13 February 2015

Reset of a policy of equidistance

Ashok K. Mehta
February 13, 2015 

Given Narendra Modi’s growth and development agenda, for which he requires the U.S., China, Japan and others, he cannot afford to antagonise Beijing. The U.S. is vital for India’s rise and a hedge to China. So, New Delhi will necessarily be on a razor edge. In any realisation of the Asian century, Washington will be large and looming

Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office, an Indian TV channel held a discussion on likely foreign policy reorientation. When the doyen of South Asian Studies, Stephen Cohen, was asked in which direction Mr. Modi would tilt – the U.S. or China — without hesitation he replied, “China,” adding, “because it is the Asian century.” Mr. Modi hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping last year but despite the fanfare preceding the visit, there was little to suggest any strategic overlap. Alas, Mr. Cohen was proved wrong after the Modi-Obama Joint Vision Statement reflected a sharp, strategic congruence. Mr. Modi has reset the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s policy of equidistance between the U.S. and China and dropped the political refrain that India will not contain China.

Choosing friends and allies

In New Delhi last year, at a seminar, the former U.S. Ambassador to India, Robert D. Blackwill, posed the question: “How can New Delhi claim strategic autonomy when it has strategic partnerships with 29 countries?” After the latest Modi-Obama vision statement, even less so. Strategic autonomy and no military alliances are two tenets of India’s foreign policy. Quietly, India has converted strategic autonomy to strategic interconnectedness or multi-vectored engagement. When the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation 1971 was signed, Mrs Indira Gandhi had requested the Soviet Union to endorse India’s Non-Aligned status, so dear was the policy at the time. That multifaceted treaty made India a virtual ally of the Soviet Union. Russia inherited that strategic trust and has leased a nuclear submarine, provided high-tech weapons to all three Services including technology for nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. At the BRICS meeting in Brazil last year, when asked a question, Mr. Modi said as much: “If you ask anyone among the more than one billion people living in India who is our country’s greatest friend, every person, every child knows that it is Russia.”

Fact and fission

By: Kapil Sibal
February 13, 2015

A made-to-order “bonhomie” and “hype” were witnessed during US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to India. Many “breakthrough understandings” were talked about. The government claimed that Indo-US relations, allegedly static in the last few years, had acquired fresh momentum through the resolution of outstanding issues in the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.

R.K. Laxman passed away on January 26. Given the opportunity, Laxman’s “common man”, in his unique acerbic way, would have exposed the hype.

While in opposition, the BJP stalled every attempt by the UPA to seal the deal. L.K. Advani had alleged “this particular bill makes us a subservient partner in the deal”. He went on to say that the UPA was deluding the Indian people by saying, “we are trying to give energy security to the country by this deal” (Lok Sabha, 2008). Earlier, he had said, “It is doubly detrimental to India’s vital and long-term interests… we will renegotiate this deal to see that all the defective provisions in it are either deleted or this treaty is rejected completely” (Lok Sabha, 2007). Arun Shourie lamented, “We would become dependent on imported reactors and imported fuel… We are going to be dependent on the nuclear umbrella of the US even to survive in our own region” (Rajya Sabha, 2006). Yashwant Sinha and Sushma Swaraj, too, opposed the bill. UPA 1, despite the opposition, staked its longevity on it, with the CPM and allied parties withdrawing support. The bill was cleared and the ensuing breakthrough was historic.

In the course of negotiations, as the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010, took its final shape, two problems arose. One had to do with the liability of suppliers, the other with the liability of the operator. Since the UPA government did not enjoy a majority in the Rajya Sabha, it had to submit to impositions by the Opposition. The BJP insisted that the international liability norms concerning suppliers were unacceptable, that in the event of an incident like Fukushima, suppliers would escape both civil and criminal liability. The tragic experience of the Bhopal gas leak provided the rationale for an emotive argument.

Titular politics

S.K. Sinha
Feb 12, 2015

National awards recognise the contribution of individuals and provide an incentive to others to emulate and strive. It is an important component of good governance.

It has been an old practice for governments to recognise distinguished services of individuals by giving awards. Akbar had his “Nau Ratan” from different disciplines like music, administration, military and so on. Aurangzeb, known to be a religious bigot, honoured his Hindu general, Jai Singh of Jaipur, with the title of Mirza Raja. He was the only general with that title, like the Nizam of Hyderabad was the only “His Exalted Highness”, while all the other princes were only “His Highness”.

The British had instituted a whole lot of awards of different orders with different grades. Peerage was the highest award in which there were different grades, like Duke, Marquis, Earl, Viscount and Baron. There were several other orders, like Order of the Garter, of the Bath, of the British Empire, of the Star of India, and so on. The Order of the British Empire had the maximum grades — MBE, OBE, CBE, KBE, and GBE. The latter two were Knights, Knight Commander and Grand Knight Commander of this order.

