19 March 2015

Sat Sri Akal Britain

Mar 18, 2015

The proposal of creating a Sikh Regiment in the British Army is partly due to the manpower shortage. Also, Britain wants to use the new regiment to tap into the political potential of British Sikh voters.

Reports in the British media indicate that a minister in the British government, “speaking on the sidelines”, touched upon a proposal under consideration in the British Army to raise a Sikh Regiment. The Indian Army is, of course, proud of having a Sikh Regiment (of 19 battalions), with a history going all the way back to the 19th century. The regiment has a proud record of valour, both pre- and post-Independence (including two winners of the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest gallantry award). It can be reasonably assumed that proposed British Sikh Regiment would be basically of the same stock, raised from the manpower pool of the Sikh community domiciled in Britain, sometimes referred to as “British Sikhs”, all presumably British citizens and permanent residents of that country.

It can be further speculated that the new regiment might initially be a single active duty infantry battalion, after which the regiment would be progressed and expanded according to British government policy and availability of suitable manpower and finances. Not unnaturally, the news of a Sikh Regiment in the British Army has aroused interest and curiosity in India, because the Sikh faith is essentially of Indian origin, and India is historically the original habitat of the Sikhs.

A large number of Sikhs migrated mainly to Western countries like England, the United States, Canada, Australia, and other Commonwealth countries while many Sikhs living abroad have close family connections back home in India. This has created its own distinct social culture where the community abroad maintains home links with Punjab and its politics in India, and even replicates them in Britain in their own environment.

The distinctive trademark turbans and unshorn tresses and beards are no longer novelties abroad, but their presence in the armed forces of their adopted countries has not been in proportions to their numbers.

Unique identity dilemma


All MGNREGA workers without a UID are supposed to be ‘escorted’ (sic) to enrolment centres, and after that to the bank so that their Aadhaar number can be seeded into their account. It is impossible to do this by March 31
Written by Jean Dreze | Updated: March 19, 2015

It is easy to see why the Unique Identity (UID) project, also known as Aadhaar, has caught the imagination of many administrators, economists and policymakers. Identity verification is a routine problem in India and Aadhaar sounds like a foolproof solution. The idea is really smart and the technology is cutting-edge. After the initial hurdle of universal enrolment, numerous applications are possible: monitoring the attendance of government employees, linking multiple databases, fighting tax evasion, facilitating the portability of social benefits and much more. When ace promoter Nandan Nilekani was appointed to lead the project, the happy fate of Aadhaar appeared to be sealed.

And yet, Nilekani’s sales pitch left one question unanswered: is Aadhaar voluntary or compulsory? The initial claim was that Aadhaar was a voluntary facility. Indeed, this is how the sceptics (like business guru Jaithirth Rao, a committed libertarian) were swayed. Yet this claim was clearly hollow: how could Nilekani, or the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI), assure us that Aadhaar was voluntary when they had no control over its applications? The UIDAI’s real position was: “we provide the number, it is up to the government to decide what to do with it”.

This raised the possibility that Aadhaar would become mandatory for the purpose of various social programmes such as the MGNREGA and the public distribution system. Indeed, it quickly became clear that the Central government was keen to impose Aadhaar on a whole series of schemes — almost anything that involved identify verification. That suited the UIDAI very well, since it led people to rush to Aadhaar enrolment centres. But the UIDAI’s claim that Aadhaar was a voluntary facility posed a problem — how would enrolment be fast-tracked? The government’s imposition of UID as an eligibility condition for social benefits provided a neat answer.

And so, a tacit understanding quickly emerged that while Aadhaar was voluntary in principle, it was due to become essential for anyone who wanted to function — get a driving licence, transfer property, have a civil marriage or just get paid as a MGNREGA worker. In short, frankly speaking, it was compulsory.

Going nuclear at sea


As India’s nuclear submarine fleet gradually grows in size and importance, the challenge will be to ensure that the navy’sp new nuclear role develops alongside, rather than to the detriment of, its conventional missions.
Written by Iskander Rehman | Updated: March 19, 2015 

Almost six years ago, in Visakhapatnam, Gursharan Kaur, wife of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, cracked a coconut on the hull of India’s first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). Subsequently named the INS Arihant or “destroyer of enemies”, the vessel was the result of decades of efforts by India’s nuclear scientists. For many years, bureaucratic languor, technical challenges and chronic difficulties in nuclear reactor miniaturisation appeared to ensure that progress would be painstakingly slow. Indeed, at one stage, it became unclear whether the project would see the light of day.

In August 2013, when the Arihant’s nuclear reactor finally went critical, the event was thus widely hailed, both in India and abroad, as a major technological and symbolic milestone. Currently undergoing sea trials, the Arihant is destined to be the first vessel in a flotilla of up to five indigenously produced SSBNs, and it has been reported that a sister vessel, the INS Aridhaman, is nearing completion. Since the Pokhran-II series of nuclear tests in 1998, the Indian government has repeatedly iterated its desire to attain a credible minimum nuclear deterrent, structured around what nuclear strategists refer to as a triad, that is, a mixture of aircraft, land-based mobile missiles and naval assets. India’s nuclear doctrine states that it is a no-first-use power, and it is in this light that one must view the importance attached to the sea-based leg of its nuclear deterrent.

