5 March 2015

Pakistan's Terrorism Accusations Against India: Bizarre But Calculated

March 03, 2015

Amid a declining domestic situation, senior Pakistani officials see it fit to blame India — an unproductive endeavor. 

The Director-General of Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Rizwan Akhtar arrived in Washington, D.C. for talks with intelligence and defense officials on a possible “peace settlement” between the elected government in Afghanistan and the Taliban. The Pakistani Urdu daily Jang also reports that Lt. Gen. Akhtar planned to complain to his hosts about India’s alleged support to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its activities in Afghanistan, which the Pakistani military establishment considers inimical to its interests.

In the days and weeks leading up to Lt. Gen. Akhtar’s visit to the U.S., Pakistan’s complaints were reinforced in Pakistan’s English and Urdu dailies. The far-right newspaper Ummat ran an article asserting that Pakistan was planning to present evidence of Indian “terrorism” through diplomatic and global media circles. The newspaper claimed that “evidence” had been unearthed of India’s involvement in terrorism in Balochistan, Karachi, and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Not to be left behind, the conservative daily Nawa-i-waqt, in aneditorial, appealed to the Nawaz Sharif government to counter India’s alleged interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs and demanded that Mr. Sharif declare that India is an enemy of Pakistan.

Accusations of India’s “involvement” in Pakistan have been leveled not only by the military establishment and media houses sympathetic to General Headquarters, Rawalpindi, but also by members of the inner coterie of Nawaz Sharif’s government. These include statements by Khawaja Asif, Pakistan’s Minister of Defense, whosuggested that separatists from the restive province of Balochistan travel on Indian passports and “take trips to India to get directions.”

Minister of the Interior and trusted aid of Nawaz Sharif Chaudhry Nisar Ali effectively blamed India for spreading terrorism in Pakistan upon his return from Washington D.C. last week. Yet another confidant of Sharif, Sartaj Aziz, has spent much of his tenure as Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs toeing a particularly hawkish line on India.

The accusations from Pakistan — deemed not credible in Washington, D.C., and refuted outright in New Delhi — are hardly new. Pakistan’s leaders, whether civilian or military, have a history of leveling accusations on India’s alleged involvement in everything from sectarian violence in Pakistan to terrorism perpetrated via proxies from Afghanistan. These accusations are typically accompanied by claims of possessing evidence that incriminates India, although, unsurprisingly, none is ever publicly presented. A combination of factors could potentially explain Pakistan’s aggressive posturing and the somewhat bizarre accusations.

Is India's Defense Budget Adequate?

March 03, 2015

New Delhi’s defense spending will rise modestly in the new fiscal year. 

India is modestly increasing its defense spending by 11 percent to around 2.47 trillion rupees ($40 billion) for the fiscal year 2015-2016 starting on April 1, according to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s federal budget speech last Saturday. The allocation for defense in the current fiscal year is 2.2 trillion rupees ($35 billion).

The core message in the Indian Finance Minister’s statement was the push to become less dependent on foreign military know-how and imports and to revive the Indian defense industry.

“We have been overdependent on imports, with its attendant unwelcome spin offs. We are thus pursuing the ‘Make in India policy’ to achieve greater self-sufficiency in the area of defense equipment,” Arun Jaitley stated during his speech.

India is already the world’s largest weapon’s importer (in 2013, New Delhi spent $6 billion on buying equipment), largely due to a moribund domestic defense industry. India is expected to spend $100 billion over the next decade on a defense upgrade program.

The Modi government, which made military modernization one of its top priorities, in August 2014 increasedthe stakes that foreign defense contractors were allowed to hold in joint defense ventures from 26 percent to 49 percent.

According to the Wall Street Journal, India only received $5 million in direct foreign investment in the defense industry over the last 14 years, in comparison to the $10 billion each that the telecommunications and automobile industries sectors were able to attract over the same period.

Whether Modi’s “Make in India” policy will be successful remains to be seen. One principal problem is that India’s arms procurement process requires offsets and technology transfers, which some Western defense contractors (notably from the United States) are not willing to do. However, there are already some encouraging signs.

India's 2015 Budget: Neither 'Big Bang' Nor Bust

March 03, 2015

While falling short of expectations, India’s 2015 budget charts a gradualist path to reform. 

The dust appears to have settled around India’s $290 billion 2015 budget, a significant milestone for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s government, marking its first full fiscal year budget since coming to power in India’s general elections last May. More so than usual, this budget reveal was particularly dramatic. Modi’s battle cry last spring, before the general elections, was focused squarely on delivering much-needed development and economic growth. In his first 9 months in office, his pace on economic reform was unsatisfactory for many of his supporters. The 2015 budget was supposed to send a signal to international investors and to government’s critics that “big bang” reforms were on, and that India was truly back. Amid economic growth slowdowns in China, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa, this was perhaps India’s best chance to heave itself at the top of the BRICS grouping as the world’s most promising major emerging economy. So did the budget deliver?

Ultimately, this budget fell short of that magical silver bullet many emerging markets investors were hoping for. However, by the same token, the government did demonstrate a willingness to get its feet wet with reform. The general consensus among most level-headed analysts of the Indian economy is that this budget is a business-friendly approach to government finances that does not entirely leave behind in the dust the many populist programs of the Congress era. As usual, the Indian elephant will not take any sharp turns, lest it tip over entirely. This budget is evolutionary, and not revolutionary. With tax cuts for businesses (a declaration that immediately drove up Indian markets), a modest targeted 0.3 percent raise in the fiscal deficit, expanded public sector investment, and a decentralization of public spending from the central government to India’s states, the 2015 budget is a move toward fiscal creativity by the BJP government. With a comfortable infrastructure spending budget of $11 billion and new social security proposals, the BJP did not entirely sideline welfare considerations.