There were also Indian titles like Rai Bahadur/Khan Bahadur/Sardar Bahadur and Rai Saheb/Khan Saheb/Sardar Saheb. Besides, the Kaiser-i-Hind medal was given for social service. Mahatma Gandhi was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind gold medal for organising evacuation of casualties on stretchers from the battlefield during the Boer War in South Africa. Sir Rabindranath Tagore returned his knighthood in protest against the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

During the freedom movement, the Congress called upon all Indians to return titles given to them by the British as those were badges of slavery. After Independence, it was decided that we would only have gallantry awards in war and peace and no awards for distinguished service following the US pattern. We had the Veer Chakra series for gallantry in war, the PVC, the MVC and VrC. These are Indian equivalents of the Victoria Cross, Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross in the British Army. The Ashok Chakra Series, Class 1,2 and 3, was introduced for gallantry in peace like the George Cross in Britain. These were subsequently designated Ashok Chakra. Kirti Chakra and Shaurya Chakra, respectively. Initially, we had no awards for distinguished service in the Army. Thus despite the outstanding work done by officers and men in management and conduct of the 1947-48 Kashmir War, no award for distinguished service was given to anyone.

Don’t obsess over growth

Jahangir Aziz
February 13, 2015 

One can understand the temptation to use fiscal policy to support growth, given that its main driver — corporate investment — has shown no signs of life; exports remain weighed down by real exchange rate appreciation; rural consumption is floundering amidst declining real farm income; and inflation has tumbled to its pre-2007 level. Notwithstanding the new GDP growth numbers that suggest India is doing swimmingly well, almost all high-frequency activity indicators point to a much weaker economy. It is one thing for India’s growth to struggle in the face of global headwinds intensifying, but optically quite different if it happens in a year when developed market growth jumped 0.5 percentage points, oil prices fell 50 per cent, and the 10-year US treasury rate declined 70 basis points over the year.

But breaking away from the planned fiscal consolidation path would be very dangerous. Let me cite two reasons. First, foreign portfolio inflows in 2014 were predominantly driven by bond ($26 billion out of $42 billion) and not equity purchases. These investors have put their faith in the government’s promise to keep macroeconomic policy aimed at preserving stability and focus on reforms to boost growth. Any sign of the government wavering on this promise will weaken foreign investors’ faith.

Second, didn’t we just try doing that over 2009-12 with disastrous consequences? Recall that the government provided 3 percentage points of GDP of fiscal support in 2008-09. Over the next three years, the fiscal injection was withdrawn at a glacial pace, despite strong domestic growth. This flared up inflation and widened the current account deficit, pushing India towards a balance of payments crisis in 2013 that was narrowly avoided.

To make a city smart

By: Ranjit Sabikhi
February 13, 2015

The government is all set to develop 100 new smart cities that will become prime centres of employment along major transportation corridors. These are expected to be modern townships with high-rise towers, an up-to-date services network, an efficient transportation system, and lush landscape. A prototype framework of this futuristic concept would perhaps help define a clear picture of what this would be like. Some smart cities could very well be built close to growing urban complexes, or even within established townships.

Looking at the plan of the capital city of Delhi, one realises that a substantial part of the central area consists of housing for government officials, which is run-down and ready for renewal. The area of this land is more than 3,000 acres. So why not consider building a real hi-tech “Smart City Centre” in the heart of the capital itself? With the availability of sizeable parcels of government land and new regulations permitting intensive high-rise development, this would be a very realistic proposition. With a detailed urban design concept, this would create a major new focus of activity for the rapidly growing population of the city.

Concentrated high-density development in this prime location would be much more attractive than a series of high-intensity zones strung along the metro corridors. Apart from generating substantial profit for government, such a project would act as a trigger for comprehensive urban renewal in other areas. For effective implementation, however, the ministry of urban development will have to put a stop to the practice of piecemeal development of government land.

The areas of obsolete government housing at the centre of the city are in a series of contiguous pockets eminently suitable for comprehensive redevelopment. Recent development implemented on government land is, unfortunately, poorly considered in terms of long-term implications. One such project is New Netaji Nagar near Moti Bagh, where, on a site of 110 acres, 492 residences for senior government officials have been built along with 500 EWS (economically weaker section) units. As per applicable regulations, 7,500 dwelling units could have been built on this site to accommodate 37,500 residents. In East Kidwai Nagar, on a site of 86 acres, 4,747 apartments for government bureaucrats are currently being built. In a poorly designed concept, a series of similar multi-storey blocks have been unimaginatively laid out in this prominent location, with limited communal facilities pushed to one corner. A site of approximately eight acres, facing the heavily trafficked Ring Road, has been earmarked for commercial development to be leased to developers. To meet the enormous parking requirements, three levels of basement are being built. Despite this being labelled as a high-density development, the total FAR (floor area ratio) of 203 is way below the permissible FAR 300 for this area. It is unfortunate that at a time when there is increasing pressure on the need for maximum development of land in urban areas, government land is being so grossly underutilised.


By Gurmeet Kanwal*
FEBRUARY 12, 2015

As the 10th edition of Aero-India gets underway at Bengaluru (18-22 February 2015), attention will be focused on big-ticket deals like the long-pending multi-billion dollar acquisition of the MMRCA by the Indian Air Force (IAF). Discussion will centred on whether or not the government is having second thoughts about buying the Rafale fighter from France vis-à-vis adding to the existing fleet of Su-30 MKI aircraft acquired from Russia.