Indeed, the survivability and overall resiliency of India’s nuclear arsenal has become a growing concern for military planners in New Delhi, particularly as Beijing continues to make rapid advances in missile, space and cyber technology. Nuclear submarines, provided they are sufficiently quiet, are still considered to be the most survivable of nuclear platforms, due to their mobility and discretion. Placing nuclear assets underwater puts them at a safer distance from a crippling first strike. The development of the Arihant and its successors therefore constitutes the next logical step in Delhi’s quest for an assured retaliatory capability.

US begins destroying its largest cache of chemical weapons

Mar 19, 2015

The US Army has begun destroying the nation's largest remaining stockpile of chemical weapons, using explosives to rip open a container of mustard agent inside a sealed chamber and then flooding it with another chemical to neutralise it.

DENVER: The US Army has begun destroying the nation's largest remaining stockpile of chemical weapons, using explosives to rip open a container of mustard agent inside a sealed chamber and then flooding it with another chemical to neutralise it.

It was the first few pounds of 2,600 tons of mustard agent that will be destroyed at Pueblo Chemical Depot in southern Colorado, most of it contained in about 780,000 shells.

"Everybody's really excited, but we're being cautious, making sure all the procedures are followed exactly," said Bruce Huenefeld, manager of the first destruction process to get underway at the depot yesterday.

Mustard agent can maim or kill by damaging skin, the eyes and airways. It's being destroyed under a 1997 international treaty banning all chemical weapons. It will take four years to destroy the Pueblo stockpile.

Another 523 tons of mustard and deadly nerve agents are stored at Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky. Blue Grass isn't expected to start destroying its weapons until 2016 or 2017, finishing in 2023.

The destruction process is safe, officials said. Most of Pueblo's stockpile will be dismantled and neutralised in a highly automated USD 4.5 billion plant built at the depot.

About 1,400 damaged shells and a dozen metal bottles of mustard agent are considered unsuitable for that plant. They'll be opened with explosives and neutralised in the sealed chamber, which sits inside an airtight structure near the larger automated plant.

The metal bottles contain mustard that was extracted from the shells for testing.

A single bottle was the first container to be opened and neutralised yesterday. Crews were waiting for the neutralisation to finish before draining the chamber, rinsing it and then removing the remains of the bottle.

Once all the bottles are destroyed, crews will start work on the damaged shells, depot spokesman Thomas Schultz said.

The automated plant isn't expected to begin work until December or January. Design and construction have taken years, and final testing and training are underway.

India and Myanmar: A model of ‘working relation’

March 16, 2015 

Any current academic discussion on India Myanmar relation is phrased with words like ‘India’s renewed engagement with Myanmar’ or ‘India’s changed stance’ etc. However, India’s continued interest in Myanmar is guided by a couple of reasons apart from the fact that it shares more than 1600 km of border length with Myanmar and thus most wisely can never choose to ignore it. First among them is to counter the influence of China and second is the socio economic development of North East and the insurgency factor. Currently there is an added reason after the discovery of natural gas in the country which makes it sought after among the world communities despite the continued presence of the military junta, which had earlier prompted the world community to disown the country. India has termed its current engagement as ‘velvet glove’ which simultaneously has the privilege to constructively engage as well as wield influence for substantive political reforms. This may be attributed more to the manipulation of policy jargon than a definite shift in policy decisions. The paper seeks to argue that India has always maintained, if not a close relation, but definitely, a working relation with Myanmar despite the ideological racism between the two neighbours.

The background:

During the late 1980’s when democratic movements led by Aung San Suu Kyi, was at its full swing India provided all the necessary support to the democratic rebels. Be it the Indian Embassy in Myanmar or the borders in the north east- the democratic supporters had easy access. The election results which gave Aung San Suu Kyi a thumping majority were denied by the military rulers. They had refused to transfer power democratically. This was in the year 1988. 1989 witnessed yet another eastern neighbour, China swept by democratic upheavals. The notorious crackdown at Tiananmen Square attracted world criticism and isolation. These two separate incidents brought the two neighbours close to each other. One was supported by the other in need. India abandoned or at least proclaimed so, Myanmar at this critical juncture on the pretext of standing upright for democracy. Thus despite historical and cultural connection India’s relation with Myanmar suffered a major jolt. China filled the vacuum. It has taken over the market, has a huge stake in the natural gas sector, is in a position to influence political decision making and control the insurgency related troubles along its border states. The excessive interference could be one of the many possible reasons behind the recent decision of the Myanmar military junta to open up its economy for other international players.

Americans interrogated Indian PoWs in Pakistani jails in 1971, reveals former IAF officer


New Delhi, Mar.18 (ANI): In a startling revelation in a recently published book authored by former Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Wing Commander (Retired) Dhirendra S. Jafa, American military officers interrogated 1971 Indian Air Force prisoners of war (PoWs) in Pakistan in an attempt get information on Indian Air Force navigational techniques which were used with pinpoint accuracy to target Pakistani air fields.

In chapter seven of his 241-page book titled "Death Wasn't Painful", Wing Commander Jafa reveals that a well-known American flyer and test pilot was brought to his prison cell by a Pakistani officer around the 25th of December, 1971, who he saw as a symbol of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, "the coercive, high-handed, self-righteous aggressiveness of the ugly American."

The American military officer wanted know how the Indian Air pilots were accurately targeting Pakistani airfields at night.

Wing Commander Jafa recalls that the American officer interrogating him was taken aback by his (Jafa's) initial hostility, but recovered quickly enough to avoid a "slanging match" and begin a "dialogue" (read interrogation).

Wing Commander Jafa mentions that he was taken momentarily aback when the line of questioning shifted to the wreckage of his crashed aircraft, when the American test pilot referred to it as "very interesting, these Russian aeroplanes ..., which never depart from the basic concept."

