7 May 2015

The existential threat to India posed by China's Pakistan gambit

by Rajeev Srinivasan, May 4, 2015 

The late Samuel P Huntington put forth his seductively simple theory of the “clash of civilisations” some years ago. Although many criticised him, it does appear that there are several mutually antagonistic entities constantly in conflict with each other, shifting alliances and at war overtly or covertly. India has the unfortunate fate of being attacked simultaneously by three of these civilisational entities, while desperately trying to convince itself that it is friends with all of them. 

The latest manifestation is the Chinese initiative in Pakistan linking Kashgar in Chinese-held Sinkiang to Gwadar in Balochistan, via Pakistani-Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. The proposed $46 billion project has a number of alarming and sinister implications, almost none of which is good for India. 

The simplest first: in the Chinese maps that have been reprinted by many in the global media, Chinese-Occupied Kashmir (CoK, or Aksai Chin) is not even marked as disputed territory: it has been integrated into Chinese Sinkiang. Interestingly, western media that insists on drawing dotted lines around all of Kashmir and marking it ostentatiously as a disputed territory has quietly accepted this. Score 1 to the usual Chinese tactic of “creating facts on the ground”, as they did with suddenly referring to the Senkaku Islands with a new name, Daiyou, now widely accepted as an alternative. 

China, Russia boost ties with naval drill in Mediterranean Sea

By Catherine Wong Tsoi-lai 

1st joint exercise in Mediterranean Sea

Military observers believe the first joint naval drill of Chinese and Russian naval forces in the Mediterranean Sea suggests the two countries' determination to further strengthen their military ties amid potential international conflicts. Analysts also see the rare Mediterranean drill in mid-May as a sign that China is fully capable and prepared to protect its commercial interests where countries in the region, such as Libya and Syria, have witnessed escalating tensions. 

Since China's Defense Ministry made the announcement on April 30, the exercise has drawn intense media attention over its political and military implications. "It is the fourth time the two countries have conducted a joint naval drill. Both China and Russia have conducted naval activities in the region. The joint drill is their latest move in strengthening naval cooperation," Zhang Junshe, a research fellow at the Chinese Naval Research Institute, told the Global Times. 

A total of nine ships from the two countries will participate in the drill, including vessels China now has on anti-piracy patrols in waters off Somalia, Chinese defense ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said at a monthly news briefing. Geng said the aim is to deepen both countries' cooperation and to increase their navies' ability to jointly deal with maritime security threats. 

China and Pak: Little in common yet closest of allies

Brahma Chellaney| May 05, 2015 

While the maritime Silk Road is the meretriciously benign name for China’s “string of pearls” strategy, the overland Silk Road project has been designed to advance Chinese interests in Central Asia, the Caspian Sea basin and beyond. These initiatives are part of China’s larger strategy to break out of the East Asia mould and become a more global power. 

Xi has embarked on connecting China’s restive Xinjiang region with the Arabian Sea through a 3,000-kilometre overland transportation corridor to Pakistan’s Chinese-built Gwadar port. The $46-billion corridor through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) will hook up China’s maritime and overland Silk Roads and increase Pakistan’s pivotal importance for Beijing. 

When an Indian prime minister visits Arunachal Pradesh (whose control by India only China questions) or India and Vietnam jointly explore for offshore oil, China protests loudly, claiming it is “disputed territory.” But the Xi-pushed corridor will traverse an internationally recognised disputed region — PoK — where China has been enlarging its military footprint. 

An influx of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops into PoK’s Shia-majority Gilgit-Baltistan region has resulted in Chinese military presence close to Pakistan’s line of control (LoC) with India, presenting New Delhi with a two-front theatre in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in the event of war with either country. This threat is also being highlighted by PLA officers conducting field exercises close to the LoC to train Pakistani army troops in the use of Chinese-supplied weapons. More fundamentally, India is contained geopolitically by the longstanding axis between China and Pakistan, involving, among other things, covert nuclear, missile and intelligence cooperation. With serious strains emerging in Beijing’s relationship with North Korea, Pakistan is now clearly China’s only real ally. 

When messengers shoot the message

May 7, 2015

Apart from insensitivity and boisterousness, it was the combination of jingoism and the relentless advertising of India’s aid efforts by television reporters embedded with the Indian forces that led to the intensely hostile reactions from the Nepalese.

Television is a noisy medium but it can convey silence with great power and effectiveness, when it chooses to. In the past week, Indian television journalists covering the earthquake in Nepal have generated a great deal of sound and fury. Apart from the insensitivity and the boisterousness, it was the combination of jingoism and the relentless advertising of India’s aid efforts by television reporters embedded with the Indian forces that led to the intensely hostile reactions from Nepalese citizens on Twitter, the creation of the hash tag of protest:#IndianMediaGoHome. It is undeniably an age of advertised charity but the gloating does hurt the recipients of your generosity.

