.S. presence and force levels in Europe. The United States has issued many statements, concepts, and exercises in rhetoric about its policies, but little real substance.

It is now well over two years since the Obama administration announced a rebalancing to Asia. Once again, however, it has stuck with concepts and rhetoric and provided few actual details. It is unclear how U.S. force levels in Asia will change, how many aircraft and ships will shift from NATO to Asian missions, or what changes will take place in the U.S. budget.

The Crisis of Europe

january 21, 2015

Last week, I wrote about the crisis of Islamic radicalism and the problem of European nationalism. This week's events give me the opportunity to address the question of European nationalism again, this time from the standpoint of the European Union and the European Central Bank, using a term that only an economist could invent: "quantitative easing."

European media has been flooded for the past week with leaks about the European Central Bank's forthcoming plan to stimulate the faltering European economy by implementing quantitative easing. First carried by Der Spiegel and then picked up by other media, the story has not been denied by anyone at the bank nor any senior European official. We can therefore call this an official leak, because it lets everyone know what is coming before an official announcement is made later in the week.

The plan is an attempt to spur economic activity in Europe by increasing the amount of money available. It calls for governments to increase their borrowing for various projects designed to increase growth and decrease unemployment. Rather than selling the bonds on the open market, a move that would trigger a rise in interest rates, the bonds are sold to the central banks of eurozone member states, which have the ability to print new money. The money is then sent to the treasury. With more money flowing through the system, recessions driven by a lack of capital are relieved. This is why the measure is called quantitative easing.

The United States did this in 2008. In addition to government debt, the Federal Reserve also bought corporate debt. The hyperinflation that some had feared would result from the move never materialized, and the U.S. economy hit a 5 percent growth rate in the third quarter of last year. The Europeans chose not to pursue this route, and as a result, the European economy is, at best, languishing. Now the Europeans will begin such a program - several years after the Americans did - in the hopes of moving things forward again.

A Global Course in Basic Economics

January 22, 2015

We have of late received a real-life crash course in basic economics, with the lessons imparted at the highest levels of the global economy. We are all seeing the laws of supply and demand in action, with their manifold implications, and we are learning that it is impossible to circumvent those laws without paying a high price. Wherever we look, the attempts of the state to outsmart markets are showing their limits, and more often than not ending in utter fiasco.

Let us begin with a look at the free-falling oil market. Oil-producing countries would of course like to reverse the current trend. Some would curtail production to push prices up, but the rest have learned from experience that collective restrictions only benefit the countries that do not comply. Like it or not, intergovernmental decisions won't alter the factors underlying the fall in the price of oil. One key element is the global deceleration of economic growth, particularly in China, a large energy consumer. Add to this the entry of fracking into the oil game, notably in the United States - just one factor expanding the global supply of energy.

These joint developments substantially push down the demand for, and consequently the price of, oil - so much so that financial economist Anatole Kaletsky asserts that $50 for a barrel may well become a price ceiling rather than a floor.

The supremacy of market laws is manifest in Russia, too.

Gone are the days when Putin's supporters cheerfully claimed that retaliatory restrictions imposed by Russia against imports of Western agricultural goods would be a godsend for the Russian economy. According to that flawed narrative, the import restrictions would boost local Russian production.

Obama Tries to Out-Putin Putin

JAN 21, 2015 

According to his State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama has solved the Russia problem. His brief passage on the subject shows he's either blind to the dangers of the deteriorating relationship between Moscow and the West or merely too quick to take credit for a victory that is not even on the horizon.

Here's what Obama had to say about the biggest threat to European stability since the fall of the Berlin wall 25 years ago:

We're upholding the principle that bigger nations can't bully the small -- by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine's democracy and reassuring our NATO allies. Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin's aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters. That's how America leads -- not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.

Every one of these sentences is, to put it mildly, a stretch.

The U.S. has indeed disapproved of Russian aggression in Ukraine, and loudly enough for everyone to hear. But that doesn't mean it has supported Ukraine's democracy. 

The answer to India’s billion dollar banking problem lies in three easy tweaks

T T Ram MohanProfessor, IIM Ahmedabad

All is not well with India’s public sector banks (PSBs).

The PSBs, which account for over 70% of the assets in the banking system, face enormous challenges—a worrying level of non-performing assets, low credit growth in a stalled economy and capital requirements of Rs 500,000 crore ($800 billion) over the next five years.

There is a large gap between the performance of PSBs and private sector banks. Return on assets, a key indicator, is 0.5% at PSBs, compared to 1.65% at private banks.

Many in the country, including the Reserve Bank of India’s P J Nayak committee (pdf), which submitted its report in May 2014, see the performance gap as evidence of a fundamental problem with the culture, management and governance of PSBs.