Deciding to play along with the line of questioning being taken by his American interrogator, Wing Commander Jafa reveals the latter then asked him whether he was following the developments in Russian aviation, and specifically referred to aircraft such as the MiG series, the Sukhois and, of course, their bombers, and in a suggestive sort of way, sought to understand from the Indian PoW whether he was aware or not of whether they were of all of the same make or of different concepts.

Wing Commander Jafa reveals that he did not know precisely what his American interrogator was looking for through his line of questioning, and replied, "I am only a flyer, the end user, so to say. You'd know better, of course, being a test pilot..."

Border Corruption Costs Afghanistan a Quarter of Its Budget


Kabul loses cash to crooked officials and American taxpayers make up the loss

Afghanistan is losing cash. Kabul only collects around $2 billion annually and the majority of that comes from customs—the money importers pay to bring goods into the country. Now that number is falling fast.
Imports are an important part of the Afghan economy, and helps keep the central government afloat. The income fluctuates year to year, but customs revenue makes up between a third to half of the country’s total income. During 2012, Kabul collected $1.1 billion at its borders.

The number of American border agents and soldiers in the country has also fallen in the past few years. Last year, the U.S. handed control of regulating the borders over to their Afghan counterparts.

The results are dramatic. Afghanistan is on track to make $600 million off its borders this year, almost half what it made just three years ago. American officials in the country think they know why the number’s going down, but it’s not because of fewer imports.
“Approximately half of the customs duties for Afghan fiscal year [2015] are believed to have been stolen,” the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction wrote in a recent letter to P. Michael McKinley, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul.

“These continued economic conditions could lead to another shortage in revenue that will likely require the Afghan government to obtain additional assistance from the international community and the U.S. government,” SIGAR added.

In 2014, Kabul didn’t make enough money to pay its employees or deliver basic services. Washington pulled $100 million out of a reconstruction trust fund to keep the government afloat. It’s probably not the last time American taxpayers will pay to keep the lights on in Kabul.

To put it simply—Afghanistan has a corruption problem. Kabul runs on a network of bribes and patronage, and it’s hard to get anything done without paying off officials. The United Nations estimated that half of all Afghanspaid some form of a bribe in 2012.

Total cost of those bribes? Almost $4 billion. Kabul collected about $2 billion in revenue that year. That means government officials collected double in bribes what they did in taxes and custom duties.

In War Against ISIS, Numbers Don’t Always Tell the Story

By Robin Wright
March 13, 2015

In this still image taken from video, soldiers fire in Tikrit, Iraq, on March 11. Iraqi soldiers and Shiite militiamen entered the city on Wednesday.

Wars often degrade into numbers games of competing troop strengths, arsenals, territory held, bombing runs, and body counts. But judging an asymmetric conflict is complicated, and the battle against Islamic State involves militaries that are, in most respects, vastly different.

In Iraq, the battle for Tikrit reflects the imbalances and oddities. In Syria, the aftermath of the battle for Kobani shows how victories in this war are not always clean or decisive.

In Tikrit, some 30,000 have been fighting to retake Saddam Hussein‘s home town. There are at least three disparate forces-the Iraqi army, an umbrella group of Shiite militias, and Sunni tribal fighters-with senior military advisers from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards providing strategy. They attacked ISIS simultaneously on three fronts.

ISIS had only hundreds of militants in Tikrit, according to Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who visited Iraq this week.

By numbers alone, the first major Iraqi offensive against ISIS should have been a romp.

Yet the fight to retake this city 90 miles north of Baghdad has been a slog, partly because of such immeasurable factors as motive, incentives, and ideological commitment. Sunni militants loyal to ISIS have repeatedly demonstrated more discipline and greater devotion, in Iraq and in Syria, than their rivals.

U.S. Institute of Peace data on coalition-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since August 2014.

Britain and United States Flawed Assessments on Pakistan’s Strategic Utility

By Dr Subhash Kapila

The single-most striking feature of foreign policy formulations on South Asia of Britain and the United States are their flawed assessments on Pakistan’s strategic utility to their respective national security interests, singly and jointly.

Prevailing overwhelmingly in the strategic calculations of Britain and the United States centring on Pakistan are a number of flawed assessments that Pakistan is of great strategic value for the stability of South Asia and the region and that Pakistan is a reliable Western ally of long standing and strategic value in the furtherance of British and American security interests in South Asia and that Pakistan is an essential partner in combatting global terrorism.

Further, both Britain and the United States have bought the myth sold to them by successive Pakistan Army Chiefs that it is the Pakistan Army that shields the West from global terrorist outfits like the Al Qaeda earlier and now the ISIS as articulated by the present Pakistan Army Chief.

Flawed assessments of Pakistan’s strategic utility by Britain and the United States and imparting an over-sized strategic halo on Pakistan by both of them have encouraged Pakistan to box much above its strategic weight. Basking in this unwarranted strategic halo, Pakistan has pretentions of strategic equivalence with India, and hence its disruptive strategies in South Asia.

Pakistan as a dysfunctional and failing state stands reflected in many of the assessments of British and American intelligence agencies and in business risk-forecasting estimates. These estimates chiefly arise from the explosive mix of disruptive factors that characterise the Pakistan state in 2015. This explosive mix comprises political instability; constant spells of Pakistan Army rule; a Pakistan Army induced ‘garrison state’ and ‘siege mentality’; economic backwardness arising from disproportionate defence budgets dictated by the Pakistan Army; and, more significantly where nuclear weapons are bandied as ‘Islamic Nuclear Bombs’ combined with use of Islamic Jihadi terrorism as an instrument of state-policy; all of these threaten the stability of South Asia and contiguous regions.