A major expected feature of this budget that didn’t quite turn out the way many had expected was its focus on fiscal consolidation and deficit reduction. India’s fiscal deficit as a share of its GDP ballooned after the global financial crisis of 2008. The 2015 budget, with an eye on keeping the Indian investment cycle healthy, actually targets a slight increase in the deficit. The budget could have faced harsher criticism on this count had it not established its pro-growth reputation elsewhere, notably with tax cuts for businesses and a simplified Goods and Services Tax (GST), to be implemented by April 2016. India’s corporate tax rate will be slashed from 30 percent to 25 percent. The government is raising income taxes for top earners by a modest amount to accommodate for the cut.

Why RCEP Is Vital for India

By Bipul Chatterjee and Surendar Singh
March 03, 2015

The regional trade deal could boost India’s strategic and economic position in the Asia-Pacific. 

Mega regional trade deals are in vogue in an otherwise fragile global economy. In an environment of falling aggregate demand, these trade deals are seen as a means to insulate economies from market uncertainties. Three important mega regionals are currently under negotiation: the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership of Asia and the Pacific (RCEP), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). It is expected that these agreements, once concluded and implemented, will set the stage for a new generation of global trade and investment rules.

From India’s point of view, the RCEP presents a decisive platform which could influence its strategic and economic status in the Asia-Pacific region and bring to fruition its “Act East Policy.” It is expected to be an ambitious agreement bringing the five biggest economies of the region – Australia, China, India, Japan and South Korea – into a regional trading arrangement.

It would be the world’s largest trading bloc covering a broad spectrum of issues such as trade in goods, services, investment, competition, intellectual property rights, and other areas of economic and technical cooperation. Together, the RCEP group of countries accounts for a third of the world’s gross domestic product, and 27.4 per cent and 23.0 per cent of the world’s goods and services trade, respectively.

It is interesting to note that, compared with the TPP and TTIP groups of countries, India’s trade share with the RCEP group of countries as a percentage of its total trade has increased over the past decade and half, underlining the importance of its trade with key countries in this group.

For India, the RCEP offers ample opportunity. There are three immediate benefits that its trade policymakers should note. First, the RCEP agreement would complement India’s existing free trade agreements with the Association of South East Asian Nations and some of its member countries, as it would deals with Japan and South Korea. It can address challenges emanating from implementation concerns vis-à-vis overlapping agreements, which is creating a “noodle bowl” situation obstructing effective utilization of these FTAs.

In this respect, the RCEP would help India streamline the rules and regulations of doing trade, which will reduce trade costs. It will also help achieve its goal of greater economic integration with countries East and South East of India through better access to a vast regional market ranging from Japan to Australia. The RCEP can be a stepping stone to India’s “Act East Policy.”

Terrorism Case in NYC Against Pakistani Man Goes to the Jury

Stephanie Clifford
March 3, 2015

Terrorism Case Against Pakistani Man Is Going to Jury

As arguments in Abid Naseer’s trial on terrorism charges came to a close on Monday, jurors had heard from British intelligence officers in disguise, an F.B.I. attaché who observed Osama bin Laden’s dead body and Mr. Naseer himselfarguing that he was an innocent man.

Mr. Naseer, 28, a Pakistani, is accused of planning to attack a Manchester, England, shopping mall in a plot by Al Qaeda that would have also included the New York City subway system and a Danish newspaper. But the alleged plot was never carried out.

The strongest link between Mr. Naseer and terrorist activity was in emails: a series of messages that he wrote to the address sana_pakhtana@yahoo.com that discussed women and marriage in often-awkward phrases. The Yahoo account was that of a Qaeda handler who also corresponded with an admitted Qaeda supporter and terrorist plotter, Najibullah Zazi. Like Mr. Naseer’s emails to sana_pakhtana, Mr. Zazi’s were full of references to his “marriage,” which Mr. Zazi testified was code for a bombing plot.

Mr. Naseer argued that his emails were innocent chatter about girls with a friend he met in an Internet chat room — who he had no idea was a Qaeda affiliate.

Now, jurors in Federal District Court in Brooklyn will decide which side to believe. Was Mr. Naseer going into Tesco stores because that is what a typical student in England would do? Or was he scouting for bomb ingredients? Was he returning home to Pakistan to see his family, or to train with Al Qaeda? Did he delete all emails from his account the day he sent his final email to the sana_pakhtana address because he needed more space, or because he was covering his tracks as the attack neared?

In the government’s closing argument, a prosecutor, Zainab Ahmad, hit on the danger of the alleged plot.

“That man wanted to drive a car bomb into a crowded shopping center and watch people die,” she said.

Warning Signs: 20,000 Afghan Soldiers Were Killed Or Deserted in 2014, Pentagon

Matthew Rosenberg and Azam Ahmed
March 3, 2015

WASHINGTON — The Afghan Army lost more than 20,000 fighters and others last year largely because of desertions, discharges and deaths in combat, according to figures to be released Tuesday, casting further doubt onAfghanistan’s ability to maintain security without help from United States-led coalition forces.

