30 May 2015

Why Brits disliked Netaji and made a Mahatma out of Gandhi

This article has been co-authored by Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, Chandra Mauli Singh.

Section A: Introduction

There has been, for a while, a pervasive disillusionment in India about compromise of core values in politics in India, which has led to mass movements from time to time, the latest being in 2011 initiated by activist Anna Hazare. The degeneration spans:

1) unhealthy nexus between corporates and politics leading to policy choices and administrative decisions based on considerations other than national interests as also influence of money power in electioneering,

2) subversion of national interests through foreign interference,

3) subjugation of ideals and ideologies to personality cults which is manifested in and in turn fed by subversion of internal democracy in political parties, and

4) divisive politics.

The severity of public disenchantment on 1) can be assessed from the fact that Arvind Kejriwal won assembly polls in Delhi within a couple of years of his formal entry in politics by campaigning against the same. It is susceptibility to foreign interference that is believed to have induced major political parties in India to support emergency (CPI supported Indira Gandhi's declaration of emergency allegedly at the beck and call of Soviet Russia; it is not known if and what major concessions Russia extracted from India in return) and foreign aggression (CPI(M) refused to condemn Chinese invasion of India in 1962). Ironically, the Left parties have been the first to contend that Indian politics is subservient to foreign imperialism and interests. Recently, a member from Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar's own party, the JD(U), alleged that Kumar received funds from Pakistan to oppose then prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi [67].

Why Indians must resist the Modi government's planned surveillance system

By allowing the government to directly access phone and internet communications without the restriction of a privacy law, the system could put citizen rights in jeopardy.

Milind Deora, a former minister in the United Progressive Alliance government, has cautioned against the possible misuse of a new and more sophisticated system of surveillance conceptualised by his government and now reportedly put on the fast track by the Narendra Modi government. Called the Central Monitoring System, it allows government agencies to bypass phone and internet service providers to directly intercept communications. In an interview to Scroll.in, Deora said that he realised the system could lead to "technically lawful but malicious" interception in the absence of a privacy law.

Currently, in India, the sanction of the union home secretary is required before an agency can tap phones or intercept communications. According to an official reply under a query under the Right to Information Act, the home secretary clears nearly 300 phone tap applications every day. This information led to a seminal study by the New Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Centre which found there was very little transparency about what the government is doing with so much of data that it collects through these 100,000 phone taps every year.

The Indian Century? Education, entrepreneurialism, and democratic institutions bode well for the country’s future—but profound challenges remain.

Students prepping for admissions exams to the Indian Institutes of Technology, the country’s most prestigious educational institution

I attended a dinner in Paris full of tech experts, scientists, and investors, all of whom were gloomy about the West. Progress isn’t progressing, they complained. There are too many impediments to innovation. What on earth has gone wrong with our universities? We once put a man on the moon, and now we can’t even figure out a humane way to fly from Silicon Valley to Paris. Everything’s overregulated. The Scientific Revolution is over; the Industrial Revolution has reached the end of the line. No one understands what made America great anymore. We haven’t conquered death, but taxes have conquered us. We’re doomed.

Enter Nick Booker-Soni, about 30, affable and rumpled, standing at the open window to smoke. I said that I lived in Istanbul. “Really? We visited last year.” The other half of the “we” was his wife, Meetu. “Truth is, we were a bit disappointed.” I expected him to mention the usual disappointments: traffic, perhaps, or tear gas. “Just not that much history there,” he said.

Battlefield Nukes Won't Save Pakistan

May 29, 2015
History suggests that Pakistan would be better served by focusing on economic development.

Nuclear relations in South Asia cannot be fully analyzed without taking into account the China factor. Strategic relations between China, India, and Pakistan constitute a unique nuclear triangle in which the parties share a history of conflicts and border disputes. Two earlier nuclear triangles — the U.S.-Europe-USSR and the U.S.-USSR-China—provide a framework to analyze how these nuclear triangles are different from each other, as well as what similarities exist.