Pakistan’s Biggest City Crippled by Politics

By Jack Detsch
March 18, 2015

After last week’s arrests of Muttahida Qaumi Movement leaders, political violence could surge in Karachi. 

Last Wednesday morning, Pakistani Army Rangersraided the headquarters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in Karachi, the city’s dominant political party, on charges that illegal weapons were being held on the premises. Several party officials were arrested in the raid, which left one worker dead.

Though the Rangers have released several of the officials captured on Wednesday, the tension between MQM and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) isn’t likely to let up any time soon. Earlier this month, party leaders complained that law enforcement had unfairly targeted them, instead of militant enclaves in Sindh province. They’ve also been hit with strikes from the Pakistani Taliban in recent years.

Those attacks have ignited the party’s rank-and-file members. Rallies in support of Altaf Hussain, MQM’s leader, exiled to London on conspiracy charges, drew thousands of demonstrators to the streets of Karachi in February. Hussain remains a key presence in the city’s politics, addressing supporters through a loudspeaker linked to his telephone.

But tension between MQM and Islamabad dates back much further than that. In his first term as prime minister, in 1992, Sharif ordered Operation Clean-up, designed to loosen MQM’s iron grip on Karachi after the group threatened to secede from Pakistan. But the group metastasized under Pervez Musharraf, and after Asif Ali Zardari assumed control in 2008, according to Zulfikar Ali Mirza, the then-home secretary, Pakistan held offon raiding ‘Nine Zero.’

What accounts for MQM’s hold on Karachi? Pakistan’s most populous city has descended into violence, with 2,715 reported murders in 2013. MQM has been condemned as a mafia and a terrorist group, accused of targeted killings and corruption. But MQM still commands a loyal following from Mohajirs, Muslims of Northern Indian descendent that fled to Pakistan during partition.

Thai Junta Chief Slams US Policy

March 18, 2015

The U.S. needs a better “tailor,” general says. 

The United States should stop imposing a one-size-fits-all democracy on the rest of the world, Thailand’s junta chief Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said last week, according to local media reports.

In his remarks as keynote speaker at the 47th Wharton Global Forum at a Bangkok Hotel, Prayut used the opportunity to lecture Washington about the inflexibility of its democracy promotion efforts across the world and in Thailand in particular.

“Please tell the United States that in tailoring you cannot just cut one dress and expect it to fit all. There must be many sizes for each to fit. That’s why a tailor is needed. You cannot tailor one dress and expect the whole world to wear it. Each nation has its own problems that differ,” Prayut said according to the Thai newspaper The Nation.

Prayut also staunchly defended his government, which took power following a coup last May and has faced fierce criticism, particularly from the United States.

“I am still being criticized today, accused of making Thailand a bad example for governance in the world. I don’t get it. Every country is watching us to see how Thailand will proceed and they are surprised that Thai people have no problem,” he said.

“And they think some groups of Thais do not want the country to be democratic. So they are puzzled. We told them Thailand is unlike others.”

As The Diplomat reported previously, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel angered Prayut when he criticized the ruling junta in a public speech in January at Chulalongkorn University. U.S. charge d’affaires W. Patrick Murphy was ‘invited’ to explain the comments, and Prayut responded colorfully by calling himself a “soldier with a democratic heart.”

But the junta has also been trying to boost relations with the United States of late. Last month, Thailand appointed a new ambassador to the United States, Pisan Manawapat, and charged him with quickly mending strained ties with Washington.

Philippines Counters China in New South China Sea Case Submission

March 18, 2015

Manila sends an additional 3,000 page responding to questions from an arbitral tribunal. 

The Philippines submitted 3,000 pages rebutting China’s claim that an international body does not have the jurisdiction to decide on Manila’s South China Sea complaints. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said the supplemental documentation had been submitted to the Permanent Court of Arbitration on Monday.

China has refused to official participate in the case, saying it does not accept international arbitration over the South China Sea disputes. However, Beijing did openly release a position paper making clear its objections to the arbitration process. In particular, China argued that the arbitral tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to decide the case. Beijing also rebutted Manila’s arguments that China’s nine-dash line claim in inconsistent with the principles of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Though that position paper was not an official document submitted to the tribunal, it apparently was seen and considered anyway – exactly as Beijing intended. According to DFA spokesman Charles Jose, the tribunal sent 26 questions for clarification to Manila on December 16, a little over a week after Beijing’s position paper went public. The questions considered both the issue of jurisdiction and the merits of the case. The Philippine response, over 3,000 pages in length, included “200 pages of written arguments” and “a 200-page atlas containing detailed information about 49 islands, reefs and other features in the South China Sea.”

“The Philippines is confident that its answers to the tribunal’s questions leave no doubt that the tribunal has jurisdiction over the case and that the Philippines’ claims, including in particular its claims concerning the nine-dash line, are well-founded in fact and law,” the DFA said in a statement. The statement also praised the tribunal for its “evident care and attention… to the case, as reflected by the scope and detail of the tribunal’s questions.” Jose added that the tribunal’s was handling “with utmost professionalism the difficulties created by China’s decision not to appear, taking care to make sure that neither side is prejudiced by that decision.”

China will be given time to issue its own response to the Philippines’ supplemental filing, but will almost certainly not provide any documentation. China has consistently refused to participate in the arbitration process.