Unlike the televised hysterics, the broken villages of Nepal and their residents were quiet, subdued, dignified. Whether it was mountainous expanses of Sindhupalchowk district, where more than 1,100 people were killed, or Sankhu outside Kathmandu, where several thousand houses in a dense urban cluster were wiped out, the dignity of the Nepalese men and women, quietly digging through the remains of their lost homes was the most striking aspect of reporting on the earthquake.

Separate rhetoric from reality

G Parthasarathy
May 7 2015

Assessments of President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan have varied from characterising the visit as a “positive development” for India, to describing it as a “threat” to India’s security. Pakistani hyperbole outdid itself when a senior Pakistan diplomat gushingly described the relationship with China as “higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, stronger than steel, dearer than eyesight and sweeter than honey”. Nawaz Sharif described the relationship as “unique, unparalleled in the history of sovereign nations”. President Xi noted in Pakistan's Parliament: “Pakistan has stood on the frontline of the international fight against terrorism”. He called for elevating the relationship to an “all-weather strategic partnership”. Nawaz Sharif gushingly responded: “We are friends forever”!

The Chinese are supreme realists in assessing power equations within Pakistan. President Xi made the unprecedented gesture of separately meeting Pakistan's Service Chiefs, led by Generals Rashad Mahmood and Raheel Sharif. He had no time to spare for Pakistan’s hapless and mostly invisible Defence Minister Khwaja Mohammad Asif! Mercifully, President Xi did not follow the precedent set by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who paid his respects to Pakistan's Generals by visiting their GHQ in Rawalpindi. We should be clear about the emerging contours of the Rawalpindi-Beijing military nexus. The strategically located Gwadar Port close to the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz is now leased for 40 years to China. President Parvez Musharraf declared in 2003, just after the visit of the then Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji that India would find the Chinese navy positioned in Gwadar, in the event of hostilities.

A pen of delusion - The protest against the Charlie Hebdo award

Ruchir Joshi

I don't expect to change the minds of any of the 35 writers who have now joined the protest against PEN America giving an award to Charlie Hebdo magazine. Some of the signatories I respect hugely, one or two sycophantic wind-vane weasels on the list I would normally ignore, and at least one of the signatories is a close friend, someone who I'm sure has given this whole business much thought. How this motley bunch ends up signing one ill-judged letter I don't know, but they're wrong. Here's why.

The main argument being squeezed to pulp is that CH was, and is, an inherently racist magazine. That it is staffed by "privileged white men", who either deliberately or like "wanton boys", continuously defecate on a beleaguered minority (French Muslims, whether from the Maghreb or other parts of Africa) while making their jejune barbs. That they've been doing this while ignoring France's history of colonial oppression, and while trying to impose a shallow Enlightenment universalism that blindly feeds into the West's project of re-colonizing Muslim countries.

Sea Trials of Indian Navy's Deadliest Sub Going 'Very Well'

May 05, 2015

Sea trials of India’s first indigenously developed ballistic missile nuclear submarine (SSBN) are going “very well”, Indian Navy chief of staff Admiral RK Dhowan observed last week on the sidelines of a naval aviation conference, according to local media reports.

The 6,000-ton nuclear-powered submarine, INS Arihant, began sea-trials in the Bay of Bengal on December 16, 2014 (the day Pakistan formally surrendered to India in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 that lead to the creation of Bangladesh). The sea-trials are scheduled to last nine months, followed by extensive weapons testing on board of the vessel lasting at least an equal amount of time. The Arihant‘s reactor already went critical in August 2013.

“There are no problems in the INS Arihant project. The trials are underway and going on very well. We are satisfied with the way the project is progressing,” he noted. However, the admiral added that he is “not in a position to give timelines with regard to the completion of INS Arihant trials or what happens thereafter.”

The indigenously designed submarine, based on the Russian Project 971 Akula I-class nuclear powered attack boats, is the lead vessel of the Indian Navy’s future fleet of four (some media reports say five) Arihant-class SSBNs. India already began construction of INS Aridhaman, the second vessel of the Arihant-class, this year.

3 Chinese Warships Sail Through Bosphorus Into the Black Sea

May 6, 2015

PLA task force enters Black Sea before Xi’s Russia visit

China’s 19th naval escort task force consisting of a Type 903 replenishment ship and two Type 054A guided-missile frigates entered the Black Sea through the Bosphorus on May 4 according to photos uploaded by internet users in Turkey, reports China’s Global Times.

The Russian defense ministry announced that the Chinese warships are expected to arrive at the port of Novorossiysk before May 9, the day that a military parade will be held in Moscow to celebrate the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of World War II in Europe 70 years ago, according to the Sina Military Network based in Beijing. President Xi Jinping of China has accepted an invitation from President Vladimir Putin of Russia to attend the event.

Fan Changlong, vice chair of China’s Central Military Commission, will begin an official visit to Moscow after Xi Jinping returns to Beijing on May 10. Fan will meet the Russian defense minister, Sergey Shoygu, to discuss buying more advanced weapons and hardware from Russia as well as defense cooperation.