What will not find mention is the fact that both these aircraft are very expensive multi-mission fighters that cannot be risked to strike ground targets in the tactical battle area teeming with air defence weapons. As a future war on the Indian subcontinent will in all likelihood result from the unresolved territorial disputes with China and Pakistan and will be predominantly a conflict on land, the ability to acquire and accurately hit targets on ground will be a key requirement for the IAF.

During the Kargil conflict in the summer of 1999, air-to-ground strikes by fighter ground attack (FGA) aircraft of the IAF played an important role in neutralising Pakistani army defences. The destruction of a logistics camp at Muntho Dhalo was shown repeatedly on national television. In conflicts in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Chechnya, Iraq, Libya and, more recently, the ongoing fight against the Islamic State, FGA aircraft have achieved laudable results, especially while using precision guided munitions (PGMs).

Hence, the importance of close air support in modern wars must not be underrated. A few missions of FGA aircraft and attack helicopters can deliver more ordnance by way of dumb 1,000 lb bombs in a few minutes on an objective selected for capture than a 155 mm medium artillery regiment can deliver in 20 to 30 minutes. In critical situations, particularly in fast flowing mechanised operations, accurate air strikes can save the day. The battle of Longewala during the 1971 war with Pakistan is a good example. Also, it is a truism that accurate air strikes against the enemy in contact that can be seen by own troops provide a psychological boost to the morale of ground troops.

China, India To Lead World By 2050, Says PwC

By Anthony Fensom
February 12, 2015

Asia’s rise to global economic pre-eminence could see China and India leading the world by 2050, with Southeast Asia also making gains, according to PwC. However, Japan, South Korea and Australia are seen slipping down the world rankings without major reforms.

The projections came in the consultancy’s latest “World in 2050” report, which provides growth forecasts for 32 of the world’s largest economies, accounting for around 84 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), based on purchasing power parity (PPP).

According to PwC, China is already the world’s biggest economy in PPP terms and will become the biggest at the more commonly accepted figures of market exchange rates by 2028, despite its projected reversion to the global growth average. China’s share of world GDP in PPP terms is forecast to increase from 16.5 percent in 2014 to a peak of around 20 percent in 2030, before easing slightly to 19.5 percent in 2050.

However, China’s growth rate is forecast to slow to just 3.4 percent annually during the period through to 2050, with its economy reaching $61 trillion in PPP terms.

“Given China’s low population growth and aging population (accentuated by its one-child policy for the past three decades), increases in labor productivity will account for all of its economic growth (in fact, China is expected to experience a very minor decline in its population during the period 2014–2050),” the report said.

In contrast, India is seen surging from $7 trillion in 2014 to $17 trillion in 2030 and $42 trillion by 2050, claiming second place ahead of the United States on $41 trillion. The South Asian giant would overtake the European Union and the United States in share of world GDP (in PPP terms) by 2044 and 2049, respectively.

1971 War: Planning for Operations

By Air Chief Marshal P C Lal
12 Feb , 2015

Two outstanding political leaders were at the helm of affairs in 1971 and any account of the 1971 war would be incomplete without complimenting them. First and fore­most was Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi whose ability to appraise complex situations, identify major problems and define clear-cut lines of action was exceptional. The second was Mr Jagjivan Ram, who held the office of Defence Minister with distinction from 1969 to 1973, who ably supported her.

As Chief of Air Staff during this period, I had the privilege of seeing him work at close quarters: he was a model of what I imagine a Minister should be. He had complete confidence in the Chiefs of Staff and his secretaries; he was unambiguous in making known Government’s aims and intentions and, having done that, left it to the people concerned to get on with the job. He was cool, unflustered, quick-witted, cheerful, with a sense of humour and he did not talk down to people.

…fore­most was Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi whose ability to appraise complex situations, identify major problems and define clear-cut lines of action was exceptional.

The Chiefs were kept in constant touch with developments in the subcontinent and what the Cabinet was thinking about them. There was full and free exchange of ideas amongst the Chiefs. The period of watching and waiting, from 26 March to 3 December was well spent during which the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the inter- Service Committees, the Service Head­quarters and the Ministry of Defence worked in a smooth and coordinated manner. The armed forces were therefore as well prepared as they could be when Pakistani aircraft attacked our airfields on the evening of 3 December 1971.

When talking about planning for war, one tends to think in terms of Staff College exercises for set situations, of the several factors that have to be taken into account and of preparation of a plan of action, a suggested plan of action, which shows every sign of being successful. The whole exercise is cut and dry. It is rather an exercise in logical thinking than in actually fighting a war. When it finally comes to fighting a war, one is faced with imponderables and unknown factors, with situations that cannot be foreseen in advance. The princi­pal question, of course, is how the likely enemy is going to behave. Intelligence can make some intelligent guesses no doubt, so can the Commanders of the opposing forces, but it is virtually impossible to establish with any certainty precisely what the opponent is going to do, where he is going to do it, or how, or when. So, in planning for operations, one has to be prepared to meet a variety of contingencies, not the least of which is that the most unexpected thing is likely to happen.