One commonality is the fear that a small nuclear power is the most likely state to initiate a war. It is, therefore, important to pay attention to the nuclear postures of small states in a triangle. In the first nuclear triangle, France developed battlefield nuclear weapons. China, in the second triangle, maintained an “assured retaliation” posture. Pakistan, like France, has adopted an offensive nuclear posture with tactical nuclear weapons.

Sleeping with the enemy

By Vikram Sood

It has been evident that Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani is moving closer to Pakistan. Yet the announcement of an MOU between the two countries’ intelligence agencies was a surprise to many, including his own deputy, Dr Abdullah Abdullah who learnt of this from former President Hamid Karzai. The National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) signed a memorandum of understanding (May 18) to “jointly fight terrorism” and “enemy espionage agencies”. The agreement would allow ISI to probe terrorist suspects in Afghan detention.

Afghan firefighters respond to a Taliban attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday. An all-night siege in an upscale neighbourhood of Afghanistan’s capital ended in the early hours yesterday morning. 

Afghans Fight Back with Full Force

May 28, 2015

The most recent overnight attack on a guesthouse in Kabul resulted in only four Taliban casualties. 
Four men, which the Taliban have claimed, attacked a guesthouse in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in northern Kabul last night. Authorities say the attack began with bomb explosion around 11 PM. An acquaintance of mine in Kabul tweeted from her private account at the time: “okay, that’s definitely not fireworks.”

Miraculously, only the four attackers were reported to have been killed in the standoff which lasted six hours. According to TOLOnews the guesthouse’s security, “along with special forces managed to prevent the insurgents from storming the hotel – despite one attacker detonating his suicide vest in order for them to gain entry.” Theinterior ministry says the attackers were armed with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and assault rifles.

Beware China’s Strategic Doublespeak

May 29, 2015

China’s latest statement of military strategy is full of doublespeak that whitewashes new and assertive content through self-contradictory statements and ambiguous phrases.

Asian states that worry about conflict with China have cause to worry even more. China’s recently released white paper, China’s Military Strategy, is new and assertive.

Only eight other defense white papers have been issued since 1998, and none focus on strategy the way this one does. It’s assertive not only because it reiterates a willingness to fight with its neighbors on all the familiar regional flashpoints, but also because it lays out expectations of having to do the same far outside its nine-dash line.

Here's How America Can Stop China in the South China Sea

May 28, 2015
"If the United States and its allies want to stop this, they must think fast and act faster."

The footage revealed a small armada of dredging vessels, support ships, and auxiliaries, working diligently to build People’s Liberation Army Air Force bases. According to international law, most islets China has occupied lie within the territorial waters of either the Philippines or Vietnam, and Chinese actions could be interpreted as maritime invasion. Despite Chinese claims to the contrary, neither Chinese behavior, nor its 9 dotted line, are consistent with customary international law or the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas. Nor do it’s historical claims stand real scrutiny, as a recent piece by South China Sea scholar, Bill Hayton shows.

China Just Gave Cambodia’s Military a Boost

Beijing delivers another batch of defense equipment to its Southeast Asian partner. 

On May 23, China delivered a range of defense equipment to Cambodia as part of Beijing’s ongoing efforts to boost the capabilities of one of its key partners in Southeast Asia.

According to The Cambodia Daily, the delivery included 44 vehicles – including jeeps, rocket-launcher mounted trucks and at least a half-dozen anti-aircraft guns mounted on wheels – 20 forklifts, four mobile kitchens, some 2,000 kg of unspecified chemicals and 10,000 kg worth of spare parts. The delivery was formalized through a handover ceremony between Cambodian defense minister Tea Banh and Chinese ambassador Bu Jianguo which took place at the Infantry Institute in Kampong Speu province – a facility which was itself funded by Beijing.

The exact way in which the items will be used remains unclear. Chinese state media emphasized that the parts were for a training program for an automotive workshop, suggesting that they were aimed at boosting maintenance and repair capabilities. Lieutenant General Chao Phirun, the head of the ministry’s materials and technical services department, also reportedly said that the items would be used to train three of the Royal Cambodian Air Force’s (RCAF) Special Forces units to, among other things, go after illegal fishermen and cross-border traffickers. No further details were given, however.