The problem, they believe, can be fixed only with “big bang” reforms including:

Lowering the government’s stake to below 51%, which would take PSBs outside the purview of agencies such as the CAG and CVC and facilitate a risk-taking culture at the banks 
Creation of a bank holding company to which the equity of all PSBs would be transferred. The holding company would be run by professionals and would operate at arm’s length from the government 
Splitting the post of chairman and managing director so that a non-executive chairman can exercise checks on the managing director. 
Making pay for top managers at PSBs more competitive so that they can attract the right talent 

In short, get the PSBs to look and act more like their private bank counterparts.

The diagnosis and the prescriptions are both flawed.

The problems at PSBs today cannot be entirely ascribed to their culture or management 

It’s incorrect to derive inferences about PSBs by looking at their performance in today’s highly stressed situation. Over a period of a decade-and-a-half following reforms initiated in 1993-94, academic research finds a trend towards convergence in performance between PSBs and private banks. If something were fundamentally wrong with PSBs, this couldn’t have happened.

Here’s what happened Wednesday at Davos

The 45th annual World Economic Forum is underway in Davos, where the focus is on broad uncertainty challenging both the billion- and civilian-minded. With a theme like “The New Global Context,” are attendees feeling fresh mists of post-recession spring or ever-gatheringfog of disaster and gloom? As one cartoonist sees it, you can take your pick:

Here’s what’s worth keeping an eye on from the first big Davos day.

CLIMATE CHARGE Ambition. Urgency. Unveiling. PowerPoint. Celebrity. If Davos bingo exists, Al Gore speaking on climate challenges would be every player’s dream. And that’s not meant to criticize—hiswork is Davos gold. Gore used his “What’s Next? A Climate for Action” panel to announce a “Live Earth” series of concerts on June 18th that Creative Director Pharrell Williams cryptically promised will “harmonize” all of humanity before crucial Paris climate talks in December.

Gore linked recent record temperatures to natural disasters, echoing the State of the Union reference President Obama made Tuesday night to our very hot millennium so far. He gave Typhoon Haiyan and Hurricane Sandy the context of warmer oceans and more water vapor, while doing the same with drought and fire on very dry land. He even drew a line from halted grain exports after a Russian drought (and fire that killed 55,000) to global food riots and the self-immolation of a Tunisian food vendor that many say began the Arab Spring.

But there are ways to combat climate chaos. Gore pointed to booming wind and solar power advances—and not just in the developed world (Bangladesh has the top rate of solar installations). He noted that “political will is a renewable resource” while lauding the historic China-US emissions cap agreement last year. At the “Better Growth, Better Climate” panel with Felipe Calderon, who spearheaded a climate reportlast year with the same name, Gore gave it a forceful endorsement.“It is possible to have economic growth and tackle climate change at the same time,” Calderon said, calling on the world to “decarbonize” economic growth. Panelist Lord Stern highlighted a similar joint battle:

Private jets and all, climate had a true Davos moment. Far away from the Alps, many will hope for much more on the horizon.

YES, UKRAINE One of the conference’s biggest stories so far is about who’s leaving, not who’s coming. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenkoannounced that he was headed home early to address escalating conflict with Russia. But he didn’t depart before giving a rousing speech saying that his “pro-European” country was “under aggression” and fighting for peace, punctuating his remarks by holding up part of a bus from a recent conflict scene.

Poroshenko cast Ukraine’s plight as a global one, pleading for support. He said he would resume negotiations right away, but without progress on a ceasefire and restored borders secure from Russian-backed rebels, he saw little reason for hope.

Interactive graphic: How nations compete on pay, innovation, and education

Annually, the World Economic Forum releases their Global Competitiveness Report, a comprehensive assessment of national competitiveness worldwide. The different aspects of competitiveness are analyzed through twelve pillars–including infrastructure, labor market efficiency, technological readiness–that produce 114 unique indicators. The primary measurement established by the report is the Global Competiveness Index, a country-based ranking that takes each pillar, as well as the nation’s stage of development, into account.

The interactive map above explores this year’s Competitiveness Index and country-level rankings for select indicators (we’ve also listed the top ten for each of those measurements below). The data presented within, which has long served as an important tool for policymakers, will inform many of the discussions taking place at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos this week.

Global Competitiveness Index (score)

Switzerland (5.7)
Singapore (5.65)
United States (5.54)
Finland (5.5)
Germany (5.49)
Japan (5.47)
Hong Kong SAR (5.46)
Netherlands (5.45)
United Kingdom (5.41)
Sweden (5.41)

GDP per capita

United States

Russia to Test Strategic Missile Forces in Unscheduled Drills

Jan 22, 2015

Russia has kicked off its first unannounced drills of the year for the country's Strategic Missile Forces with over 1,200 active duty servicemen in western Siberia, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Igor Egorov said Tuesday.