Don’t believe the hype on U.S.-India civil nuclear deal

Brahma Chellaney
February 8, 2015

A “breakthrough understanding” on the stalled civil nuclear deal between India and the U.S. took center-stage in a recent summit between U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. It stands out as the only substantive advance in a presidential visit heavy on pageantry and symbolism. But the publicity surrounding the supposed breakthrough was overblown, and the celebrations can only be described as premature.

The deal was portrayed internationally as opening the path for U.S. companies to bag multibillion-dollar reactor contracts, and for Japan and Australia to sign similar deals with India, which plans to ramp up its capacity to generate nuclear power by importing two dozen commercial reactors within the next decade. Currently, nuclear power represents barely 2% of India’s total installed power capacity.

Since it was unveiled in 2005, the U.S.-India nuclear deal — with its many twists and turns — has hogged the limelight at virtually every bilateral summit between leaders of the two countries. In its arduous journey toward implementation, the deal has spawned multiple subsidiary agreements, each of which has been hailed as an important breakthrough.

The latest understanding centers on two issues — nuclear accident liability, and administrative arrangements to govern the bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement required under Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act. Obama announced that “we achieved a breakthrough understanding on [the] two issues that were holding up our ability to advance our civil nuclear cooperation.” However, there is still little prospect of early commercialization of the deal.

The newest “breakthrough” is short on specifics and raises troubling questions. It contrives a model that shifts the liability risks for nuclear accidents to Indian taxpayers, thus undermining India’s domestic law, the 2011 Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, which holds suppliers, designers and builders liable in case of an accident. The breakthrough compromise has been designed to circumvent the central principle enshrined in that law — the right to bring civil legal action for damages against suppliers in the event of a nuclear accident caused by defective equipment, components or designs.

Former Pakistani Spy Chief Says His Agency Probably Knew Where Osama Bin Laden Was Hiding in Pakistan

Ishaan Taroor
February 12, 2015

Ever since the discovery and death of Osama bin Laden in a leafy town not far from Islamabad in May 2011, it’s been an open secret that some element within the Pakistani state must have played a role in giving the world’s most wanted terrorist safe haven.

But for years, Pakistan’s government and its military have publicly denied any connection with harboring bin Laden. The U.S. raid on the al-Qaeda leader’s compound was treated as a surprise and a humiliation. A 2013 report by the Abbottabad Commission, an official government inquiry into the events surrounding bin Laden’s capture, charged Pakistan’s civilian and military establishment with “gross incompetence” that led to “collective failures.” But it said little directly about collusion.

That narrative is starting to change. In an interview with Al Jazeera scheduled to air in April, a retired Pakistani spy chief admitted that it was “probable” Pakistan’s notorious military intelligence agency, known as the ISI, knew of bin Laden’s location. Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani, who headed the ISI in the early 1990s, was speaking to Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hassan, host of its “Head to Head” program.

Here’s part of Durrani’s response to a question posed by Hassan, asking the former ISI chief how it was possible that the agency could have had no knowledge of bin Laden’s whereabouts.

My assessment […] was it is quite possible that they [the ISI] did not know but it was more probable that they did. And the idea was that at the right time, his location would be revealed. And the right time would have been, when you can get the necessary quid pro quo — if you have someone like Osama bin Laden, you are not going to simply hand him over to the United States.

White House to Reconsider Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan

By Franz-Stefan Gady
February 12, 2015

The White House is considering slowing down troop withdrawals from Afghanistan due to the enduring volatile security environment in the country. According to the Washington Post, President Barack Obama and his national security team will convene today to consider giving the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, more flexibility in readjusting the withdrawal schedule based on the general’s recommendation. Gen. Campbell will be present at the White House meeting today.

This is the second time that the United States is adjusting its withdrawal schedule. Back in December 2014, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that 1,000 more U.S. combat troops than originally planned would remain in Afghanistan into early 2015. According to White House officials, the request to retain more troops in the country came directly from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

However, the current slow-down will not alter the U.S. president’s determination to end the U.S. military mission by early 2017, according to defense analysts. The Washington Post quotes a White House official as saying, “The defining elements of the plan are more or less intact. All we’re looking at at this point is either variations within those or subtle variations of” the withdrawal schedule. He further notes that the national security team of the president is “cognizant of the fact that we’ve got to get in front of the so-called spring fighting season in Afghanistan.”

The move to temporarily keep 5,500 U.S. troops in country, retain Kandahar airfield, and maintain regional training hubs is motivated by the growing number of casualties within Afghan National Security Forces, but also by the experience of the rise of the terror group Islamic State, partially caused by the United States’ premature withdrawal from Iraq.

White House weighs adjusting Afghan exit plan to slow withdrawal of troops

By Missy Ryan 
February 10 

The Obama administration is considering slowing its planned withdrawal from Afghanistan for the second time, according to U.S. officials, a sign of the significant security challenges that remain despite an end to the U.S. and NATO combat mission there.