Could The New Silk Road End Old Geopolitical Tensions?

26 May 2015

In Part 1 of “The New Silk Road,” we examined the China’s plan for rebuilding the Silk Road, stretching from Europe to Asia.

In Part 2, we look at currently proposed projects, and geopolitical rivalries that could stall and hamper progress.

Silk Road Projects:

It is important to understand that the new “Road’ is not a formal plan in any sense but merely a broad outline of goals, a work in progress, being filled in, opportunistically, with projects as they are developed, and as negotiations with target countries allow. The Road is also not a 'start-up' from scratch, but builds upon and extends a number of projects that have been ongoing with China's partners.

Beyond Doubt: The Changing Face of Terrorism in China

By Marc Julienne, Moritz Rudolf, & Johannes Buckow
May 28, 2015

The nature of terrorism in China has changed recently, both in geographical scope and in the nature of the attacks. 
The nature of terrorism in China is changing, as is the Chinese government’s response to the threat. Despite the importance of the issue for China and the world, there is little understanding in the West about the facts concerning terrorism in China. This is the second article in a four-part series dealing with the threat of terrorism in China — its origins and changing nature — as well as the central government’s response. See part one, an overview of terrorism in China, here.

Terrorism in China has changed. Since 2013 a geographical expansion of Chinese terrorism has taken place both at home and abroad, along with a change in the type of targets and types of attacks.

China's Growing Drug Problem

May 28, 2015

China’s drug problem is getting worse, despite harsh penalties. 

On Wednesday, China’s Supreme People’s Court argued that serious drug crimes merit the death penalty. Serious cases involving “drug lords, professional drug dealers or re-offenders” as well as “drug smuggling, organized transnational drug crime and armed or violent drug crime” should all receive capital sentences, according to a circular released by the SPC. The same document advocated for more scrutiny on reprieves and probation for drug-related crimes.

China’s crackdown on drug use has been going strong for almost a year. Last June, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang both denounced drug use and called for stronger efforts to fight drugs. That translated into increased action, with a rise in the number of drug-related arrests. Chinese law enforcement also sought to send a message by arresting high-profile targets, most notably Jackie Chan’s son Jaycee, who was arrested in August 2014 and spent six months in prison for possession of marijuana and “providing a shelter for others to abuse drugs.”

Top US Officials Heat Up Rhetoric on China's South China Sea Behavior

May 28, 2015

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter minced no words: the U.S. is here to stay in Asia. 

Speaking in Honolulu, Hawaii—the United States’ Pacific outpost—U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carterremarked that China’s attempts to spread its influence and change the status quo in the South China Sea would backfire, leaving it a pariah in the region. Carter delivered the remarks at a ceremony marking a change of command for U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM)—Admiral Samuel Locklear ceded command to Admiral Harry Harris. The statements are notable for their relative directness about the United States’ future intentions for its own role in the Asia-Pacific, and how the Pentagon’s top leadership sees China’s prospects for influence in Asia. As ties between the U.S. and China heat up over the South China Sea and cyber issues, Carter’s comments could prove to draw a sharp response.

Strategic Warning and China’s Nuclear Posture

What the 2015 Defense White Paper tells us about China’s nuclear policy. 

China’s last national defense white paper – the most authoritative document on its defense and security policy – caused quite a stir when it was released two years ago. Some foreign analysts were concerned that China was changing its long-standing policy of No-First-Use (NFU) of nuclear weapons because this policy was not mentioned in the document. Chinese experts quickly pointed out that the absence of NFU pledge from that white paper did not imply a weakened Chinese commitment to NFU. They argued that, starting in 2013, China changed the format of its defense white papers from a comprehensive format to a thematic approach which focuses on a specific topic. The 2013 paper focused on “The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces” and therefore was not designed to thoroughly delineate China’s nuclear policy.

Why China's Submarine Force Still Lags Behind

Why the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s underwater fleet still lags behind those of other navies. 
China is fielding an impressive fleet of conventional and nuclear submarines. According to the Pentagon’sOffice of Naval Intelligence, the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) underwater force consists of five nuclear attack submarines (SSN), four nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), and 53 diesel attack submarines (SS/SSP).

