10 September 2016

*** To Win J&K, We Have To Out-Think Pak Army; Here’s What They Could Do Next

September 07, 2016

The best thing to come out of the all-party delegation that went to Jammu & Kashmir a few days ago is that it had egg on its face.

J&K can simmer down with talks, but its core issue will never be “settled” as long as Pakistan exists. 

To deal with the Pakistan problem, we have to think (and out-think) the Pakistani army – its Deep State which includes the ISI and jihadi elements beholden to the army - and meet it measure for measure.

The best thing to come out of the all-party delegation that went to Jammu & Kashmir a few days ago is that it had egg on its face, with the separatists either refusing to meet them, or meeting them to tell them their visit served no purpose. This should end the opposition’s bluster and unstated assumptions that the Modi government somehow mishandled the crisis that erupted after the killing of terrorist Burhan Wani, and they could have done better.

The statement released by three separatists, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, makes this clear. It said: “These methods of crisis management through parliamentary delegations and track-2 can’t take the place of a genuine transparent agenda-based dialogue to address the core issue…that has been our consistent stand…”.

Since the “core issue” has always been plebiscite and/or merger with Pakistan, the so-called “transparent agenda-based dialogue” is essentially about the Indian state accepting the separatists’ terms of surrender on Indian sovereignty in J&K. No Indian government can do this, even if headed by the Congress or even the Left. The Congress had 10 years to sort out the issue, but got nowhere despite talks. So it’s holier-than-thou posturing is just political nonsense.

Is there no peaceful way out?

** To Win J&K, We Have To Out-Think Pak Army; Here’s What They Could Do Next

September 07, 2016

The best thing to come out of the all-party delegation that went to Jammu & Kashmir a few days ago is that it had egg on its face.

J&K can simmer down with talks, but its core issue will never be “settled” as long as Pakistan exists. 

To deal with the Pakistan problem, we have to think (and out-think) the Pakistani army – its Deep State which includes the ISI and jihadi elements beholden to the army - and meet it measure for measure. 

The best thing to come out of the all-party delegation that went to Jammu & Kashmir a few days ago is that it had egg on its face, with the separatists either refusing to meet them, or meeting them to tell them their visit served no purpose. This should end the opposition’s bluster and unstated assumptions that the Modi government somehow mishandled the crisis that erupted after the killing of terrorist Burhan Wani, and they could have done better.

The statement released by three separatists, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, makes this clear. It said: “These methods of crisis management through parliamentary delegations and track-2 can’t take the place of a genuine transparent agenda-based dialogue to address the core issue…that has been our consistent stand…”.

Since the “core issue” has always been plebiscite and/or merger with Pakistan, the so-called “transparent agenda-based dialogue” is essentially about the Indian state accepting the separatists’ terms of surrender on Indian sovereignty in J&K. No Indian government can do this, even if headed by the Congress or even the Left. The Congress had 10 years to sort out the issue, but got nowhere despite talks. So it’s holier-than-thou posturing is just political nonsense.

Is there no peaceful way out?

Greater Confidence-Building Measures Needed In Kashmir – Analysis

By Neha Gupta*

As Jammu and Kashmir witnesses persistent curfew with the death numbers increasing day by day, expectations from the Chief Minister of Kashmir to solve the issue are going high. The situation of Kashmir became worst following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani after which numerous cases of human rights violations were reported and series of public protests were witnessed in Kashmir Valley. Chief Minister of Jamuu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti condemned Pakistan for fuelling the ongoing mayhem in the valley. She presented a “three-pronged action plan” that incorporated a dialogue with all stakeholders during the talks that Mufti had with the Prime Minister in New Delhi. She released the outline of this “three-pronged action plan” before the Prime Minister for the resolution of the Kashmir problem, and which includes involvement of separatists and Pakistan in a realistic dialogue to bring Kashmir out of its existing geo-political reality.

Mehbooba also stressed on the initiation of significant political action to revive reconciliation and resolution which was started by the then National Democratic Alliance government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee between 2002 and 2004. The intra and inter-state Confidence Building Measures (CBM) started during that time had facilitated constructive changes in the condition of the state and the region.

Military Aviation and the Indian Air Force

By Dr Narender Yadav
09 Sep , 2016

The invention of the aircraft in 1903 added a new element to warfare. Now to maintain the balance of military power, the states needed air power also. India was introduced to the aeroplane in 1910. Subsequently, RAF Squadrons came to India for operations in North West Frontiers as also to ensure internal security. The public pressure ultimately led to the creation of an Indian air arm in 1932. However the expansion was very slow until the Second World War (1939-1945). The pressure of War led to the rapid development of the IAF and it became a nine-squadron force by the end of World War II.

Great Britain ruled one fourth of the world because of its strong Navy…

In the nineteenth century, the general belief was that a nation which commands the sea, rules the world. Indeed the Army could fight the battle on land but for overseas conquest, the Navy was vital. Great Britain ruled one fourth of the world because of its strong Navy. The invention of aircraft in the early twentieth century broke this belief when the aircraft crossed the English Channel. The British Navy could no longer hold on the offensive from the other side of the Channel. Consequently, the countries began to develop air arm for their defence. Flying machines were also being added to the Naval inventory as well. Initially, hardly anyone realised that flying machines would also be used for transportation. Civil aviation indeed came in much later. Meanwhile, World War I broke out in 1914 and this necessitated the vast expansion of military aviation.

The aircraft entered India seven years after its invention. Exhibition flights were organised not only to display adventurism; but also to generate funds. In 1915, an Indian Flying School was established. Royal Air Force squadrons also set up their bases in India for internal and external security. The Indian Air Force took birth some years later.