Under the still-evolving plans, Army Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, could be given greater latitude to determine the pace of the drawdown in 2015 as foreign forces scramble to ensure Afghan troops are capable of battling Taliban insurgents on their own, the officials said.

The options under discussion would not alter what is perhaps the most important date in President Obama’s plan: ending the U.S. military mission entirely by the time he steps down in early 2017.

But officials said Campbell might temporarily retain more than the 5,500 troops slated to remain in Afghanistan at the end of 2015, keep regional training hubs open longer than planned or reorganize plans to close bases including Kandahar Airfield, a major endeavor that would draw troops away from efforts to advise Afghan security forces.

Campbell and top Obama aides are expected to discuss the options at a White House meeting Wednesday.

“The defining elements of the plan are more or less intact,” a senior administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss planning. “All we’re looking at at this point is either variations within those or subtle variations of” the current framework.

Officials hope to finalize a decision before Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visits Washington in March. Ghani has appealed to Obama to “reexamine” his drawdown schedule.

“We are cognizant of the fact that we’ve got to get in front of the so-called spring fighting season in Afghanistan” and provide allies time to make their own troop plans, the official said.

China investing in six nuclear projects in Pakistan

February 9, 2015

BEIJING: A Chinese official confirmed on Monday that China is involved in at least six nuclear power projects in Pakistan and is likely to export more to the country, according to an India Today report.

China has uptil now refrained from commenting on its nuclear cooperation with Pakistan. However, Wang Xiaotao, a key official of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said at a press conference on Saturday that Beijing has been involved in the construction of six reactors in the country. The official’s remarks come amid concerns voiced against increased civilian nuclear cooperation between the two countries as per the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) guidelines.

Addressing a press conference in Beijing, Wang said China “has assisted the construction of at least six nuclear reactors in Pakistan with a total installed capacity of 3.4 million kilowatts.” China was also exporting nuclear technology to Argentina, with the two countries on Wednesday signing a deal for exporting heavy-water reactors.

China only declared the first two reactors it had constructed for Pakistan, Chashma-1 and Chashma-2, at the time of joining the NSG, according to Indian and American officials. In 2009, the China National Nuclear Corporation signed agreements for two new reactors, Chashma-3 and Chashma-4. The deals became a matter of controversy and were debated at the NSG.

US Policy: Time to spell out a South Asia Policy

ByV.B.N. Ram
12 Feb , 2015

India is not sitting idle any longer and has begun to initiate moves to have its presence felt in the South Asian countries, barring Pakistan. Under the new administration led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has made proposals to enhance connectivity with the nations east of India in particular. Modi’s newly coined ‘Act East’, a variation of the late prime minister P. V. Narasimha Rao’s ‘Look East’ policy, also includes helping the South Asian countries, such as Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, to link them through transport corridors and to help develop their energy sectors, either by linking up their energy generation sources with India’s power-grid system or by developing those independently.

What needs to be recognised at the outset is that India’s infrastructure is extremely weak. Under the current five-year plan, India requires $1 trillion in investment by 2017…

What needs to be recognised at the outset is that India’s infrastructure is extremely weak. Under the current five-year plan, India requires $1 trillion in investment by 2017, and Prime Minister Modi is busy trying to lure foreign investors to play a significant role to help finance a part of this large amount. India is also a power-starved nation. It is likely that the efforts now underway, when materialised, may alleviate most of the transport and power requirements in the smallest of South Asian nations, such as Bhutan and Nepal, but it would not make much of a dent in Bangladesh’s requirements. Moreover, India does not have a direct land link with Afghanistan, where India is keen to invest, because of Pakistan’s belligerence and its refusal to allow India a direct access to that country. As a result, most South Asian nations will continue to depend heavily on investments from major economic powers, such as China, Japan, the United States and the European Union.

Does Obama really want to split China?

By Claude Arpi
Feb , 2015

When it was announced that President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama were both going to attend the US National Prayer Breakfast, an annual ‘religious’ gathering held in Washington, Beijing went berserk.

The White House had taken care to clarify that ‘no specific meeting with the Dalai Lama’ was scheduled; the President only expressed his strong support for Tibetan culture (a very diplomatic term).

It was then not clear if the President and the monk would meet face to face; the Chinese authorities were nevertheless already ‘mad’; The Global Times thundered: “In whatever form and on whatever occasion, should a president of the United States meet with the Dalai Lama, it will unquestionably step on China’s toes and therefore cast a shadow over US-China relations. This should be clear to all US politicians.”

The English mouthpiece of the Party angrily added: “So Washington seems to play a political gimmick by inviting the Dalai Lama …but whatever the reason, Obama is acquiescing to the Dalai Lama’s attempt to split Tibet from China.”

The English mouthpiece of the Party angrily added: “So Washington seems to play a political gimmick by inviting the Dalai Lama …We have no idea whether it was the US president’s idea to invite him …but whatever the reason, Obama is acquiescing to the Dalai Lama’s attempt to split Tibet from China.”

Does Obama really want to ‘split’ China? It is doubtful.