The Secret Pitfall in China's Anti-Corruption Campaign

March 18, 2015

The good new: China’s official are acting less and less corrupt. The bad news: They’re doingless and less. 

President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and Wang Qishan, secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, have resolutely fought corruption since they took office over two years ago. They have meted out punishments to both senior and junior corrupt officials; the number of fallen officials has reached 100,000. They’ve more or less achieved Wang’s state goal – making it so that officials “don’t dare to be corrupt.”

However, there’s a problem. At the beginning of the anti-corruption campaign, many officials wanted to just keep their heads low until the storm passed. Even today, some officials are uncertain or even dispirited – they have stopped “acting up,” yes, but they have also stopped “acting” altogether.

From the perspective ordinary citizens, an official “acting up” is obviously bad, but not acting might be just as bad. This so-called “acting up” is actually not chaos but is based on a “orderly” set of unspoken rules — trading money or sex for power. As long as you give the money, you can get things done. Yes, social morals were destroyed and the bottom-line of morality sunk lower and lower, but people could still handle affairs – for example, getting a business license approved.

However, when officials start “not acting” it’s a different story. They occupy their posts, but they won’t act – they don’t dare to use the unspoken rules of corruption, but they aren’t willing to follow the actual rules. These officials are being passive and purposefully slow-moving. So, for example, that business license you applied for is not approved, and there’s nothing you can do to move it forward. More seriously, if this sort of inaction continues, it could impact economic development. As unpopular as “acting up” is, “not acting” is just as bad, and just as likely to influence the relationship between the government and the public.

Of course, inaction results from the fact that some officials are frightened by the anti-corruption campaign, which is inevitable in a certain stage of the fight against corruption. In the past two years, we can see that the obvious acts of corruption by government officials have decreased, but the phenomenon of “not acting” has become worse and worse in some regions. I believe that today, Xi and Wang’s anti-corruption efforts have already proven to be more than a new leader being especially strict. Anti-corruption isn’t a passing storm. Plus, after anti-corruption efforts make officials “not dare” to be corrupt, some new rules and regulations will gradually appear on the agenda. So the problem of officials “acting us” will eventually take a turn for the better – the question is what to do about officials “not acting.”

South Korea, China Trade Barbs Over THAAD

March 18, 2015

On Tuesday, Chinese and South Korean spokespeople exchanged sharp and pointed remarks over missile defense. 

In an unusually frank diplomatic move, South Korea pushed back against growing Chinese concerns about the deployment of U.S.-backed ballistic missile defense systems in South Korea. Without naming China, a spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry noted that other countries should keep out South Korean security policy debates. Kim Min-seok, the South Korean spokesman, noted that while ”a neighboring country can have its own opinion on the possible deployment of the Thaad system here by the U.S. forces in South Korea … it should not try to influence our security policy.” Kim’s comments left little to the imagination with regard to which possible “neighboring country” he was referring to.

China fired back, with its foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, telling a press conference that ”China’s position on the anti-missile issue is consistent and clear.” Hong continued to explained that the Chinese position was that ”countries must neither pursue their own security interests at the expense of other’s nor undermine regional peace and stability.” ”We hope that the relevant countries would be prudent in making this kind of decision,” returning Kim’s favor of not explicitly calling out South Korea.

Today’s diplomatic exchange highlights the persistence of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries as a thorn in the China-South Korea bilateral relationship. From China’s perspective, THAAD represents a considerable threat to Chinese ballistic missiles which would theoretically come into play in a nuclear weapon use scenario. From a Chinese perspective, a U.S.-allied state operating a highly advanced anti-ballistic missile system, even if not directed explicitly at China, is an unacceptable security risk. China’s THAAD fears are thus based primarily on broader issues related to the competition between the United States and China for strategic primacy beyond the first island chain.

As The Diplomat noted last fall, in combination with Japan’s deployment of a U.S. X-Band radar system, China perceives a trilateral defense network set up to counter its own capabilities. Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, described these actions by the United States, Japan, and South Korea as “unilateral security” measures, adding that they were “not beneficial.” Of course, given that the United States is simultaneously looking to “rebalance” militarily to Asia while letting South Korea and Japan take on a larger share of the burden for their own security, X-Band, THAAD, and other initiatives, including Aegis proliferation, are entirely in line with U.S. strategic objectives.

How Much Is China Really Spending on Its Military?


Beijing’s defense budget will grow by 7.1 percent this year — if you factor inflation

China has announced its defense budget for 2015. Beijing will spend the equivalent of $144.2 billion dollars on its military, a 10.1-percent increase year over year.

But this probably isn’t the real number — and there are serious questions about Beijing’s defense budget. For one, how much of an actual increase will the Chinese military get? Does this keep track with economic growth? And what does China spend more on — defending against foreign enemies or its own people?

The answers to those questions are … complicated.

First of all, you can’t just solely look at China’s defense budget — you also have to see if it keeps pace with the country’s overall economic development.

Turns out, the 10.1-percent increase is the lowest since 2007, and is in contrast to a slowing economy. China projects to grow its GDP by seven percent this year, which is the smallest projected increase in years. This has a lot to do with Beijing putting the brakes on an overheated economy and real-estate bubble.
And that’s a difference of three percent in favor of defense, which reflects Beijing’s commitment to raising the quality of its armed forces, even as its overall economy slows down.

But you also have to take inflation into account. China’s inflation rate swings wildly from year to year, meaning that Beijing’s military spending can appear much higher than it really is.