The Pentagon in its annual report to the U.S. Congress on Chinese military developments estimated that by 2020 this force will likely grow to between 69 and 78 submarines.

The bulk of China’s conventional sub armada consists of 13 Song-class (Type 039) diesel-attack subs and 13Yuan-class (Type 039A) air independent-powered (AIP) attack submarines with an additional 20 Yuan-class vessels planned for production.

The submarine force’s main mission remains anti-surface warfare (ASUW) along major sea lines of communication (SLOC). Weaknesses in anti-submarine warfare and land-attack capabilities persist in the PLAN’s submarine fleet, according to a recently published report by the RAND Corporation.

Three reasons the West is losing the war with Islamic State

The West is not only failing to win the war with Islamic State in the Middle East, it is actually much closer to losing it.

Recent victories by Islamic State in Iraq did not provide the wake-up call that it poses a bigger challenge to the West than previously thought. The call came when a 14-year-old on social media in the UK allegedly motivated an 18-year-old to plan an attack on a policeman in Australia.

IS has effectively moved the frontline in the battle with the West to our own suburbs. The West is not only failing to win the war with IS, it is actually much closer to losing it.

Underestimating the enemy is a sure path to defeat

When I was a young Officer Cadet in the Australian Army, one of the first things I learned was the three ways to think of your enemy: one you want and two ways you don’t.

Smart Targeting of ISIS

Eric Schmitt reports in the New York Times that the U.S. military is refraining from attacking some sites it knows are ISIS facilities, including at the group's principal headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, to avoid the significant civilian casualties that such attacks would certainly entail. It seems the group has located some of its facilities, probably intentionally, immediately next to civilian concentrations or jails where it holds some of its innocent captives. This is the sort of restraint by the United States that is likely to spin up further the domestic opponents of the Obama administration who charge that the administration has been too timid in going after ISIS—or in diving into many other foreign conflicts, for that matter. Senator John McCain says we should be setting our hair on fire because of recent gains by ISIS. The syllogism underlying such alarmism seems to be: (1) ISIS is a despicable, brutal organization (which is true); (2) the United States military has the physical capability to inflict substantial damage on ISIS (also true); therefore the United States should use that capability more fully than it has so far (which does not necessarily follow).

How Much Does ISIS Really Threaten America?

May 29, 2015
Source Link

"The threats facing the American homeland today, mostly of the 'lone wolf' variety, are threats the United States has faced for years."

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson made news recent by claiming that “without a doubt we have evolved to a new phase of the global terrorist threat.” His basic argument was that ISIS and similar groups are “more decentralized, more complex, [and] more diffuse.”

While some concern is warranted, there is no need for alarm on the scale we are currently witnessing. The ISIS threat is overhyped, giving the group more power than it deserves while distracting from bigger threats. More to the point, there is no new phase of terrorism, just the same phase—but with a different ability to promote use of usual tactics.

US Airstrikes Will Not Be Enough to Beat ISIS, Report

May 28, 2015

BAGHDAD (AP) – It’s the modern era’s military strategy of choice: overwhelming air power delivering precision-guided punishment backed by intelligence on the ground, with minimal exposure for soldiers of the striking side.

Seductive though it is to risk-averse governments with war-weary publics, the approach has its limits - and these are on display in Syria and Iraq, where a U.S.-led coalition has carried out over 4,100 airstrikes against Islamic State radicals yet failed to stop the extremists.

August will mark a year since the campaign was launched after tens of thousands of minority Yazidis were forced to flee an onslaught by the militants in Iraq, causing a humanitarian crisis.

It was clear from the start that a ground force was needed, and Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish fighters have had successes on the battlefield. The Iraqi military was also to play a key role: air power would soften up the extremists, weakening them or getting them to flee, and the Iraqis were to deliver the final blow or retake areas abandoned by the militants.