"During the unannounced exercises of the missile forces, a committee will study the current condition in organizing activities by the commanders in completing drills of fighting terrorism as a command unit, missile force regiments and a number of other subdivision units," Egorov said.

The exercises will include more than 20 tasks and will also train with the Emergencies Ministry's troops, as well as with Internal Ministry and Federal Security Service forces.

"There will be no less than four of these kinds of drills during 2015," Egorov added.

The drills are being held at the Uzhursky Missile Unit in the Krasnoyarsk Territory.

Earlier in January, Egorov said that the Strategic Missile Forces plan to hold more than 100 exercises throughout the year. In late December 2014, Russian Armed Forces' Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov said that building up Russia's nuclear forces is one of the army's key tasks for 2015.

PacNet #4A - Cyber war, national security, and corporate responsibility

By Jongsoo Lee 
JAN 16, 2015 

The recent hacking of Sony Pictures, allegedly perpetrated by North Korea, and its aftermath may go down in history as the dawn of “cyber 9/11.” This event raises important issues about the tension between free speech, national security, and corporate responsibility in the new era of cyber warfare.

What was disturbing about the way this incident unfolded was how Sony’s provocation of North Korea with the planned release of a movie forced the US president to weigh in on a private company’s business decisions and, in the process, metastasized into a potentially dangerous confrontation between the United States and an assertive nuclear power under an unpredictable tyrant.

In a free-market society, a company’s right to pursue profit-generating business and exercise its freedom of speech is not in dispute. While some may object to a film featuring the assassination of the sitting head of state, Sony had the right to produce such a film. That does not necessarily mean that Sony’s action was in the best interests of US national security. Although many in the US satirize Kim Jong Un, North Korea is a nuclear power with a significant and growing cyberattack capability. Pyongyang has been developing nuclear-tipped ICBMs and SLBMs that will one day reach the US mainland and, according to some analysts, already possesses the ability to launch an EMP attack that can paralyze the US national power grid.

In provoking Pyongyang, a fiercely nationalistic regime centered on the worship of the Kim dynasty that is paranoid about a US attempt to force a regime change, Sony risked inviting a North Korean reprisal without shoring up its own sloppy cyber security, which had made it the victim of past hacking attacks. In the resulting fallout, for which Sony was unprepared, the US as a nation was dragged into a potentially open-ended cyber war against Pyongyang when Obama vowed to retaliate. Unfortunately, by this time, the US as a nation had already suffered a setback, given the unprecedented damage done to a major US company, as well as the decision by Sony and the biggest US theatre chains to cancel the film’s showings – a decision made without consulting the US government and which was seen as capitulation to foreign cyber terror and blackmail.

A Brief Glimpse At The Use Of Robotics In Warfare

James Clark
January 22, 2015

Every year it seems like more and more of what we once considered science fiction is giving way to reality. The Navy is developing rail guns, and nobody bats an eye at unmanned aerial vehicles. Governments even userobots for rescue operations. As we near a time when robotics may become commonplace in the military and civil services, let’s take a look at some of the technologies.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Tony R. Tolley. The “Sally B” B-17 Flying Fortress bomber aircraft flies overhead during the Memorial Day ceremony held at the Madingley American Cemetery near the city of Cambridge, England, in honor of the World War II fallen, May 31, 2004.Operation Aphrodite: An early attempt at aerial drone technology during World War II, Operation Aphrodite was a U.S. military operation and a catastrophic failure. The plan called for stripping down B-17-flying fortresses and loading them to the brim with explosives, at which point, a skeleton crew would take off, because the radio-controlled system wasn’t sophisticated enough to do it on its own. After the crew reached a safe altitude, they would jettison the plane, and an aircraft trailing behind would remotely fly the bomber into an enemy position, like some bloated pigeon with a suicide vest and a death wish.

6 Threats, 6 Changes, & A Brave New World: Intel Chief Vickers

January 21, 2015

WASHINGTON: There’s no one thing that keeps the Pentagon’s chief of intelligence up at night. There’s half-a-dozen things — terrorism, cybersecurity, Iran, North Korea, Russia, andChina — but Mike Vickers has a six-point plan to counter them.

“The big challenge we face is really in the aggregation of challenges,” the under secretary for intelligence said this morning at the Atlantic Council. “It’s not that any one challenge is so daunting, it’s that there’s six of them. [They] are diverse, they’re all significant, they’re likely to be enduring.”

“Unlike the Cold War, when we had one big enduring threat and then a series of episodic threats, we have several that are likely to be enduring now,” Vickers added, “[and] all of them over the past few years have gotten worse.”

A Sense of Siege: The Senate & Yemen

“As Zbigniew Brzezinski and others have noted, we’re in a time of unprecedented instability in international system,” Vickers said.

That sense of siege is certainly shared. Just this morning, Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. It was the inaugural hearing of new chairman John McCain, who greeted the two elder statesman with sobering words.