After Myanmar Bombing, China Deploys Jets, Warns of 'Resolute Measures'

March 15, 2015

A senior Chinese general has warned Myanmar of military consequences for its actions. 

On Friday, Chinese media confirmed that air strikes conducted by the Myanmar Air Force, purportedly in their efforts to suppress ethnic Chinese Kokang rebels in the country’s northeast, mistakenly struck a sugarcane field across the border in China’s Yunnan province, killing four and wounding an additional nine. The incident represents the most serious cross-border escalation of Myanmar’s internal crisis and has drawn a sharp reaction from China, which warned Myanmar as early as last Tuesday to ensure that no bombs cross the border. On Saturday, members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army establishment chimed in with their views on the situation. As expected, senior PLA officials were outraged and expressed, in no uncertain terms, the need for Myanmar to treat this situation seriously.

General Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC), China’s apex military leadership body, told Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces, that the situation was entirely unacceptable and that Myanmar ought to “seriously control” its military. Fan additionally told the Burmese commander that such an incident could never be allowed to take place again. Beyond his condemnation of the Myanmar armed forces, Fan continued and issued a warning, noting that should Chinese civilians face harm as a result of Myanmar armed forces’ actions, the “Chinese military will take resolute measures to protect the safety of Chinese people and their assets.”

This is a remarkable statement from the vice chairman of the CMC, and suggests that the People’s Liberation Army could move to take kinetic military action against Myanmar, a country that has had relatively close relations with China over the past decade. Fan additionally called for the government of Myanmar to appropriately investigate the incident and provide compensation to the families of the deceased. Fan also notes that PLA Air Force (PLAAF) jets had been dispatched the China-Myanmar border to “track, monitor, warn and chase away” Myanmar jets.

PowerPoint Doesn’t Make Us Stupid, We Make Ourselves Stupid

For all the condemnations of PowerPoint in military culture, there’s a smart way to use it.

“PowerPoint makes us stupid.” So said Marine Gen. James Mattis. That’s not any more true by itself than “Cupcakes make us fat” or “Beer makes ugly people attractive.” Used properly, it’s a useful tool to help an audience visualize information and remember a presentation. Used indiscriminately, it’s worse than Rain Man giving a TED Talk.

Those born before 1980 or so remember overhead projectors. If someone needed a visual aid for a presentation, one had to carefully write or print each slide onto a special sheet of transparent plastic, which was blown up onto a screen by a 50-pound steampunk contraption. That plastic was expensive and hard to work with, so speakers only put visuals in a presentation if they were absolutely essential. They were hard to read if there was too much information on one page, so speakers put only a few key bullets on each one. Diligent speakers spent their preparation time making notes that they could speak to intelligently.

Then came PowerPoint. Just as digital photography and camera phones freed everyone’s inner bad food photographer, PowerPoint unleashed everyone’s inner blowhard. Now anyone with a computer and a projector can make a spectacularly bad presentation with very little effort, while still feeling as if they’ve actually accomplished something.

But, just as digital photography helped some good photographers become great because they used it properly, PowerPoint can help a speaker’s audience visualize and retain key points. PowerPoint is the nuclear power of presentations. Used well, it’s a powerful tool for good. Used poorly, it becomes part of the Axis of Boredom. Speakers just have to keep some limitations in mind.

China, Russia and India: A Budding Alliance against America?

In the continuing debate between Hugh White and Shaskank Joshi regarding US-India strategic cooperation, I would associate myself closely with the views of White and what he sees as the eventual limits of the relationship. 

But I would take it one step further. In the long-term, an anti-US coalition consisting of China, Russia and India cannot be discounted.

India presently fears China's growing power. Accordingly, India hedges by deepening relations with the US and status quo middle powers such as Australia. However, India does not perceive itself as a status quo power, but as an emerging great power. As India's confidence grows it will be acting in its own interests, not those of the collective West.

Of course there are clear areas of strategic tension in the bilateral China-India relationship. These include unresolved border disputes, China's patronage of Pakistan and China's growing maritime presence in the Indian Ocean region. But these issues are being managed between the parties and may well be resolved, probably in that order, over the next 10 to 20 years.

It is very hard to see a similar outcome between China and the US.

Be Very Careful Before Labeling China The World’s Biggest Cyber Thieves… It May Not Be True

Franz-Stefan Gady
March 17, 2015

Is China the Biggest Thief in Cyberspace? 

Last week, Mike McConnell, who served as director of national intelligence under U.S. President George W. Bush, and who is now a high-ranking advisor to Booz Allen Hamilton, delivered a dire assessment on the state of the U.S. private sector’s cyber defenses vis-à-vis Chinese cyber espionage activities.

“The Chinese have penetrated every major corporation of any consequence in the United States and taken information. We’ve never, ever not found Chinese malware,” he said during a speech at the University of Missouri, according toCNN. He also explained that throughout his last year of serving in the Bush administration, China employed 100,000 hackers whose singular purpose was to infiltrate computers and networks.

McConnell, who also was director of the National Security Agency (NSA) in the 1990s, has been known as a hardliner when it comes to the competition of the United States and China in cyberspace, openly calling the latter’s behavior “cyber thievery.”

McConnell’s statement is similar to a remark made by former U.S. official Richard Clarke, author of the book Cyber War, in March 2012: “Every major company in the United States has already been penetrated by China. My greatest fear is that, rather than having a cyber-Pearl Harbor event, we will instead have this death of a thousand cuts. “

More recently, in October 2014, FBI director James Comey joined the chorus of worried American policymakers by stating that “there are two kinds of big companies in the United States. There are those who’ve been hacked by the Chinese and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked by the Chinese.”