Contain and Amplify

MAY 27, 2015 

The Arab world is a pluralistic region that lacks pluralism — the ability to manage and embrace differences peacefully. As such, the Middle East’s pluralistic character — Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Christians, Druze, Alawites, Jews, Copts, Yazidis, Turkmen and an array of tribes — has long been managed by iron fists from above. But after we removed the fists in Iraq and Libya, without putting a new bottom-up order in place, and the people themselves tried to remove the fists in Syria and Yemen, without putting a new live-and-let-live order in place, a horrifying war of all against all has exploded.

Why Was Syria's Opposition in Kazakhstan?

May 29, 2015

Astana hopes to bolster its international image by positioning itself as an idea neutral moderator 
This week, Astana hosted a group of representatives of the Syrian opposition for reconciliation talks. According to Sputnik, 30 opposition figures attended the two-day talks and “the majority” signed a final document which calls on foreign fighters to leave Syria and says “the condition for preserving Syria as a united national government is the grassroots transfer on the basis of broad-based decentralization to a pluralistic democracy.”

Neither representatives from the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad nor those from ISIS showed any interest in negotiations of any sort. The Syrian opposition encompasses more than a dozen different groups and is often called fractious and deeply divided.

Missing Tajik Commander Shows Up in ISIS Video

May 28, 2015

Halimov has been missing since late April and was reportedly arrested last week in Turkey. The mystery continues. 

Gulmurod Halimov, the missing Tajik OMON commander (well, former commander now) has apparently turned up — and not in Turkish custody as wasreported last week. Halimov is the latest ISIS video star.

The 12 minute video, which is polished and features a techy, Matrix-like intro, was posted on May 27. It begins with a montage of video clips showing news reports of Halimov’s disappearance and then shows him, with a black wrap around his head, holding a rifle, and talking at length about himself and why he joined ISIS. The video ends with Halimov (presumably, though he is not shown) shooting a tomato.

Russia Is Set to Triple Nuclear Supersonic Bomber Force

Russia will purchase at least 50 of the newly revived Tupolev Tu-160 (Blackjack) heavy strategic bombers, dramatically increasing its arsenal.

As The National Interest previously reported, last month Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Russia would resume production of the Tu-160 strategic bomber, a Soviet-era aircraft that is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear weapons.

On Thursday, Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev, the commander-in-chief of Russia’s Air Force, revealed that Moscow will purchase at least fifty of the Tu-160 strategic bombers once production resumes.

“No less than 50 aircraft over time will be purchased in order to cover the costs that will go into production,” Bondarev said, according to Russian state media outlets.

New Report Documents Continuing Russian Military Buildup on Ukrainian Border and Arming of Rebels

May 28, 2015

Russia, Putin still stirring up fight in Ukraine, independent report says

KIEV, Ukraine, May 28 (UPI) – Despite repeated denials from Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his regime are still keeping up the fight against Ukraine with military and pro-Russia forces there, an independent investigation has concluded.

Since overtaking Crimea a year ago, Russia’s military presence has been a constant in the region – supplemented by pro-Moscow separatists within Ukraine fighting against the Kiev government, in what some say is Putin’s attempt at regaining what was once part of the Soviet Union.

Putin, however, has dismissed the allegations as nothing more than Western propaganda.

Independent experts, though, seeking to verify or reject those claims, have undertaken an ambitious investigation into the matter – the results of which will officially be released Thursday by the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based research group.

Bill Gates just described his biggest fear — and it could kill 33 million people in less than a year

By Drake Baer

You would think that Bill Gates, the ever-so-friendly richest man in the world, wouldn't be afraid of much. 
"I rate the chance of a nuclear war within my lifetime as being fairly low," says Gates. "I rate the chance of a widespread epidemic, far worse than Ebola, in my lifetime, as well over 50%." 

So that means an outbreak of sorts is possibly coming in the next few decades. 

It's especially terrifying, Gates says, given the way we reacted to the last epidemic: The Ebola outbreak of last year showed how unready the world is for dealing with infectious disease. 