Beijing explained that the reason for the Dalai Lama’s flight from ‘China’s Tibet’ in 1959 was because he had failed to maintain serfdom on the Roof of the World: “the majority of Tibetans were slaves leading a life of unimaginable misery.”

Unfortunately for Beijing, sixty-five years later, not only the ex-serfs, but also the ‘ethnic’ (read Tibetans) Communist Party’s cadres are still deeply unhappy to have been ‘liberated’. It explains why the Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection recently decided to punish Party officials who ‘take an ambiguous attitude’ and are colluding with separatist organizations.

Is China Making Its Own Terrorism Problem Worse?

FEBRUARY 9, 2015

Is China Making Its Own Terrorism Problem Worse?

When an SUV crashed through a crowd at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in late 2013, killing two bystanders and injuring 40, it didn’t take Chinese officials long to name culprits. The attackers, they said, had been members of China’s Uighur Muslim minority, with “links to many international extremist terrorist groups.” Police said they found a flag bearing jihadi emblems in the crashed vehicle and blamed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, or ETIM, a group named after the independent state China says some Uighurs want to establish in the far-western region of Xinjiang. After the attack, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called ETIM “China’s most direct and realistic security threat.”

Beijing has long characterized cases of Uighur violence as organized acts of terrorism and accused individual attackers of having ties to international jihadi groups. Back in 2001, China released a document claiming that “Eastern Turkistan” terrorists had received training from Osama bin Laden and the Taliban and then “fought in combats in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Uzbekistan, or returned to Xinjiang for terrorist and violent activities.” Since then, China has frequently blamed ETIM for violence in Xinjiang and elsewhere.

But scholars, human rights groups, and Uighur advocates argue that China is systematically exaggerating the threat Uighurs pose to justify its repressive policies in Xinjiang. The region’s onetime-majority Uighur population of roughly 10 million, which is ethnically Turkic, has been marginalized for decades by ethnic Han Chinese migrants that Beijing has encouraged to move there in the hope that they’d help integrate the restive region into China.

The long march to the mixed economy in China

He Fan, CASS and ANU 
9 February 2015

As in other areas, the reform of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in China has been a gradual process. Now, almost 25 years after SOE reforms began, the government must tackle new problems: breaking down special interests, distancing the state from the daily operation of enterprises — and associated issues of corruption — and improving the overall efficiency of the economy. 
After China adopted a planned economy in the 1950s — and private enterprises basically disappeared — SOEs played the dominant role in China’s industrialisation. They produced everything from satellites to matches. In the 1980s China launched market-oriented reform. A new type of enterprise, named Town and Villages Enterprises (TVEs), emerged. These were more like private enterprises but they operated under the name of collective ownership as political protection. 

In the 1990s, under the leadership of then premier Zhu Rongji, China initiated a radical reform of SOEs. Under the mantra of ‘Grasp the large, release the small’, tens of thousands of weak SOEs were privatised or liquidated, millions of workers were laid off, and stronger SOEs were restructured and often listed on the stock market. 

With these reforms, private enterprises in China were able to achieve real prosperity and foreign investment flowed in. The SOEs’ share of the economy declined dramatically because many could not compete with private and foreign companies. Poorly performing SOEs had to rely on subsidies — a heavy burden for the government. Although this reform seemed risky, the government had made shrewd calculations. Compared with ‘shock therapy’ in the Soviet Union, China took a gradual approach exercising patience and caution. Before throwing SOEs into cold water, the government encouraged the development of private and foreign companies, which helped to absorb many laid-off workers. That is how such a radical reform did not cause serious damage to economic growth and social stability. 

Chinese Imams Forced to Dance

10 February 2015

URUMQI – In another crackdown on religious freedoms, China has forced the imams of eastern Muslim majority district of Xinjiang to dance in the street, and swear to an oath that they will not teach religion to children as well telling them that prayer is harmful to the soul.

During the incident, reported by World Bulletin on Monday, February 9, Muslim imams were forced to brandish the slogan that "our income comes from the CKP not from Allah".

State Chinese news said the imams were gathering in a square in the name of civilization where they were forced to dance and chant out slogans in support of the state.

The slogans included statements glorifying the state over religion such as 'peace of the country gives peace to the soul’.

They also gave speeches telling youth to stay away from mosques, and that the prayer was harmful to their health, encouraging them to dance instead.

Female teachers were instructed to teach children to stay away from religious education and made to swear an oath that they will keep children away from religion.

Uighur Muslims are a Turkish-speaking minority of eight million in the northwestern Xinjiang region.

Xinjiang, which activists call East Turkestan, has been autonomous since 1955 but continues to be the subject of massive security crackdowns by Chinese authorities.

Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of religious repression against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang in the name of counter terrorism.

Day of Reckoning: Islam's Civil War Engulfs Lebanon

Geneive Abdo, Lulwa Rizkallah
February 12, 2015

While all the attention in recent days has been focused on the brutality of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al Nusra Front attack on Shi’a Lebanese worshipers in Damascus has further destabilized the region by increasing the possibility of Sunni extremism expanding inside Lebanon.