The nearly 11 percent decline from January to November 2014, to roughly 169,000 uniformed and civilian members from 190,000, is now an issue of deep concern among some in the American military. For example, the former No. 2 American commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, called the rate of combat deaths unsustainable before he departed at the end of last year.

Concern over how soon Afghan forces will be ready to stand on their own is one reason that the Obama administration is weighing whether it should slow the withdrawal of American troops, the bulk of whom are supposed to be out by the end of 2016.

The newly available numbers also lay bare the challenge faced by the 10,000 American troops and thousands of private contractors who have remained in Afghanistan since the end of the combat mission in December to help prepare Afghan forces to fight the Taliban on their own.

The American-led military coalition, citing internal figures, said the Afghan Army’s size had inched back up in the past few months, reaching about 173,000 in January. But that would still put the army at its smallest level since the fall of 2011, when the American project to build viable Afghan security forces was still in its early stages and the coalition did almost all the fighting against the Taliban militants.

Pentagon Declassifies Information on Afghan Security Forces

March 04, 2015

ANA soldiers resting after a raid on a Taliban-occuppied village.
SIGAR draws attention to discrepancies in ANSF force strength. 

Today, the U.S. government watchdog for tax dollars spent in Afghanistan, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), released a supplement to the January 2015 quarterly report to Congress. As I noted in a previous article, at the end of January 2015 SIGAR announced in its 26th Quarterly Report to Congress that it could no longer publicly report on many aspects of the $65 billion effort to build up the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

The supplement published today contains information that received classified or otherwise restricted responses from the Pentagon, which has now been declassified. However, some information concerning corps-level Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) personnel strength data, future requirements for Afghan Air Force (AAF) equipment, the number of trained AAF pilots, and operational data on the Afghan Special Mission Wing remains classified.

Nevertheless, the report has two interesting findings.

First, the U.S. military’s inconsistent reporting on ANSF strength numbers indicates long-standing and ongoing problems with accountability and personnel tracking. For example, SIGAR has seen large quarter-to-quarter fluctuations in the ANA numbers — sometimes 20,000 personnel or more — without supporting documentation for the sudden change.

Second, the Afghan National Army (ANA) has declined by 15,636 (or 8.5 percent) since February 2014 to 169,203 personnel, the lowest assigned ANA force strength since August 2011. Attrition continues to be a major challenge for the ANSF. Between September 2013 and September 2014, more than 40,000 personnel were dropped from ANA pay rolls. Also, SIGAR analysis indicates a change in how Afghan National Police (ANP) numbers are calculated that raises questions about the accuracy of these numbers and the validity of the reported increase in personnel this quarter.

The report also states that none of the $25 million in authorized funds for programs for women in the ANSF have been used.

Russia Tops China as Principal Cyber Threat to US

March 03, 2015

A recent report singles out Russia as one of the most sophisticated nation-state actors in cyberspace. 
“While I can’t go into detail here, the Russian cyber threat is more severe than we had previously assessed,” the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, told the Senate Armed Services Committee during the 2015 presentation of the “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

The report lists sophisticated cyberattacks as the principle national security threat facing the United States. “Cyber threats to U.S. national and economic security are increasing in frequency, scale, sophistication, and severity of impact,” the assessment notes.

Russia is singled out as one of the most sophisticated nation-state actors in cyberspace. The report notes that Russia’s Ministry of Defense is establishing its own cyber command, responsible for conducting offensive cyber activities (similar to the United States Cyber Command).

The report says that Russia’s cyber command will also be responsible, again similar to its U.S. counterpart, for attacking enemy command and control systems and conducting cyber propaganda operations. Furthermore, “unspecified Russian cyber actors” have developed the capability to target industrial control systems and thereby attack electric power grids, air-traffic control, and oil and gas distribution networks.

However, the report points out that the United States will not have to fear debilitating strategic cyberattacks on a large scale:

“Rather than a ‘Cyber Armageddon’ scenario that debilitates the entire U.S. infrastructure, we envision something different. We foresee an ongoing series of low-to-moderate level cyber attacks from a variety of sources over time, which will impose cumulative costs on U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.”

China Continues to Court Sri Lanka

March 03, 2015

China touted its friendship with Sri Lanka with Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in Beijing. 

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera was in Beijing the last two days of February, where he met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, as well as Premier Li Keqiang. China’s Foreign Ministry had previously talked up the visit as a way of establishing the foundation for China-Sri Lanka relations under new President Maithripala Sirisena. Samaraweera was the first cabinet member from the new government to visit China.

China used Samaraweera’s visit as a chance to refute the notion that extensive Chinese loans made to Colombo for various construction projects have a nefarious intent. “China’s loans were provided at the request of the Sri Lankan side… The loan arrangements, which are made upon consensus and oriented towards the entire nation and its people, have played a positive role in Sri Lanka’s economic and social development,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Monday.

Chinese officials also tried to rebut widespread interpretations that Sirisena will not be as friendly toward China as his predecessor. Wang stressed the “profound traditional friendship” China has for Sri Lanka. According to Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry, Samaraweera also emphasized the “solid and deep friendship between the two countries.” He added that Sirisena is “keen to take forward the [China-Sri Lanka] relationship to a new level of excellence.” Sirisena himself is expected to visit China at the end of March.