The PLA task force will then sail for the Mediterranean together with the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Navy at Novorossiysk to carry out air defense, anti-submarine and escort drills as part of the Joint Sea 2015 exercise. A Russian expert said a similar joint exercise will be held in the Sea of Japan in September — timed to coincide with China’s celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender and the end of WWII in the Pacific.

Afghanistan Is Too Dangerous for Congressional Visits

Tim Mak

Lawmakers and their aides say that oversight of America’s longest war is hampered by the military’s decision.

President Obama may have declared that the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan has ended. But the country is still so dangerous that the Pentagon has banned members of Congress and their aides from traveling there this summer, U.S. officials told The Daily Beast.

While the Pentagon’s ban was officially issued as “guidance,” congressional aides are calling it a “blackout” that prevents lawmakers from performing their oversight duties. The U.S. has spent trillions in taxpayer dollars fighting a war in Afghanistan and training and equipping the country’s security forces. But this summer sees the beginning of the traditional fighting season, when Taliban violence flares up. And with thousands of American troops pulling out of the country, the Pentagon doesn’t have the equipment and manpower to keep visiting legislators and their staff safe, officials said.

“What we find problematic about this is that it highlights the fact that we don’t have enough troops there to support the mission,” one senior Senate aide told The Daily Beast. “Concerns regarding taking U.S. congressional staff or lawmakers to the region show that there aren’t enough resources in the region to take people there safely—and that it’s not safe even though [the Obama administration] said the war is over.”

Afghanistan Reconstruction: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

May 06, 2015

Special Inspector General John F. Sopko inspects damaged ANSF vehicles at Camp Shorabak in Helmand in 2012.
Speaking at Cornell’s College of Medicine, SIGAR likens Afghan reconstruction to diagnosing an intractable disease. 

The Weill Cornell College of Medicine may seem at first glance to be an odd place for John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR) to deliver a speech. But as he said in his opening remarks:

Obviously, the thought was that with your expertise in treating intractable diseases, you would also be interested in Afghanistan reconstruction.

As Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction—SIGAR for short—my business is checking alleged facts, digging out actual facts, and identifying weaknesses, failures, uncertainties, corrupt acts, and delusions. I hope that makes me the bureaucratic counterpart of a careful diagnostician, and not a low-budget version of Doctor Oz.

Jokes aside, however, Sopko used the speech to comment on the difficulties of data and the importance of parsing fact from fantasy with regard to U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. He concludes that “we know a lot more than nothing, but a lot less than we think.”

Sopko says that “just as doctors must be willing to face the truth about whether a treatment is working, we in the United States must be willing to face the truth” about how effectively the more than $100 billion invested in Afghanistan reconstruction has been spent. Add to that the more than $700 billion in military operations since the U.S. first intervened in Afghanistan in late 2001 and the human costs–the lives of more than 2,000 U.S. service members, another thousand from coalition countries, and more than 13,000 Afghan army and police. The number of civilians casualties is estimated to be more than 21,000, according to Costs of War, a nonprofit scholarly initiative based at Brown University.

Afghan Forces are Suffering Record Losses

May 05, 2015

As Afghanistan’s fighting season is heating up casualties within the Afghan National Security Forces have been mounting at record levels.

In the first 15 weeks of 2015, government casualties have increased by 70 percent, compared to the same period last year, USA Today reports. Casualties average around 330 a week, which means that the 195,000 members of the Afghan army and the 157,000 members of the police force have so far sustained almost 5,000 losses.

However, the high numbers of active duty security forces may be deceiving. “Neither the United States nor its Afghan allies truly know how many Afghan soldiers and police are available for duty or, by extension, the true nature of their operational capabilities,” a newly released report by the office of John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR) emphasized (see: “Taliban Onslaught: What is Happening in Afghanistan?”).

Like in previous years, casualties are particularly high among locally recruited Afghan police forces. “The Taliban sees that as easy prey. They’re not using them the way they should,” the commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, told USA Today.

Glimpses of Cambodia's French Past

By Poppy McPherson
May 05, 2015

At some point in the early twentieth or late nineteenth century, when France still ruled over vast swathes of the globe, a colonized woman in modern-day Southeast Asia was filmed as she encountered the camera. In the recording, she totters towards the lens and toys with its gaze. Behind and unseen, two French men laugh at her. The clip has a timeless quality: the woman’s curious focus recalls a child taking its first steps; the cruel men, framed in the shadow of a grand stone edifice, could be slave owners in the American south or conspirators from Julius Caesar – any men in the seat of power at any time.

Cambodian-French director Rithy Panh’s new documentary, doing the rounds of international film festivals, is pieced together from scenes such as this, unearthed from extensive French archives. “Powerful people don’t watch the camera the same way as weak and poor people,” he said, during a recent interview in his cozy, cluttered Phnom Penh office. These clips, examples of what he calls the “historic image,” were the gold dust of his search to compile footage for La France est Notre Patrie (“France is Our Mother Country”), a 75-minute romp through the scrapbook of colonialism in Southeast Asia and Africa.