A Net Assessment of Europe

May 27, 2015

Last week I began this series with a Net Assessment of the World, in which I focused on the growing destabilization of the Eurasian land mass. This week I continue the series, which will ultimately analyze each region in detail, with an analysis of Europe. I start here, rather than in the Middle East, because while the increasing successes of the Islamic State are significant, the region itself is secondary to Europe in the broader perspective. The Middle East matters, but Europe is as economically productive as the United States and, for the past 500 years, has been the force that has reshaped the world. The Middle East matters a great deal; European crises can destabilize the world. What happens between Greece and Germany, for example, can have consequences in multiple directions. Therefore, since we have to start somewhere, let me start with Europe.

Meet North Korea's Speedy, Stealthy Boats

May 29, 2015

A few curated defense and security links to close off the week:

North Korea is reportedly developing Very Slender Vessels (VSV), a type of high-speed stealth-capable ship designed for infiltration operations. VSVs have a low profile and traverse waves by cutting through them. South Korean officials are describing the VSVs as a “new threat” to their security. If the North manages to develop a traditional VSV, it could plausibly use it to allow its special forces to infiltrate South Korean territory. North Korea already possesses semi-submersible boats that offer similar infiltration and stealth advantages — they simply lack the speed and maneuverability of a VSV. Fortunately, South Korea has been investing quite a bit in its navy and coastal surveillance capabilities.

What Is North Korea's Nuclear Strategy?

A look at how Pyongyang views — and might use — its nuclear weapons. 

While there can be no certainty about how North Korea views its nuclear arsenal and how it might be employed, I have growing doubts about many contemporary arguments advanced by North Korea and nuclear experts. The collective conventional wisdom seems to point to a peacetime nuclear first-use strategy (dubbed “asymmetric escalation”) or a “catalytic” strategy intended for the principal purpose of scaring China into intervening on North Korea’s behalf.

There are numerous reasons to be skeptical about either of these strategies. Instead, evidence and logic seem to support the idea that North Korea is seeking an assured retaliation capability in peacetime, and a wartime strategy of asymmetric escalation.

US, South Korea, Japan Coordinate Trilaterally on North Korea

May 28, 2015

The United States, South Korea, and Japan agreed to pressure North Korea over its nuclear program. 
On Wednesday, South Korea, the United States, and Japan agreed to increase pressure and sanctions on North Korea. The meeting came shortly after North Korea announced that it had tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), and that it had also miniaturized a nuclear device (both claims have come under scrutiny and remain externally unverified).

Recently, while in South Korea, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that the United States and South Korea would unite to increase sanctions on the North. Japan’s inclusion at Wednesday’s meeting highlights increasing trilateralism between Japan, South Korea, and the United States on the North Korean issue. While Japan and South Korea both enjoy bilateral alliances with the United States, relations between the two are otherwise cool, in part due to historical tensions and a territorial dispute over the sovereignty of the Dokdo/Takeshima Islands.


May 28, 2015

Editor’s note: This is the second part in a two-part article on the A-10, the F-35, and the challenges of providing close air support as battlefields evolve and the U.S. military faces difficult budgetary pressures. Read the first part here.

The A-10, the F-35, and the Future of Close Air Support: Part II

Fierce controversy surrounds the retirement of the A-10 Warthog. Built for the Cold War, the deadly close air support (CAS) meted out by the Warthog has saved many a pinned-down infantryman in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the battlefield is evolving. The notion that the U.S. military can always eliminate resistance, and create sanctuaries free from enemy fire is no longer realistic. As we discussed in the first part of this two-part article, threats are proliferating across a wide variety of hostile actors, in areas that challenge current CAS capabilities. Yet CAS requirements really haven’t changed: persistence and rapid response, precision, adaptability to a variety of environments, scalable firepower, and enhanced situational awareness.

Israel's Big Moment: Sealing Gas Deals with Jordan and Egypt

May 29, 2015
An accelerated government response that emphasizes getting these export deals signed is crucial to ensuring that Israel takes full advantage of its natural-gas abundance.

Antitrust Commissioner David Gilo’s resignation is certainly good news for Israel’s gas industry. His crusade against the country’s gas monopoly and insistence on creating competition has resulted in further delays in the development of Israel’s Leviathan field and the ratification of export deals with clients in Jordan and Egypt. While the various government organizations involved finally seem to be on the same page regarding the future of Israel’s natural-gas industry, they must act quickly to fast-track Leviathan’s development and expedite gas-export deals.