Wang also affirmed that the “China-Sri Lanka relationship is never targeted at or influenced by any third party” (a veiled reference to perceptions that India wants Sri Lanka to tone down its relationship with China). In aseparate statement, Wang said that China “holds an open attitude” toward trilateral cooperation between China, Sri Lanka, and India. Wang said China is ready to “actively discuss” such proposals, including developing tourist routes that focus on Buddhism and having China and India work together to help boost “Sri Lanka’s economic and social development.”

What ‘Tigers’ Will Fall to China's Anti-Corruption Campaign in 2015?

March 03, 2015

Previewing China’s anti-corruption efforts in the Year of the Sheep. 

2014 was undoubtedly an important year for anti-corruption. Last year, to my surprise, I wrote 25 blog pieces about anti-corruption, but sadly Wang Qishan, secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, didn’t give me a prize. Looking back at my old pieces, let’s see if the anti-corruption campaign in 2014 lived up to my hopes from the beginning of last year. I also want to look at what hopes we should hold for anti-corruption in 2015. Of course, I’ll also answer the question that made you click on this blog piece in the first place: what “tigers” will be caught in 2015?

From my blog articles in 2014, we can roughly follow the progress of the anti-corruption campaign in 2014. This was the impression I got from anti-corruption in 2014: the strength of the anti-corruption campaign went beyond my expectations from the beginning of 2014. The “tigers” caught last year broke records, whether viewed in terms of the sheer number or in terms of their rank. Chinese people took immense pleasure in spreading the news, but they weren’t satisfied – in fact, they only became more dissatisfied. Although there have been some early steps toward institutional anti-corruption, there’s still a certain gap between progress and the hopes of the public.

Before an anti-corruption system with the participation of the people is established and perfected, each ousted “tiger” will certainly make the people more confident in the current government – but at the same time, it will raise more doubts about the system that produced such severe corruption. In 2014, the dreams of a minority of corrupt officials were shattered, but the dreams of most ordinary people still haven’t come true. And in 2015? Here are my predictions, according to the following keywords:

Gaps. The myth that you can’t punish high-ranking people has already been dispelled, but I don’t dare to predict whether the anti-corruption efforts in 2015 will continue to extend upward. In 2014, anti-corruption extended to almost every corner, but some people discovered that there were still gaps that went untouched — like the “princelings” or high-ranking patrons working behind the scenes. Based on the anti-corruption campaign’s progress in 2014, I think that those corrupt officials hiding behind the scenes or in the gaps must be quite terrified.

Sri Lanka May Bar Port Visits by Chinese Submarines

March 03, 2015

The new Sri Lankan government will not allow Chinese submarines to dock 

Last year, Sri Lanka managed to cause a good deal of trepidation in New Delhi when a Chinese submarine, Changzheng-2, was spotted docking in Colombo, flanked by a Chinese warship. Observers took the visit as a sign that China ”has its sights set on dominating the Indian Ocean.” Still, the submarine visit put Sri Lanka in a bit of an awkward position diplomatically with New Delhi. One important detail of the entire incident that did not make it into mainstream reporting was that the sub did not dock in a Sri Lanka-controlled port facility designed to accommodate military vessels. Instead, the submarine ended up at the Colombo South Container Terminal (CSCT), a facility controlled by a Chinese developer. While that facility was able to accommodate the submarine, the entire incident may have taken place without the express approval of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government.

Still, these details aside, Sri Lanka has now taken a firm stand against any perceptions that it is offering preferential port access to Chinese military assets. On Saturday, speaking in Beijing, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera noted that Sri Lanka would not allow visits by Chinese submarines to its ports. “I really don’t know under which sort of circumstances that led to some submarines… to [visit] the port of Colombo on the very day the Japanese Prime Minister was visiting Sri Lanka. But we will ensure that such incidents, from whatever quarter, do not happen during our tenure,” Samaraweera noted. Samaraweera’s comments suggests that China may not be the only country affected as part of the new government’s plans to ban submarine visits.

The Rajapaksa government’s complicity in inviting the submarine and warship remains somewhat ambiguous. The Sri Lankan government, at the time, embraced the visit, likely to avoid perceptions that the Chinese vessels had docked a Chinese-company controlled facility without the full knowledge of the Sri Lankan government. ”A submarine and a warship have docked at Colombo harbour. They called on Oct. 31 and will be here for five days for refuelling and crew refreshment,” noted a spokesman for the Sri Lankan navy, adding that ”This is nothing unusual. Since 2010, 230 warships have called at Colombo port from various countries on goodwill visits and for refueling and crew refreshment.”

Following Samaraweera’s statements in Beijing, the Chinese foreign ministry came out in defense of its actions last year. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told the press that China “had the consent of the Sri Lanka side in advance.” Noting that the Chinese submarine and warship were on their way to an anti-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden, off the southwestern tip of Arabian peninsula, Hua added that ”these are normal and transparent activities. It also followed the international practices,” she said. ”It is to my knowledge that policy of Sri Lanka side is to support the global anti-piracy campaign. It welcomes the docking of submarines from the friendly countries,” she added.

Can a Documentary Change the Course of China's 'War on Pollution'?

March 03, 2015

A documentary on China’s smog could be a turning point in China’s environmental protection movement. 

Just after the Chinese New Year – and only a few days before China’s “two sessions” meetings of the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference – a new documentary has caught fire on China’s internet. The film, titled “Under the Dome,” investigates China’s pollution problem, providing visceral evidence of the inescapable problem of smog. The documentary, released on Saturday, had over 147 million views on the Chinese video site Tencent by Monday evening. It’s available on YouTube, with a rough English translation.