“There are a lot of images that aren’t historic because we can watch them and find nothing interesting, but some have an echo – there’s a link to your living condition, your politics, your morals,” said the director, who speaks with a strong French accent.

The U.S. Military Knew the Nepal Quake Was Coming The Pentagon had been preparing for potential disaster


Eight months ago, the Pentagon’s top command in the Pacific hosted a training exercise in Nepal, prepping to deal with a major earthquake in the Kathmandu Valley.

On April 25, that scenario came devastatingly, horrifyingly true. A quake between 7.8 and 8.1 magnitude rocked the small Himalayan nation.

Thousands of buildings collapsed. Thousands of people died.

And now, acting out the responses it practiced back in August, the U.S. Marine Corps has sent UH-1Y helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors—which fly like regular planes but can land like choppers—to help deliver rescuers and supplies, scout damaged towns and retrieve the injured.

The Ospreys are capable of “delivering aid twice as fast and five times farther than previous helicopters,” which “enhances the operational reach of relief efforts,” according to a Marine Corps press release boasted. The tiltrotors flew in from Japan under their own power.

The U.S. Air Force ferried the shorter range UH-1s to Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. The flying branch’s cargo planes had already delivered tons of humanitarian aid and ferried in civilian first-responders.

Can China and the EU Boost Defense Cooperation?

May 06, 2015

While in Beijing, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini pledges more security and defense cooperation with China. 

The European Union’s foreign affairs and security policy chief, Federica Mogherini, met with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi in Beijing today for a high-level strategic dialogue. For Mogherini, who assumed her current post in November 2014, this trip marked her first official visit to China. The two diplomats discussed a wide range of issues, from climate change to defense cooperation. In terms of global hot spots, the conversation touched on Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Libya (in the context of the on-going migrant crisis), and Iran.

To date, China and the EU have enjoyed far more success on the economic front of their relationship than on security cooperation. Premier Li Keqiang, who is responsible for economic policy, has been a frequent visitor to the region. However, both sides understand how important such cooperation can be if realized. “[W]e can play a joint role on regional and global challenges and issues, for the mutual benefit of our people,” Mogherini said during a joint press meeting with Yang. “Even if geographically we are far away from each other, still we all know very well that global issues have no borders.”

Mogherini also highlighted the existing areas of security cooperation between China and the EU, pointing to “the extremely successful cooperation … on fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden.” She and Yang discussed “concrete possibilities” for building on the cooperation in the security and defense realm, she added.

How China Will Become More Cooperative in Cyberspace

May 06, 2015

On April 13, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and State Council issued new guidelines on strengthening internal security in the wake of unprecedented terrorist attacks inside the country, rising public order concerns, and increasing online dissent. The guidelines called out the use of new high-technology and cyber-based assets, including data mining, closed circuit TV, and satellites, to help restore central government control. This is the last in a series of five brief items (see: “Part IV: How China Assesses Civil Disobedience in Cyber Space”) by Greg Austin, based on his 2014 book, Cyber Policy in China, providing some political context on how the country is using its cyber power in the service of internal security. 

Part V: Foreign Investment in China’s Internal Security Technologies

Since the launch of its electronics revolution in 1983, when the government set itself the goal of increasing output in the sector by a factor of 8 by the year 2000, China has consistently pursued and obtained foreign investment in its internal security technologies and significant technology transfer in the field. The scale of foreign involvement in China’s internal security industry and operations has never been extensively analyzed in the public domain, but it has been the subject of political protest and court cases by human rights activists in the West against a number of leading U.S. corporations. China remains a business target of the highest priority for leading U.S. based technology companies, such as Microsoft, Cisco, Google and Facebook in spite of a range of political and regulatory challenges.

Tanmen Militia: China’s 'Maritime Rights Protection' Vanguard

"The maritime militias built out of the fishing industry are becoming a major foreign policy tool for the consolidation of China’s claims."

Hainan Province is using the fishing industry as a launching pad for the nation’s consolidation of the South China Sea (SCS). It is one of many measures—such as strengthening maritime law enforcement forces, enhancing administrative measures, augmenting infrastructure through island building, and delivery of 3G cellular coverage—but one with particular potential. China’s fishing industry and the world’s largest fleet that it wields has been an important foreign policy tool in Beijing’s repertoire since much of China’s historic claim on the SCS and current presence therein hinges on fishing activities. The fishing fleet’s political and strategic role has been given special significance and potential by China’s widespread employment of a relatively unknown paramilitary organization: the maritime militia.