Thailand’s Junta to Declare War on Corruption

May 29, 2015

Junta leader expected to deliver high-profile speech on Monday. 

Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-o-cha will “declare war” on corruption in a high-profile speech on Monday, the Thai newspaper The Nation reported May 28.

According to the report, government representatives, foreign agencies, diplomats and the media will be invited to attend his remarks, which will also be televised live across the country. In his speech, Prayuth is expected to share his thoughts about corruption after taking over the country, the challenges he faces and how he plans to overcome them.

A Rebuttal to ‘Overreaction in the Strait of Hormuz’

By Matthew W. Ivey
May 28, 2015

What international law really says about the recent exchanges in the strategic choke point. 

In his article “Overreaction in the Strait of Hormuz,” Mark Valencia compares prevailing Iranian and U.S. views on freedom of navigation as embodied by customary international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in light of recent instances of Iranian aggression towards merchant shipping. Indeed, Dr. Valencia correctly states that neither the United States nor Iran are among the 164 states that are party to UNCLOS, and notes that Iran “has signaled its support of the Convention by signing it.” Dr. Valencia does not mention that every United States president, from both parties, has expressed support for joining UNCLOS for over the past two decades. In addition to this oversight, three other key issues in Dr. Valencia’s article merit clarification.

Sri Lanka: Balancing Ties Between China and the West

By Peshan Gunaratne and J. Berkshire Miller
May 26, 2015

The country’s foreign policy has shifted significantly since the elections. Will that continue? 

Sri Lanka’s geostrategic position has made it the target for diplomatic courting from a range of regional players, including China, India, and Japan. Under the tenure of former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Colombo had catered especially to China and openly accepted Beijing’s development assistance in return for China’s development of major maritime ports. These plans and the friendly policy toward China have been altered since the election this past January of Maithripala Sirisena, ending the reign of the once powerful Rajapaksa.


May 28, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth and final installment in Patrick Cronin’s series on China’s strategy for dominance in the Asia-Pacific. Check out the first four here, here, here, andhere.

An urgent challenge for U.S. policymakers is to find effective ways to respond when China throws its weight around without regard to norms or neighbors. What is particularly needed is a clear-eyed assessment of what would constitute unacceptable behavior and the development of a flexible set of policy options for imposing costs on coercive and destabilizing actions.

While we need a capable forward military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, China’s gray-zone challenges will require more than the tools available to the Department of Defense. Indeed, an interagency governmental policy review should begin with agreement on America’s desired strategic outcome: preserving and adapting an inclusive, rules-based system in the Indo-Asia Pacific.

On this day 71 years ago: Memories of the Battle of Red Hill, Imphal

Then a teenager, Gourmohan Singh of Imphal recounts the events that could have led the INA and the Japanese to victory over the British – but didn’t.

Gourmohan Singh was sunning himself in his courtyard verandah, on a synthetic mat which has replaced the earlier woven ones. Just like everything else, the mat must have come from China via Moreh at some ridiculously low price. A couple of other mats were rolled up in case visitors dropped by. His wrinkles were visible and his age apparent. At first glance, his face bore no stories, but Gourmohan could be a great storyteller.

The village is Maibam Lotpaching.

Israeli Military: Iran Is Not Most Dangerous Threat

May 28, 2015
Israel’s military doesn’t consider Iran to be the greatest threat to the Jewish state, according to a new report.

Earlier this week, the Jewish weekly, Forward, reported that the “Israel’s military General Staff and intelligence services are in the midst of a series of formal discussions” about the major threats facing the country. According to the report, the discussions— which are being “chaired by the deputy chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Major General Yair Golan, under the supervision of the chief of staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot”—are not focusing on a nuclear Iran.

“What most concerns the military in the short range is the likelihood of renewed flare-ups within the next few years with the heavily armed Islamist militias on Israel’s northern and southern borders, Hezbollah and Hamas,” the report, which is by former Forward editor-in-chief J.J. Goldberg, says.