Yet are these allegations accurate? And if so, does it really constitute the largest illicit transfer of wealth in human history, as some prominent Americans have labeled it? In short, I think the assertion that China is the biggest (yet not the most sophisticated) perpetrator of cyber espionage worldwide is beyond a doubt at this stage.

Iran Has Sent Advanced Rockets and Missiles to Iraq for Use Against ISIS, U.S. Intelligence

Eric Schmitt
March 17, 015

Iran Sent Arms to Iraq to Fight ISIS, U.S. Says

WASHINGTON — Iran has deployed advanced rockets and missiles to Iraq to help fight the Islamic State in Tikrit, a significant escalation of firepower and another sign of Iran’s growing influence in Iraq.

United States intelligence agencies detected the deployments in the past few weeks as Iraq was marshaling a force of 30,000 troops — two-thirds of them Shiite militias largely trained and equipped by Iran, according to three American officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence reports on Iran.

Iran has not yet launched any of the weapons, but American officials fear the rockets and missiles could further inflame sectarian tensions and cause civilian casualties because they are not precision guided. Their deployment is another dilemma for the Obama administration as it trains and equips the Iraqi military and security services to help defeat the Islamic State, but unlike Iran is unwilling to commit fighters and advisers who join Iraqi forces in the field.

One senior American military official who tracks classified intelligence reports said Iran had deployed Fajr-5 artillery rockets and Fateh-110 missiles and their launchers. Another senior American military official who also monitors sensitive government reports on Iran said the deployed weapons were similar to the Fajr-5 rockets and Fateh-110 missiles but were slightly different and had different names. The official offered no other details. The C.I.A. declined to comment.

Either way, American officials agreed that the Iranian missiles introduced a new level of advanced weaponry to the battlefield in Iraq, even as some experts questioned their usefulness at this stage in the battle for Tikrit. But the Fajr-5 rockets are the same weapons that Hamas has fired against Israel in recent conflicts. Hezbollah and the Syrian Army have also been using Iranian rockets and missiles for some time, military specialists said.

From Arab Spring to ISIS: A Chronology of the War in Syria 2011 - Present

John Beck
March 17, 2015

The conflict in Syria has entered its fifth year, a grim anniversary in what has become the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.

It began on March 15, 2011 when the Syrian government met mostly peaceful protests in several towns and cities with gunfire, beatings and arrest. Eventually, the opposition acquired weapons, soldiers defected, and the uprising transformed into a grinding civil war with ugly sectarian dimensions that sucked in countries across the region and further afield. An estimated 220,000 people have now been killed and life expectancy has dropped two decades to 55 years, according to the United Nations. 3.9 million people have fled the country, and a further 7.6 million have been internally displaced.

Syria’s economy has collapsed and 80 percent of the country now lives in poverty. Half of all school-aged children haven’t attended school in three years. The country has literally gone dark, with 83 percent of electricity supplies now cut.

A peaceful solution to the conflict now seems further away than ever, and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions aimed at pushing President Bashar al-Assad to step down or cease attacking his own people are consistently vetoed by his longtime allies Russia and China. Moderate rebel factions fighting for a democratic system have lost out to Islamist-linked groups and the chaos has allowed extremist militants such as the so-called Islamic State (IS) to seize territory and power. 

March 2011

Arab Spring-inspired unrest begins after police arrest fifteen young boys in southern town of Daraa for spray-painting “the people want the downfall of the regime” on buildings. Large demonstrations take place in Damascus, Daraa and elsewhere to demand the release of political prisoners and Assad’s resignation.

Unrest spreads and protests continue, including in Homs and Banyas. Some pro-government demonstrations take place too. Security forces attempt to crush dissent, killing dozens. Assad blames foreign powers for the unrest, and announces measures designed to placate protesters, including allowing new political parties and a potential end to a state of emergency that has been in place for 48 years. Opposition members say the measures are superficial and don’t constitute meaningful reform. 

April 2011

After 2 Weeks of Fighting Against Much Larger Iraqi Force, ISIS Still Holds Large Parts of Tikrit

Anne Barnard
March 17, 2015

ISIS Keeps Hold in Tikrit as Iraq Pauses Offensive

BAGHDAD — Islamic State militants on Monday continued to hold parts of the city of Tikrit against a much larger pro-government force after two weeks of battle, as Iraqi officials said they were pausing their offensive to call for reinforcements and to preserve property and civilian lives.

The slowing of the operation came amid reports that the tomb of Saddam Husseinin the nearby village of Awja, a politically and emotionally charged symbol for all sides, had been destroyed in the recent fighting. Its roof appeared to have collapsed, with rubble strewn around the area, footage from The Associated Press showed.

Iraqi officials and allied militia leaders have been saying since last week that they are in control of the battlefield. They said that they had surrounded the handful of Islamic State fighters remaining in Tikrit, and that full government control would be restored there in a matter of days.

There has been intense international pressure to avoid civilian casualties and revenge attacks on people or property in an offensive by a mostly Shiite force in a hub of the so-called Sunni triangle. Around two-thirds of the pro-government force is made up of the mostly Shiite militias now known as popular mobilization forces.

As the days pass, critics are asking why the government’s 30,000-strong force has been unable to dislodge the last Islamic State fighters — and whether the reduced pace is a bad sign for future efforts to root the militants out of their self-declared capital, the much larger city of Mosul.