The Tibet Issue – A Troubled Neighbourhood

06 May, 2015

While Sardar Patel had warned Nehru about Chinese irredentism and communist imperialism being different from the expansionism or imperialism of Western powers and Chinese ideological expansion concealed behind racial, national or historical claims, China apparently feels her aggression is warranted because under the Tianxia (天下; “Under Heaven”) concept, Chinese perceive all territories under the sun belonging to them. Hence the ambiguity and deceit, and the ‘Doctrine of Pre-emption and Surprise’ encompassing surprise, deception and shock – plus the façade of peace homilies. That is why China has been providing tacit support to Pakistan’s anti-India jihadist groups in India; ‘Shashou Jian (Assassin’s Mace) incapacitating India from within through insurgencies and terrorism. It is also well understood that Chinese aggression of Tibet and Aksai Chin has been tempered because of the presence of minerals and natural resources like water, including possible thorium reserves.

Until the early 13 Century, China had no claims on Tibet which ruled half of present day China but looked to India for its most significant influence, Buddhism…

“Even during the 1962 conflict, Chinese leaders, including Mao, acknowledged that the conflict was not about the boundary or territory but about Tibet. The Chinese consistently tried to obtain reassurance from India that…India would not ‘meddle’ in Tibetan affairs…Boundary infringements by the Chinese continued. Sino-Indian border negotiations are stalemated and progress, if any, is at a snail’s pace. Thus, Tibet still remains the core issue.” —R.S Kalha, IFS (Retd.)

Moscow Is Playing Second Fiddle to Beijing

By Mark Galeotti
May. 05 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama has talked a great deal about a pivot to Asia, but recent news make it look on the surface as if it is Russian President Vladimir Putin who is actually delivering.

Not only is his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping going to be in Moscow attending the May 9 Victory Day parade that his Western counterparts are so conspicuously snubbing, but every day seems to bring reports of new Russo-Chinese initiatives.

This month, six Russian and three Chinese warships will carry out live-fire training in the Mediterranean. Exercise Joint Sea 2015 will be the very first time they have operated together in the Mediterranean (they have been mounting joint exercises in the Pacific and Asian seas since 2012).

This is essentially a political gesture, but as such it is effective, especially combined with the slew of recent announcements of defense sales and joint projects. China is to become the first foreign buyer of the advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile system, for example, and the two countries are to cooperate on upgrading the Russian Mi-26 heavy military transport helicopter design.

There is even talk of Moscow having a role in Beijing's ambitious $40 billion planned moon base, as well as license-production of Russian space rockets to support the program.

China's Air Superiority Fighters Are Getting Stealthier

May 05, 2015

Writing in Popular Science, Peter W. Singer and Jeffrey Lin outline China’s self-installed upgrades on its Shenyang J-11D flanker fighters. The J-11D is a Chinese-licensed and modified version of Russia’s Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker, a single-seat, twin-engine fighter, intended for an air superiority role. The authors highlight the aircraft’s upgrade, which are visible in new imagery and videos. The J-11D features “an upwardly canted radar dome, which carries an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar,” stealth improvements on the fuselage to reduce weight and radar signatures, a relocated Infrared Search and Tracking (IRST) pod, and is “believed to have improved weapons hardpoints to carry the latest Chinese weapons, such as the PL-10 air to air missile, long range PL-21 missile and YJ-12 antiship missile.”

In case you missed it, the Stimson Center recently released a new report, “Deterrence Instability & Nuclear Weapons in South Asia,” which discusses the state of nuclear deterrence in South Asia, one of the world’s likeliest nuclear flashpoints. The report includes a discussion of India’s nuclear doctrine, a comparative exploration of strategic culture in India in Pakistan, and new military technologies that could shift the nuclear balance of power in the region. Michael Krepon, one of the editors of the report, discusses its findings in an accessible blog post over at Arms Control Wonk.

Protecting Indian air space

By: Bibhu Prasad Routray

Chinese satellites taking over the air space in South Asia using a predatory pricing mechanism could be a worrying phenomenon.

At one level, it is a matter of policy and operational prudence. At another, however, India’s open sky policy that allows the country’s private direct-to-home (DTH) operators to lease transponders on foreign satellites can translate into a national security issue. In the days to come, as the scamper for transponders become even more intense, certain questions regarding the past performance of the Department of Space and the growing ability of foreign satellites to influence India’s digital scenario will have to be considered.

In December 2014, the GSAT-16 satellite was launched into the orbit, carrying 24 C-band, 12 Ku-band and 12 extended C-band transponders. The launch had been advanced by about six months to meet user needs, but came 11 months after the launch of GSAT-14 in January 2014. The launch of GSAT-15 will not happen till October 2015. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) predicts that a policy of launching these satellites, packed with more transponders than before, and leasing of foreign transponders has taken care of the needs of the Indian DTH operators.

The reality, however, is different.

Prior to 2000—the year DTH services were launched in India—the government put in place the policy for implementing an open sky policy which would allow both Indian and foreign satellites to be used in DTH services with the condition that Indian satellites would get preferential treatment. While there can be little disagreement with this broad “open sky” policy, the history of implementation is replete with glaring shortcomings by ISRO and the ministry of information & broadcasting in its interpretation and application of the policy.