“Under the Dome” was produced by Chai Jing, formerly a journalist at the state-run China Central Television (CCTV). Chai explains how she came to take a personal interest in the pollution issue after the birth of her daughter. Before then, she had never paid much attention to the smog; afterward, she was frightened as to what the pervasive exposure to pollution would mean for her child’s health. The resulting documentary has been compared to Silent Spring, the book by environmental activist Rachel Carson often credited with jump-starting the U.S. environmental movement.

That comparison has also been made by no less a personage than China’s environmental minister, Chen Jining. Chen said he was “particularly pleased” about the documentary and the way it was “promoting public awareness of environmental health issues.” Indeed, the wide-spread promotion of the documentary by Chinese state mediasignals that the government sees value in the film. The website of People’s Daily reposted the film and also published an interview with Chai Jing. China Daily published its own feature on Chai and her “crusade against pollution.”

The support from state media is especially interesting given that the film dips a toe into the dangerous waters of public activism, something China’s government is generally quick to censure. In the film, Chai predicts that China’s people will grow tired of a poisoned environment:

“One day, tens of thousands of ordinary folks will say no. They will say they are not satisfied, they don’t want to wait and they don’t want to evade responsibility. I have to stand out and do something, and I will do it right now, right here, in the very moment where I am. I am the change.”

The above paragraph, in the context of virtually any other political subject (democracy, constitutionalism, human rights) would have gotten the film scrubbed from China’s internet. But “Under the Dome” is still readily available online, although China Digital Times reports that Chinese censors have ordered media outlets not to “further promote” the documentary and to carefully “regulate” public opinion.

The American Dream: Made in China?

By Jin Kai
March 03, 2015

After thirty years of U.S. outsourcing, the economic relationship between the U.S. and China is shifting yet again. 

In a previous article, I claimed that the China Dream is a collective dream that incorporates individual dreams as well, whereas the American Dream is primarily a personal dream that particularly inspires individual creativity, proactivity, and positivity. A line from a recent Hollywood movie provides a perfect (and perhaps more entertaining) complement for my piece. In Horrible Bosses 2, Rex Hanson (played by Chris Pine) mocks the three main characters as they try to start their own business. “I hate to break it to you, but the American Dream is made in China,” Hanson says. He means that any business the men start — and any jobs they create — will be bought out by rich entrepreneurs and outsourced to China.

This wisecrack hints at thought-provoking questions regarding the new global economic order. China and the U.S., as the world’s two major economic powers, inevitably have deeply interwoven economies. But does that mean the American Dream has been outsourced?

First, let’s rewind back to 2011, the year the BBC released its two-episode program “The Chinese Are Coming.” In episode two, BBC presenter Justin Rowlatt showed the audience a closed-down steel factory in Youngstown, Ohio and interviewed people who complained about losing not only their jobs, but “a culture and a way of life.” George, one of the few local employees who still has a job in the local steel industry, complained sadly, “They’ve packed up all the machines, and they’ve moved them to China.”

The story of Youngstown has been repeated across the U.S. Entrepreneurs always seek higher profits, which can often be more quickly and more conveniently generated in the Chinese market. For entrepreneurs, the Chinese market equation has been a simple one: cheap labor plus state support equals more profit. This has been Chinese market’s competitive advantages for years.

American outsourcing has created jobs for thousands of young Chinese, mostly migrant workers leaving their hometowns and seeking new lives in cities. Except for those white collar employees who are hired as managers and administrative staffs, many of these young workers still face harsh working conditions, including long hours and unsatisfactory working environments. Ironically, these employees are hardly chasing fancy dreams – they’re simply eking out a living.

In a recent report, BBC Panorama claimed that Chinese factory workers on an iPhone 6 production line were routinely forced to work overtime, despite Apple’s pledge to protect workers. Similar stories can be found quite easily in recent years; such the reports come not only from Chinese factories but also from production lines in other Asian markets.

Singapore and the Worldview of Lee Kuan Yew

By Ang Cheng Guan
March 04, 2015

The thinking of its former prime minister has profoundly shaped Singapore’s foreign policy. 

The “Great Man Theory of History” most eloquently articulated by the Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle (1797-1881) is perhaps not very fashionable with historians today. It was Carlyle who penned the memorable quote – “the history of the world is but the biography of great men.” Carlyle might have exaggerated the role of great men and undervalued the social, economic and other forces that shaped his “heroes,” but I do not think we should completely disregard the importance and influence of certain individuals. Rather, a more nuanced approach is warranted. Indeed, as the American psychologist and philosopher William James arguedin his October 1880 lecture to the Harvard Natural History Society, great men do have the capacity to influence and shape the thoughts of society.

Thus, I believe it is not out of place to approach the study of Singapore’s foreign policy through the perspective of Lee Kuan Yew. According to S. Rajaratnam, the first and longest serving foreign minister of Singapore, Singapore’s foreign policy was shaped principally by him and Lee Kuan Yew, with contributions from Dr. Goh Keng Swee (the first defence and finance minister) when there were economic implications. Indeed, historians who have perused the archival documents, both in Singapore and abroad, would attest that it is impossible to re-construct the history of Singapore’s foreign policy without constant reference to Lee because he figures so prominently in most of the documents. Lee’s influence owed to both his strong character and longevity is without doubt. Rajaratnam died in 2006 at the age of 91 and Goh in 2010 at the age of 92. Both had been inactive politically for many years prior to their passing. 