On February 1, a bomb exploded on a bus carrying Lebanese pilgrims to a Shi’a holy Shrine in Damascus, killing nine people. This was a rare occasion when innocent Shi’a pilgrims visiting Syria from Lebanon were deliberately targeted. A leader in al Nusra Front, a Sunni group competing for power with ISIS, said the blast was meant to punish Hezbollah, and the Shi’a by extension, for killing Sunnis in Syria during the more than three years of civil war.

The attack demonstrates a number of worrying developments: Not only is it clear that Nusra is dragging Lebanon into the war in Syria, but the blast also shows that the larger regional Shi’a-Sunni conflict is deepening. Second, the attack could be an attempt by al Nusra Front to show that despite ISIS’ recent fame and notoriety, it too is still powerful and relevant. The Nusra Front is affiliated with Al Qaeda, a group that helped spawn ISIS and is now its competitor. As ISIS becomes more brutal— and, as a result, captures the world’s attention— Al Qaeda has attempted to distance itself and claim that it is a moderate alternative.

The bombing also has important implications for the Shi’a.

Although the Syrian civil war has arguably made Hezbollah a more powerful regional force for Shi’a, its strength has also caused the party and movement to become a target of Sunni groups that fear Shi’a influence is expanding disproportionate to the sect’s numbers. In most states in the Arab world, the Shi’a are a minority to the Sunnis, yet the Shi’a now have deep footprints in four Arab capitals –Beirut, Sanaa, Baghdad and Damascus. Hezbollah’s leadership has deliberately avoided initiating violence against the Sunnis in Lebanon, preferring instead to appear as the more reasonable force compared with Sunni groups such as ISIS.


Michael Kugelman
February 10, 2015

Sometime around midnight on January 25, separatist fighters in the insurgency-riven Pakistani province of Baluchistan attacked a power transmission line.

They probably didn’t anticipate the immense ripple effects this single strike would have across the country.

The assault, which blew up two key towers near a major power station, tripped the national grid. Eighty percent of the country—including most major cities—plunged into darkness. Many in Pakistan described the outage as the worst in the nation’s history. In some cities, hours went by before power was restored.

This wasn’t the first time militants attacked Pakistan’s electricity infrastructure. Baluch separatists targeted more than 100 gas lines over the last four years, including a February 1 assault that reduced gas supplies to Punjab and Khyber-Pakthunkhwa provinces by 25 million cubic feet. In April 2013, the Pakistani Taliban blew up the largest power station in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Half of Peshawar, the provincial capital with a population nearly as large as that of Los Angeles, lost power.

The fact that one isolated attack can inflict such widespread damage underscores the severity of Pakistan’s national energy crisis. Even in an era of cheap oil, Pakistan is experiencing a power shortfall of roughly 5,000 megawatts (in recent years, energy deficits have soared to 8,500 megawatts—more than 40 percent of national demand). In parts of rural Pakistan, residents are lucky to have four hours of electricity a day. The crisis’s economic costs are stark; shortages have cost the country 4 percent of gross domestic product. Some Western companies, citing electricity deficits, are suspending operations in Pakistan. On January 26, the Moody’s ratings group warned that energy shortages will damage Pakistan’s credit worthiness.


Amanda Kadlec and Hassan Morajea
February 11, 2015

Libya’s political and security situation is once again in flux as alliances shift with circumstances. In mid-summer 2014, political and militia forces based in Misrata formed the Libya Dawn coalition as a unified opposition front to Qaddafi-era military officerKhalifa Hiftar’s Operation Dignity assault on Islamists in Benghazi. Yet its initial successes shave been since undercut by divisions among Misrata’s many allies. It is the brewing strife among armed Islamist groups within the Libya Dawn coalition that could indicate where the country as a whole might be heading. In much of western Libya and in some areas in the east, local militias Islamist groups comparatively less motivated by ideology perceive regional, ideologically-motivated Islamists as threats. Decision-makers in Misrata are now drifting from ideological militia factions and political actors who were once their allies but are opposed to a political solution, which Misrata increasingly seeks, to end the current state of conflict. As the Libya Dawn coalition continues to splinter, increased presence and activity by the Islamic State (IS), Al-Qaeda (AQ) and AQ-linked Ansar Al-Sharia (AS) may be the factor that turns the array of Libya’s Islamist armed groups against one another.

Misrata and The Libya Dawn Coalition

Misrata is a city unlike any other in Libya in that it behaves as a city-state and acts with a considerable degree of autonomy in its best economic, political, and security interests. Key business and political figures in Misrata seek international validation in order to further the city’s goals, and UN-brokered peace talks are presenting an opportunity for the city-state to assert itself and achieve a sense of legitimacy. And while most perceive it as the country’s seat of the Muslim Brotherhood, Misratans typically see themselves as revolutionaries fighting an ongoing battle against remnants of the Qaddafi era.

Do the New AUMF's Limits Matter?