The Black-Tie Ghosts of Charlie Hebdo at the Infamous PEN Gala

Jacob Siegel

Sure, the protests were appalling, but the event itself, honoring the murdered cartoonists, was not without its ironies.

There’s something unsettling about a black-tie event honoring the murdered cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo. Look at the assembled tuxedoes at last night’s PEN gala, listen to the earnest speeches given, and a certain irony ought to be apparent along with some unease.

Not because they don’t deserve the honor or in deference to the obscene charge of bigotry leveled against Hebdo after its staff was gunned down in January in a jihadist plot that targeted the cartoonists for their depictions of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

The claim that the French satirical rag was racist made by writers who caused a controversy backing out of the event hardly bothered with Hebdo’s actual work and political principles before hauling up the dead cartoonists to put them on trial, as The Daily Beast’s Michael Moynihan pointed out.

No, the trouble starts when one imagines what the Hebdo cartoonists, whose work giddily defiled pomposity and dogma, would have made of last night’s gala if they weren’t dead enough to be its honorees.
To commend their courage only in their epitaphs ignores the work they did while they were alive.

What Does the Death of the Philippines’ Top Islamic Militant Mean?

May 06, 2015

Will the death of a terrorist breathe life into an imperiled peace process? 

On Sunday, the Philippines’ most wanted Islamic militant was killed in a firefight with Muslim rebels.

The death of Abdul Basit Usman, a bomb maker with links to the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah – the Southeast Asian affiliate of Al-Qaeda – is significant because he was one of two high-profile targets in a deadly January 25 raid which killed 44 Philippine police commandos following clashes with Muslim rebels in the country’s south (The Diplomat covered that incident here). The Mamasapano incident triggered a political crisis for Philippine president Benigno Aquino III and had threatened to undermine a peace deal between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) reached in March last year which ended nearly a half-century of bloody conflict.

Details of how Usman was killed are still murky. The Philippine government says that Usman’s followers had turned on him because of a million-dollar bounty offered by the U.S. State Department, while the MILF says that its fighters had killed Usman. Nevertheless, the Aquino administration, the MILF, and other proponents of the peace deal have been keen to capitalize on the development to boost prospects for its advancement, including the passage of an enabling law called the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which has been stalled since the Mamasapano incident. The Aquino government wants the BBL to be passed by June so that a required referendum can be held before the administration’s term expires following elections in May 2016.

The Dangerous Myths About Charlie Hebdo

MAY 5, 2015

Two recent events—the spectacle of Garry Trudeau, the Doonesbury creator,attacking a group of murdered cartoonists for offending his sensibilities, and the protest organized by a group of bien-pensant writers against the PEN American Center for planning to honor those cartoonists tonight in New York—have brought the Charlie Hebdo controversy back to public consciousness. So has the failed attack Sunday in Texas on a group of anti-Islam militants staging a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest, though, unlike Charlie Hebdo, the organization that sponsored the Texas event is run by an actual anti-Muslim extremist who, I'm proud to say, is a personal nemesis of mine.

Much has already been written about both the Trudeau and PEN controversies. I particularly recommend David Frum on Trudeau, and Katha Pollitt and Matt Welch on PEN, as well as this fine op-ed by Andrew Solomon and Suzanne Nossel, the president and executive director, respectively, of the PEN American Center. These represent only a handful of the many dozens of writers who have risen in defense of free speech, and of Charlie Hebdo’s right to lampoon religion.

I’m not going to rehearse the various defenses of Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish what some people consider to be blasphemous cartoons and columns. Suffice it to say that I’m a free-speech absolutist; I would have defended the right of neo-Nazis to march in Skokie, and I also believe that European laws banning the expression of Holocaust denial are wrong and counterproductive. I don’t like Nazis—there’s an understatement—and I don’t like Holocaust denial; and also, as a God-botherer—to use a term of derision directed at me with annoying frequency by my late friend Christopher Hitchens—I don’t like blasphemy either. But my belief in free speech trumps my distaste for blasphemy, and in any case, my conception of God is large, and I can’t imagine He gives a shit about cartoons.

The Nuclear Deal Could Transform Iran's Revolution

May 6, 2015 

"A nuclear deal with Iran could be an important step in pushing the regime back to concentrating on its revolutionary tasks at home."

At its core, the proposed nuclear deal with Iran is a bet on the future direction of the Iranian regime. Two former Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, argued in a recent critical piece in the Wall Street Journal that the central claim of the deal’s proponents is that Iran will be less aggressive in ten years than it is today.

They implied that they too might sign on if they could believe in such a positive trajectory. In other words, the other criticisms of the deal that they and others have voiced about proliferation in the region, the extensiveness and verifiability of the proposed limitations, etc. are difficult but not insoluble problems. But they rightly point to Iran’s “3 ½ decades of militant hostility to the West and established international institutions” as well as Washington’s questionable record in predicting the course of domestic transformation in places like Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan as ample grounds for skepticism regarding the optimists’ projections.