Although he retired as prime minister in 1990, Lee assumed the position of senior minister and later minister mentor until 2011. Second-generation leaders like Goh Chok Tong (who became Singapore’s second prime minister) gained much from Lee’s “mentoring sessions” – usually over lunch. Goh recalled that the lunches were always “serious affairs,” where “we didn’t discuss light topics. It was always political… what was happening in the region and how (these events) would affect us.” In the words of another mentee, Lim Chee Onn (Minister and NTUC Secretary-General), Lee Kuan Yew “passed on a lot of his experience, his way of thinking, his way of analysis and of course, his own interpretations and assessments of situations. Not just the related facts, but also the way you look at things.” Indeed, Asad Latif in his 2009 book described Lee as still a guiding force in Singapore’s foreign policy.

China, Japan Close to Crisis Management Breakthrough

March 04, 2015

Japan and China are close to finalizing a liaison mechanism — but it hinges on how Japan commemorates the end of WWII. 
Since China-Japan relations began a slow thawing process with the meeting between their top leaders last November, officials on both sides have had one clear goal in mind: finalizing a consultative mechanism that will allow leaders to communicate in the event on a maritime or aerial emergency. Such a maritime and aerial consultative mechanism would be a crucial step toward preventing and managing crises, particularly in the disputed region surrounding the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Today, a Chinese general told Xinhua that he believes such a mechanism is on the verge of being launched.

China and Japan agreed in principle to a maritime consultative mechanism all the way back in 2012, but crises in the relationship prevented much progress until quite recently. Talks held in Qingdao in September 2014 and in Japan in January of this year represented the first steps toward a concrete arrangement in over two years. The stated goal is to have the mechanism in place by the end of this year.

According to General Qian Lihua, who formerly headed the Ministry of National Defense’s foreign affairs office, that goal is within reach. Qian told Xinhua that China and Japan’s defense departments can to a consensus on many of the details during their January meeting. That includes an expansion of the scope of the agreement, from a “maritime liaison mechanism” to a “maritime and aerial liaison mechanism” (a crucial change, as Japan and China have increasingly taken to scrambling jets to respond to patrol flights in the disputed region). Qian also says that “the basic technical conditions” for launching the mechanism are in place.

China’s PLA Crackdown Gathers Steam

March 04, 2015

The PLA releases a list of 14 generals under investigation for corruption, signalling a sea change. 

On Monday, China’s military authority released a listof 14 generals under investigation or already convicted for corruption. The release, timed to come just before China’s annual parliamentary meeting, provides further evidence that anti-corruption efforts in the PLA are gaining steam. Monday’s announcement followed the release of a similar list of 16 military officers under investigation in mid-January.

The release of the list was accompanied by a flurry of state media coverage underlining the PLA’s determination to weed out corruption. A piece posted on the Ministry of Defense website argued that the announcement “makes [the] PLA more trustworthy.” That article also points out a key difference between Monday’s list and the list of names released in January: the former list included names that had already been reported on by official and unofficial media outlets. The March 2 list, on the contrary, included names being linked to anti-graft probes for the first time. Chinese analysts interviewed in the article stressed that releasing the names of corrupt officials could become standard practice for the PLA – a way of getting out ahead of media reports and boosting PLA transparency.

The list includes high-ranking officials from the joint logistics departments of various Military Area Commands as well as a number of deputy political commissars and deputy directors from various political departments. As the New York Times notes, this effectively captures China’s two main worries when it comes to PLA corruption: embezzlement from the logistics department (which handles procurement and other contracts) as well as position-buying and bribery in the political departments.

However, the name being most widely talked about is one missing from the PLA list. General Guo Boxiong, a former vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, is widely believed to be under investigation for corruption, although no official Chinese sources have confirmed this. Guo’s son, General Guo Zhenggang, was included on the March 2 list, which listed him as under investigation for “suspicion of illegal criminal activities.”Reuters’ sources say that announcement was a hint that Guo Boxiong is next – which would make him the second CMC vice chairman to fall, after General Xu Caihou was ousted last year. If Guo does go, it would mean the disgrace of both of China’s top military leaders under Hu Jintao.

China and Russia vs. the United States?

By Huiyun Feng
March 02, 2015

Just how likely are China and Russia to ally against the U.S.? 

The rising tensions between Russia and the West, especially the United States, over Ukraine provide a constant reminder of the Cold War, when the two superpowers fought proxy conflicts for spheres of influence. A key question in the current game of great power politics is whether China and Russia will form an alliance against the United States?

In his Foreign Affairs article “Asia for the Asians: Why Chinese-Russian Friendship is Here to Stay,” Gilbert Rozman listed six reasons why the Chinese-Russian partnership is durable. However, Joseph Nye, in a recent piece published in Project Syndicate titled “A New Sino-Russian Alliance?” questioned the possibility by pointing to deep problems for a Sino-Russian alliance in the economic, military and demographic spheres.

Both Rozman and Nye are, in fact, looking at different sides of the same coin. However, both have missed something. The future of a China-Russian relationship depends largely on relations these two countries have with the West, especially the United States. If Washington pushes too hard on oil prices, Ukraine, and NATO expansion toward Russia, and if the U.S. rebalances too far against China in the Pacific, China and Russia may indeed move towards a formal alliance, even if that may not have been what they originally wanted.