Robert Golan-Vilella
February 11, 2015

On August 8, 2014, the United States began conducting military operations against the Islamic State. Today, just over six months later, the Obama administration sent its proposed draft text for an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against the group to Congress. Here are the main elements of the White House’s proposal:

—It authorizes force against the Islamic State and its “associated persons or forces,” defined as “individuals and organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside ISIL or any closely-related successor entity in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”

—The authorization will sunset three years from the date of its enactment.

—It has no geographic limitations.

—It would repeal the 2002 AUMF that authorized the Iraq War. However, the 2001 AUMF, the legal basis for the broader “war on terror,” would not be affected.

—Finally, there is one limitation on the type of force that the president may use under the resolution. The authorization states that it “does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.”

This last clause is the one that has gotten the most attention in the early press coverage. As Politico reported, some congressional Democrats want the authorization to contain tighter restrictions on ground troops, while some Republicans would rather see none at all. The political challenge for those trying to pass the new AUMF will be to convince Republicans that it gives the president enough leeway to carry out the mission against the Islamic State, while persuading Democrats that it will not open up “a loophole that could lead to another major war,” as Senator Dick Durbin worried. But it seems likely that something similar to the current draft text will ultimately be passed and signed into law.

5 Reasons Arming Ukraine Won’t Work

Paul J. Saunders
February 12, 2015

With Secretary of State John Kerry joining incoming Secretary of DefenseAshton Carter as well as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham in publicly supporting U.S. efforts to supply lethal arms to Ukraine’s government to aid it in its war against separatist rebels and Russian troops in eastern Ukraine, it may look like a bipartisan consensus is emerging behind the idea.

Unfortunately, bipartisan approaches based on political convenience and wishful thinking—rather than clear foreign-policy logic—can be quite costly. George Kennan recognized the power of political pressure when he wrote that “a given statement or action will be rated as a triumph in Washington if it is applauded at home in those particular domestic circles at which it is aimed, even if it is quite ineffective or even self-defeating in its external effects.” The war in Iraq is a useful reminder of where this can lead if there is no serious discussion of the possible consequences of our decisions.

Recent proposals emphasize lethal defensive military assistance to Ukraine’s armed forces and suggest that providing it would demonstrate U.S. commitment to resisting Russian aggression and deter further offensive operations by imposing higher costs on Russia. While arming Ukraine may help Ukraine’s military kill more enemy soldiers, and might even increase the costs for Russia, it is quite unlikely that doing so will succeed in changing the Kremlin’s policy in Ukraine.

US Army commander for Europe: Russian troops are currently fighting on Ukraine's front lines

FEB 11, 2015

Russian troops are directly engaged in fighting in Ukraine along the front lines of the critical town of Debaltseve, US Army Europe commander Ben Hodges said on Wednesday.

"It's very obvious from the amount of ammunition, type of equipment, there's direct Russian military intervention in the Debaltseve area," Hodges said as he toured a NATO base in Szczecin, Poland.

Debaltseve is emerging as a major tipping point in the war in Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainian troops are currently fighting in the city and the surrounding area as Russian-backed separatists, augmented by Russian forces, encircle the town.

Aside from the number of troops fighting in the town, Debaltseve functions as a critically strategic town for Ukraine. Debaltseve is a crucial railway hub that brings coal into the rest of Ukraine. If the town is lost, Ukraine could face a coal shortage that would place further strain on the country's already failing electrical grid.

Hodges is also concerned that if the city falls, Russia and its separatist forces could take advantage of the chaos and shift their attention to other major sites in Ukraine.

Germany Emerges, Powerful but Insecure

By George Friedman
February 11, 2015

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, accompanied by French President Francois Hollande, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 6. Then she met with U.S. President Barack Obama on Feb. 9. The primary subject was Ukraine, but the first issue discussed at the news conference following the meeting with Obama was Greece. Greece and Ukraine are not linked in the American mind. They are linked in the German mind, because both are indicators of Germany's new role in the world and of Germany's discomfort with it.

It is interesting to consider how far Germany has come in a rather short time. When Merkel took office in 2005, she became chancellor of a Germany that was at peace, in a European Union that was united. Germany had put its demands behind it, embedding itself in a Europe where it could be both prosperous and free of the geopolitical burdens that had led it into such dark places. If not the memory, then the fear of Germany had subsided in Europe. The Soviet Union was gone, and Russia was in the process of trying to recover from the worst consequences of that collapse. The primary issue in the European Union was what hurdles nations, clamoring to enter the union, would have to overcome in order to become members. Germany was in a rare position, given its history. It was in a place of comfort, safety and international collegiality.

The world that Merkel faces today is startlingly different. The European Union is in a deep crisis. Many blame Germany for that crisis, arguing that its aggressive export policies and demands for austerity were self-serving and planted the seeds of the crisis. It is charged with having used the euro to serve its interests and with shaping EU policy to protect its own corporations. The vision of a benign Germany has evaporated in much of Europe, fairly or unfairly. In many places, old images of Germany have re-emerged, if not in the center of many countries then certainly on the growing margins. In a real if limited way, Germany has become the country that other Europeans fear. Few countries are clamoring for membership in the European Union, and current members have little appetite for expanding the bloc's boundaries.