If it were simply a matter of rolling the dice on the future of Iran, there would be good reasons to choose caution over optimism. But how might the deal itself affect that future? What impact will it have on Iran’s domestic politics and how should that factor into Washington’s calculations?


Mel Deaile and Al Mauroni
May 6, 2015

The U.S. general who commanded America’s nuclear forces and a few other notable American national security leaders have forged an alliance of sorts with a number of European, Russian, and Asian military officers and national security experts over a most explosive issue. The Global Zero Commission on Nuclear Risk Reduction, chaired by retired Gen. James Cartwright, is calling for the end of U.S. and Russian nuclear “hair-trigger” attack readiness as well as a series of agreements among the “nuclear club” that would end alert status for nuclear forces. Their report concludes that nuclear forces on alert make a nuclear exchange — accidental or deliberate — more likely because of escalating tensions between the United States and Russia. The effort to reduce the readiness level of nuclear forces is, in reality, a stepping stone for the Global Zero movement to continue its push for total nuclear disarmament. This effort, led by Gen. Cartwright, unfortunately misses the strategic importance of maintaining an alerted nuclear force and uses hyperbole and misinformation to advance a flawed argument.

The Russian Army in the Eastern Ukraine

May 5, 2015

Russian Combat Brigades In Ukraine

In April Ukrainian Army officials revealed that they were tracking the Russian units operating in eastern Ukraine. At that time Ukrainian intelligence had identified portions of the Russian 15th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, 8th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, 331st Airborne Regiment and the 98th Airborne Division operating inside Ukraine. It was noted that Russia moves these units in and out, rarely keeping Russian units in eastern Ukraine for more than a few months. There are some attempts to hide the fact that these Russian soldiers are Russians, but these efforts are not diligently carried out and given all the cell phone cameras around it is easier for anti-Russian civilians in rebel controlled areas to collect and pass on evidence. 

NATO intelligence analysts earlier noted that the Russians have been forced to use most of their few capable combat units to support their attempt to seize portions of eastern Ukraine. Thus the Russians have sent in about twenty percent of their combat brigades, usually the most effective (Spetsnaz and airborne) and experienced (ones recently in the Caucasus). For most of the last year parts of at least three of these brigades have been detected inside eastern Ukraine at any one time. At least fifteen combat brigades have had some of their troops in Ukraine during 2014. These brigades represent the best Russia has, as the rest of the army is crippled by inexperience and shortages of personnel and equipment. Russia is still trying to replace obsolete and worn out Cold War era weapons and equipment. 

Can the EU Solve the Greek Puzzle While Pushing for Growth?

May 04, 2015 

With Greece on the brink of insolvency – fanning fears of an exit from the Eurozone – the European Union is scrambling to find a solution to avoid a “Grexit” as debt payments loom. To analyze the roots of the current crisis and look ahead to the EU’s next steps, Knowledge@Wharton sat down recently with Banque de France Governor Christian Noyer. He is also a member of the Governing Council and General Council of the European Central Bank, chairman of the Bank for International Settlements and alternate governor at the International Monetary Fund.

Noyer argues that the current Greek crisis is unique within the European Union, while admitting that surveillance for such eventualities was initially insufficient and not comprehensive. He also says that the euro’s decline against the dollar is a result of market forces and the ECB is not trying to push the currency to any given level.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Knowledge@Wharton: How did Greece find itself in this situation?

Christian Noyer: The Greek debt crisis was led by a combination of the international financial crisis of 2008 and a long-lasting, inappropriate fiscal management in Greece before 2008.

Solved: How to Get U.S.-Israeli Relations Back on Track

"Both sides ought to develop realistic ways of dealing with the common challenges they face."

When President Barack Obama told Prime Minister Netanyahu in his first telephone call after the Israeli elections that Washington would “reassess” its positions on U.S.-Israeli relations and Middle East diplomacy after the Israeli prime minister took a position against Palestinian statehood during his reelection campaign, Obama reminded Israelis who follow the U.S.-Israeli relationship of previous traumatic reassessments of U.S.-Israeli relations made by American administrations.

One significant example was the “reassessment” of U.S.-Israeli relations President Gerald Ford decided upon forty years ago, in order to force Israel todisengage with Egypt in Sinai in 1975. In retrospect, maybe the United States and Israel can learn from this episode that a reassessment is not always bad for Israel and for the mutual relationship, and in the long term, it can be healthy for building a sustainable relationship between the two states.

The current crisis is a result of principal differences on major policy issues, mainly on the ways of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and dealing with Iran, as well as escalating personal enmity between two leaders whose relations are marked by a growing distrust and aversion to each other.