One Mountain, Two Tigers

Both Chinese President Xi Jingping and Russian President Putin are strong leaders with aspirations to recapture past glories. Xi’s new foreign policy features strong positions over the East China Sea disputes with Japan and the South China Sea disputes with Southeast Asia. As the world has witnessed, Putin has been aggressive over Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Both Xi and Putin believe that their states were unfairly treated in the past and are uncomfortable with the current international order.

DNI Clapper Says 40 American Who Fought With Al Qaeda and ISIS Have Returned to U.S.

March 2, 2015

U.S. Spy Chief Says 40 Americans Who Went to Syria Have Returned

WASHINGTON — About 180 Americans have traveled to Syria to join Islamist militants and around 40 of them have returned to the United States, the U.S. National Intelligence director, James Clapper, said on Monday.

Clapper said not all those who went to Syria, where Islamic State militants and other factions are fighting each other and the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, had engaged in the Islamist campaign. Some might have been aid workers, he said.

The United States and its allies believe that more than 20,000 foreign fighters from more than 90 countries have gone to Syria. Islamic State forces have taken over large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

U.S. officials have expressed concern that some Americans, radicalized and trained to stage attacks in Syria, may wreak havoc when they come home. Clapper said he was not aware of any plots in which returning fighters had been involved.

He told a forum at the Council of Foreign Relations that as long as such travelers did not become engaged in violence, it was their “privilege as American citizens” to return to the United States.

Clapper said donations to extremist groups like Islamic State and al Qaeda affiliates by governments and private parties in Muslim countries had recently declined, and said that was partly because of stepped up oversight by governments in the region.

ISIS Does Not Tolerate Internal Criticism Of Its Methods

March 2, 2015 

ISIL is putting a senior religious advisor, a Saudi cleric, on trial for openly criticizing the ISIL leadership for executing a captured Jordanian pilot by burning him alive. The cleric declared that such a method of execution was not Islamic and that those who carried it out should be put on trial. ISIL leadership decided to try the cleric on trial instead, for bad behavior, and may execute the man. This is all because in early February ISIL got a lot of publicity when it released the video of them burning to death of a captured Jordanian pilot. 

Outside of ISIL the reaction was generally revulsion and calls for revenge. ISIL seemed to relish that and the use of this form of execution (which used to be popular in the West centuries ago). It was first believed that everyone in ISIL also approved of stuff like this, as well as the use of crucifixion, beheading or stoning for executions. Apparently not and it soon became apparent that there are a growing number of critics to these barbaric methods within ISIL. Many lower ranking ISIL men were put off by this execution. The full extent of this dissent will only be known when more disillusioned ISIL veterans return home. Those lower ranking ISIL men who object to the burning knew to keep quiet about it, because a quick, quiet execution follows discovery of such disloyal attitude among the rank and file. But when more senior ISIL men object, especially if the critic is a religious advisor, one must be more careful. In the few cases so far the offending official was still executed, but the trial enables ISIL to explain why this guy got so high in the organization only to eventually face execution. 

Internal criticism is not the only problem ISIL faces as the Islamic terror group is not doing well so far this year. They admitted their defeat by Kurds at Kobane and the Syrian Army is retaking ground as well. The Kurds are also defeating ISIL forces near the Iraq border and in Iraq Kurds, Iraqi soldiers and Sunni and Shia militias are both stopping ISIL attacks and pushing back ISIL forces in a growing number of areas. An offensive to retake Mosul is expected before June. Meanwhile air attacks not only continue but are more frequent. This makes it more difficult to stockpile supplies or move large numbers of gunmen. 

More of the people in ISIL controlled territory are rebelling or otherwise showing their displeasure at ISIL rule. To make this worse ISIL has taken to conscripting people for their armed forces or simply to do manual labor. The only area where ISIL is advancing is in Internet propaganda and now even that is being criticized both inside and outside of ISIL. 

Iraq Military Allegedly Has Begun Offensive to Try to Retake City of Tikrit From ISIS

March 2, 2015

BAGHDAD — Backed by allied Shiite and Sunni fighters, Iraqi security forces on Monday began a large-scale military operation to recapture Saddam Hussein’s hometown from the Islamic State extremist group, state TV said, a major step in a campaign to reclaim a large swath of territory in northern Iraq controlled by the militants.

The city of Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, fell into the hands of the Islamic State group last summer along with the country’s second-largest city of Mosul and other areas in the country’s Sunni heartland after the collapse of national security forces. Tikrit is one of the largest cities held by the Islamic State group and sits on the road to Mosul.

Security forces have so far been unable to retake Tikrit, but momentum has begun to shift after soldiers, backed by airstrikes from a U.S.-led coalition, recently took back the nearby refinery town of Beiji. Any operation to take Mosul would require Iraq to seize Tikrit first because of its strategic location for military enforcements.

U.S. military officials have said a coordinated military mission to retake Mosul will likely begin in April or May and involve up to 25,000 Iraqi troops. But they have cautioned that if the Iraqis aren’t ready, the timing could be delayed. Past attempts to retake Tikrit have failed, and Iraqi authorities say they have not set a date to launch a major operation to recapture Mosul. Heavy fighting between Islamic State and Kurdish forces is taking place only outside the city.

Al-Iraqiya television said that the forces were attacking Tikrit from different directions, backed by artillery and airstrikes by Iraqi fighter jets. It said the militants were dislodged from some areas outside the city. Several hours into the operation, it gave no details.