Turkish Media Identifies Alleged Canadian Spy Who Helped 3 UK Girls Reach ISIS in Syria

March 17, 2015

Turkish media disclose identity of alleged spy for Canada

Turkish media have released the name, as well as video footage, of an alleged agent for Canadian intelligence, who says he helped three British schoolgirls travel to territory controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The three girls, aged between 15 and 16 years old, crossed into ISIS-controlled territory on February 17, after traveling by plane from London to Istanbul. The incident prompted international criticism of the Turkish government’s hands-off attitude toward a growing influx of Western Islamists who cross into Syria from Turkey, intent on joining ISIS. However, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week that the girls had been assisted by an intelligence agent working for a member-state of the military coalition fighting ISIS.

The minister declined to offer further details. But Turkish media eventually disclosed the identity of the alleged agent, who has been detained by authorities in Turkey as Mohammed al-Rashed. Also known as “Mohammed Mehmet Rashid” or “Dr. Mehmet Rashid”, the man is a Syrian national who claims to be working for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. According to Turkey’s pro-government daily Sabah, al-Rashed is a 28-year-old Syrian dentist who fled from Syria to Jordan in 2013 to escape the civil war there. While in Jordan, he sought asylum at the Canadian embassy in Amman. He was subsequently offered Canadian citizenship, said Sabah, in return for working as an agent of CSIS. According to the Turkish daily, al-Rashed then traveled to Canada, where he stayed for several months before returning to Jordan.

Sources in Turkey say al-Rashed explained upon his detention that he had been tasked by CSIS to uncover the methods by which European and American ISIS recruits travel to Syria through Turkey. For that reason, he said, he had helped at least 15 individuals, including the three British schoolgirls, cross form Turkey to Syria. He would then provide information on the transfers —including passport data and baggage tags— to the Canadian embassy in Jordan, he said. Sabah added that the Canadians would pay for al-Rashed’s frequent trips to Jordan, where he would meet a Canadian embassy employee called “Matt”, who would then pass on the information to his superior at the embassy, called “Claude”. The Syrian alleged agent added that CSIS would compensate him for his work through frequent deposits of between $800 and $1,500 made to bank accounts opened in his name in British banks. Turkish sources added that al-Rashed had recorded details of his activities on a personal laptop, which had been seized and was being examined.

South Korea Says North Korean Hackers Behind December 2014 Cyber Attack on Nuclear Reactor Company

March 17, 2015

South Korea blames North Korea for December hack on nuclear operator

(Reuters) - South Korea on Tuesday blamed North Korea for cyberattacks against the country’s nuclear reactor operator last December, based upon investigations into Internet addresses used in the hacking, but Pyongyang denied any involvement.

The conclusion reached by South Korean prosecutors comes less than a week after a hacker believed to be behind the cyberattacks on Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co Ltd released more files believed to have been taken in December.

The investigation included last week’s leak of a blueprint and test data.

"The malicious codes used for the nuclear operator hacking were the same in composition and working methods as the so-called ‘kimsuky’ that North Korean hackers use," a statement from the Seoul central prosecutors’ office said.

Prosecutors said the cyber attacks were made between Dec. 9 and 12 by sending 5,986 phishing emails containing malicious codes to 3,571 employees of the nuclear plant operator.

An article carried by North Korea’s semi-official Uriminzokkiri website said South Korea’s claim was “nonsense” and a “provocation”, repeating past denials of its involvement.

South Korea had previously said it suspected the possible involvement of North Korea in the hacking, and had sought help from Chinese officials after tracing multiple Internet addresses involved to a northeastern Chinese city near North Korea.

Last December, Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co Ltd, which runs South Korea’s 23 nuclear reactors, said its computer systems had been hacked but only non-critical data had been stolen. A hacker had at the time demanded the shutdown of three reactors threatening “destruction” in Twitter messages.

U.S.-Financed Militias In Southern Afghanistan Becoming Feared Local Warlords

Joseph Goldstein
March 17, 2015

Afghan Militia Leaders, Empowered by U.S. to Fight Taliban, Inspire Fear in Villages

KABUL, Afghanistan — Rahimullah used to be a farmer — just a “normal person living an ordinary life,” as he put it. Then he formed his own militia last year and found himself swept up in America’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.

With about 20 men loyal to him, Rahimullah, 56, soon discovered a patron in the United States Special Forces who provided everything he needed: rifles, ammunition, cash, even sandbags for a guard post in Aghu Jan, a remote village in Ghazni Province.

Then the Americans pulled out, leaving Rahimullah behind as the local strongman, and as his village’s only defense against a Taliban takeover.

“We are shivering with fear,” said one resident, Abdul Ahad. Then he explained: He and his neighbors did not fear the Taliban nearly as much as they did their protectors, Rahimullah’s militiamen, who have turned to kidnappings and extortion.

Mr. Ahad ran afoul of them in January, he said in a telephone interview. Militiamen hauled him to a guard station and beat him so badly that neighbors had to use a wheelbarrow to get him home.

Scattered across Afghanistan, men like Rahimullah continue to hold ground and rule villages. They are a significant part of the legacy of the American war here, brought to power amid a Special Operations counterinsurgency strategy that mobilized anti-Taliban militias in areas beyond the grasp of the Afghan Army.

From the start, some Afghan officials, including former President Hamid Karzai, objected to the Americans’ practice of forming militias that did not answer directly to the Afghan government. They saw the militias as destabilizing forces that undermined the government’s authority and competed with efforts to build up large and professional military and police forces.