The Problem With Kissinger’s World Order

MAY 5, 2015 

I spent the last week immersed in geopolitical conflict, but not in eastern Ukraine or the South China Sea. No, I was at NYU Abu Dhabi, one of the least conflictual places on Earth, at a Brookings Institution conference titled “International Peace and Cooperation in an Age of Global Competition.” The 40 senior policymakers and thinkers from the United States, Europe, and emerging countries largely agreed that we have entered a new world — one which looks very much like the old world — characterized by growing conflict between states.

A few of us bridled at the premise. Someone — I think it was me — said that the return of state conflict was a gift to the foreign policy boys’ club, which in recent years had been bemused by the rise of non-state actors, popular uprisings, and “soft” issues like climate change. Suddenly the realist world of international relations theory has come back from the dead. (See Walter Russell Mead’s 2014 piece in Foreign Affairs, “The Return of Geopolitics.”) The world has turned hard.

The problem with my gibe is that while it is true that non-state forces, and above all the Islamic State and al Qaeda, are responsible for many of the worst conflicts in the world, it is also true that major states, including Russia, China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia (and the United States), are prepared to use coercion and force — often in those same conflicts — in a way that has not been true for generations. We do live in an increasingly geopolitical world. So I began to examine the sources of my resistance.

How British Elections Represent the State of Europe

By George Friedman
MAY 5, 2015 

The United Kingdom is going to the polls on Thursday. Elections electrify the countries in which they are held, but in most cases they make little difference. In this case, the election is a bit more important. Whether Labour or the Tories win makes some difference, but not all that much. What makes this election significant is that in Scotland, 45 percent of the public voted recently to leave the United Kingdom. This has been dismissed as an oddity by all well-grounded observers. However, for unsophisticated viewers like myself, the fact that 45 percent of Scotland was prepared to secede was an extraordinary event.

Moreover, this election matters because UKIP — formerly the United Kingdom Independence Party — is in it, and polls indicate that it will win about 12 percent of the vote, while winning a handful of seats in Parliament. This discrepancy is due to an attribute of the British electoral system, which favors seats won over total votes cast. UKIP's potential winnings don't seem very significant. However, the party represents a movement in Britain that is not unlike what is going on in the rest of Europe, and in addition, creates a new dimension to British strategic policy that might well be important. Most of the vote that UKIP is attracting comes from former Conservative voters. That means that Prime Minister David Cameron might lose the election. That does not change Britain's strategic position much. UKIP and the Scottish vote might.
The UKIP and Scottish Factors

Baltic Sea Has Become Scene of Cat-and-Mouse Game Between Russia and NATO

May 4, 2015

VISBY FORWARD OPERATING BASE, Sweden (Reuters) - A daily game of Cold War cat-and-mouse is ratcheting up tensions in the Baltic and drawing the biggest military presence into the region for over 20 years, Swedish military officials say.

Eye-to-eye encounters with Russian combat jets and reports of suspected submarines in Swedish and Finnish waters are fuelling regional concerns about Russian assertiveness in the wake of the Ukraine crisis and reversing years of defence cuts.

Western officials say Russia has stepped up probing flights and mock bomb runs near Europe’s borders since 2013, forcing jets from NATO nations and non-NATO allies like Sweden to scramble repeatedly. For its part, Moscow says NATO has dramatically increased reconnaissance flights near its borders.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Baltic island of Gotland, for decades Sweden’s front line of defence against the Soviet Union, was all but abandoned by the military to the tourists visiting the walled medieval town of Visby.

Now, two JAS 39C Gripen combat jets are on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) at the nearby ‘forward operating’ air base and Sweden plans to reopen a permanent army garrison on the island.

“I did my first QRA here in 1988, chasing not Russian but Soviet aircraft with Red stars on the fins,” Colonel Marcus Bjorkgren, chief of staff of the Swedish Air Force, said.

Sixteen Foreign Policy Books ’16 Contenders Must Read, Part I

By Stanton S. Coerr
MAY 4, 2015

To be commander-in-chief, you must master the nuances of the four pillars of American power: military, diplomatic, informational and economic. You may advocate powers soft (diplomatic and convocational) or hard (kinetic and military) or sticky (attractive and beguiling). You will be forced to send Americans to bad neighborhoods. Sometimes, those bad neighborhoods will come to you.

You must execute your foreign policy under one idea. A national strategic end-state must inform foreign policy, which in turn must pull together diplomatic and military efforts into a coherent national whole. When the State and Defense departments work at cross purposes, they will fail you, and fail the country.

Your power is that of your office: statutory, ceremonial, and persuasive. You must understand those to whom you will give orders and from whom you will seek advice. Of those, the military is the most difficult tribe to penetrate: they are the hardest to understand, and the price for mistakes is infinite.

Generals look great and speak better. This is why they are generals. They are the only people in your purview who will execute exactly what you want, and right now, and this makes using the military very, very seductive. So seduced, too many of your predecessors have substituted military policy for national policy, when properly a military action should fall beneath a larger strategic narrative. You must write that narrative; believe in it; sell it.