What to Expect From Russia's Pacific Fleet in 2015

March 02, 2015

Will Russia’s ambitious naval plans in the Pacific bear fruit this year? 

In the last two years, Russia’s second-biggest fleet, the Pacific Fleet, has been receiving new ships for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2013 the fleet obtained a new Borei-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), and is expecting five more over the next decade. The fleet has furthermore received one Dyugon-class landing craft in 2014. This modernization campaign is part of an ambitious naval re-armament program over the next 20 years.

Another Borei-class SSBN, the Vladimir Monomakh, is expected to enter the service of the Pacific Fleet this year. Its sister ship, the Borei-class SSBN Alexander Nevsky, recently conducted a successful single test-launchof the Bulava inter-continental ballistic missile in the Kamchatka Peninsula. The Pacific Fleet is also expecting two Steregushchy-class corvettes, multipurpose ships for littoral zone operations, in 2015.

The first of six Yasen-class multi-purpose attack nuclear submarines (SSGN) projected to enter service in the Far East over the next ten years will join the Pacific Fleet in 2017 at the earliest. Also, the Russian Navy just initiated a modernization program of its Oscar-class SSGNs, five of which are part of the Far Eastern Fleet. Details on the Oscar-class upgrades, which are supposed to expand the subs’ lifespan for another 15-20 years, are murky and it is unclear when the subs stationed in the Pacific are scheduled for the overhaul. After a ten year construction period, the first Ivan Gren amphibious ship will also enter service in 2015 and, in all likelihood, be assigned to the Pacific Fleet.

Strategic deterrence remains the chief task of the navy. Consequently, Moscow’s major emphasis in the short term is the modernization of its aging submarine fleet in the Pacific. Coastal defense is the navy’s second most important mission set and Russia has embarked on the construction of a number of smaller but surface combat ships (e.g., the Steregushchy-class corvette) capable of executing access denial strategies.

Ukraine’s gas “federalisation”

The current dispute with Gazprom over Ukraine’s gas deliveries is worrying – but not, as in the past, because of the risk of interruption of deliveries. The issue now is Ukraine’s very borders and the future of its east. 

The second Minsk agreement obliged the conflicting parties to reach a ceasefire by the midnight of 15 February; two days later, the Ukrainian army lost control of the city of Debaltseve. On 18 February Ukraine’s national oil and gas company, Naftogaz, stopped delivering gas to the two self-proclaimed states in the Donbas region – the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) – saying that pipelines in the east had been heavily damaged by the conflict. Russia reacted immediately to this shortfall in supply. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev asked Gazprom and the Russian energy ministry to come up with a solution to help restore gas supplies to the two breakaway regions directly from Russia. Gazprom immediately started supplying gas to the two regions through the “Prohorovka”and “Platovo” metering stations, which are not controlled by Ukraine. At first, it was thought that the gas was being sent on humanitarian grounds. But later, Gazprom suggested that it would subtract these supplies from the balance paid earlier for Ukrainian supply by Naftogaz. Gazprom was saying, therefore, that Kyiv must pay for the gas supplied to DPR and LPR, reasoning that the regions are part of Ukrainian territory. 

The gas flow pattern in the period from 18 to 24 February shows that in that time, it was Gazprom that supplied gas to DPR and LPR, avoiding metering stations and pipelines controlled by Ukraine. 

As a result, Naftogaz is not in control of the amount of gas that is coming into the two breakaway regions. Naftogaz’s CEO declared that the company would not pay for gas delivered to DPR and LPR by Gazprom. Meanwhile, Ukrainian engineers were able to restore the pipelines, and flows to the two regions were restored on 19 February. However, the gas flow pattern in the period from 18 to 24 February (Figure 1) shows that in that time, it was Gazprom that supplied gas to DPR and LPR, avoiding metering stations and pipelines controlled by Ukraine. 

Figure 1: Gas flows into the Ukrainian system according to Naftogaz. Source: author’s own construction based on data from Ukrtransgaz website

Containing Putin

By John Shattuck 
MARCH 02, 2015 

Protesters, mostly of Russian or Ukrainian origin, held signs to denounce Russian President Vladimir Putin during a demonstration near the Russian permanent mission to the UN in New York after the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow. 

The assassination of Russian democracy activist Boris Nemtsov has sent a shocking chill through what remains of Russia’s battered civil society. The chill is also sweeping across the ranks of democracy advocates in Eastern Europe and Central Asia opposed to Putin-style authoritarianism.

Nemtsov was gunned down 200 yards from the Kremlin in an area under constant government surveillance, in an atmosphere of hatred and violence stirred up by the government against those who dare to criticize it.

For more than a year the Russian president has made clear that he intends to reestablish Russia’s sphere of influence over the countries that once made up the Soviet Union. His pretext is that NATO has pushed eastward and he is seeking to protect ethnic Russians left behind in the Soviet empire’s collapse. Putin’s larger purpose is to extend Russia’s political and economic dominion beyond its borders. The annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine are part of that plan.

The stakes for Europe are high. Democratic governance is at the heart of the European Union, and Putin is its enemy. Putin is attempting to buy influence in Europe in order to undermine the EU’s resolve to resist his aggression, supporting political parties of both left and right in Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, Austria, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, and France. At the same time, Russia is using its energy supplies to try to establish leverage over European economies.