Genesis of Military Aviation

India’s ascent: Five opportunities for growth and transformation

By Noshir Kaka and Anu Madgavkar
August 2016 

The country could create sustainable economic conditions in five ways, such as promoting acceptable living standards, improving the urban infrastructure, and unlocking the potential of women. 

Twenty-five years ago, India embarked on a journey of economic liberalization, opening its doors to globalization and market forces. We, and the rest of the world, have watched as the investment and trade regime introduced in 1991 raised economic growth, increased consumer choice, and reduced poverty significantly. 

Now, as uncertainties cloud the global economic picture, the International Monetary Fund has projected that India’s GDP will grow by 7.4 percent for 2016–17, making it the world’s fastest-growing large economy. India also compares favorably with other emerging markets in growth potential. (Exhibit 1). The country offers an attractive long-term future powered largely by a consuming class that’s expected to more than triple, to 89 million households, by 2025. 


The state of education in India

The money, time and focus it will take to get our primary education working and to create globally competitive institutions is no small matter

The current challenge in India remains a 20th century challenge of quantity and quality for its primary and higher education systems. Photo: Mint

Each year, 5 September, the birthday of India’s second president and eminent educationist, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, is celebrated as Teacher’s Day. The modern celebration follows a time-honoured tradition of recognizing spiritual and academic teachers during Guru Purnima, which falls on the full moon day in the lunar month of Ashada (July).

Since the Industrial Revolution, in India and around the world, the tradition of home or community schooling—often centered on the teacher—has gradually been transformed into a human supply chain schooling system centered on the educational institution. As we move towards an information age, nations around the world are grappling with what the next transformation in education needs to be. The current challenge in India remains a 20th century challenge of quantity and quality for its primary and higher education systems.

A somnolent 50 years or so after Independence, India woke up to its primary school deficit. Since then, the quantity problem in primary education is being tackled. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)—a household survey—put out by Pratham is a consistent and excellent source of information on the quantity and quality of primary education in India. It has been conducted annually since 2004, and covers more than 90% of India’s districts in a statistically rigorous manner. The ASER trends-over-time report that covers the period 2006 to 2014, points to a decline in children not enrolled from about 4% at the beginning of the period to about 2% now. It shows a steady increase in the number of children enrolled in private schools from about 20% to a little over 30% over the period. The trends in quality measured in reading, arithmetic and English are disconcerting. For instance, children in Class III who can read at least a Class I text has dropped consistently from about 50% to about 40% and children in Class III who can do at least subtraction has dropped from 40% to 25%.

Hurriyat should be ignored for at least 2 years: Former home secretary GK Pillai

Sep 07, 2016

It was during Pillai’s stint as home secretary that one of the separatist leaders, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, reportedly said that the separatist leaders did not need security to be safe.

NEW DELHI: Amid reports that the government may scale down security of separatist leaders in Kashmir, former home secretary GK Pillai told ET, " Hurriyat should be ignored for at least two years. Their security should be withdrawn. The government instead should empower local panchayats in the valley which will help create new leaders." 

It was during Pillai's stint as home secretary that one of the separatist leaders, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, reportedly said that the separatist leaders did not need security to be safe from Indian establishment but from Pakistani miscreants. 

"Mirwaiz had then remarked that India is a democracy and will not resort to violence while dealing with the separatists," said a former bureaucrat, who did not wish to be identified. The official further said, "Similarly, we also helped Kashmiri leader SAS Geelani during his treatment at New Delhi." 

Pillai, when asked about huge sums of money being reportedly paid by intelligence agencies to separatist leaders said, "The money, if being doled out, needs to be stopped." Besides scaling down security, the government may impose restrictions on foreign travel of the leaders who are suspected to have played a key role in the ongoing unrest in Kashmir. 

In June last year, the Centre had rejected the passport renewal request of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who reportedly wanted to visit his daughter in Saudi Arabia. The passport was issued two months later and was valid only for nine months, but Geelani never visited his daughter. 

Still Paying For UPA’s Sins: Why India Lost The Antrix-Devas Case At The Hague

September 07, 2016

The PCA at The Hague ruled against the Indian government in the Antrix-Devas deal recently.

The government should now settle the case out of court and look to minimise its losses.

Devas Multimedia, a company started by former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) employees and venture capitalists, struck a deal with ISRO’s commercial arm, Antrix Corporation Limited, around 2005. The deal was for leasing transponders for Rs 1,400 crore, which was to be paid over a dozen years. The rate was considered a steal, especially since ISRO was to incur costs in launching and maintaining the satellites. Based on this deal, Devas sold shares in the company to many investors, including Deutsche Telekom at a premium.

Why the UPA cancelled the deal

It is believed that the Antrix-Devas deal was priced low by ISRO to grow the market, but it was cancelled because its details came out just when the 2G spectrum scam was making waves. The UPA government was under pressure at the time and did not want to be seen doing another sweetheart deal with private parties.

The deal was cancelled on the grounds of national security interest.

What happened at The Hague

Devas’ investors took the Indian government to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague for cancelling the deal in such an irresponsible manner, putting millions of dollars in investment at risk. The PCA noted that ‘India (had) breached its treaty commitments to accord fair and equitable treatment to Devas’s foreign investors.’

Why the court did not buy India’s ‘national security’ excuse

Why India Is On The Cusp Of Explosive Growth, If Only We Fix Our Banks

September 07, 2016

Companies around the globe have a lot of money to invest, thanks to near-zero interest rates, and India is the obvious choice for investment. 

The only challenge for India in this regard is its weak banks. But that can be fixed with the help of a few bold moves. 

There are two ways of looking at India’s problems: one is to look inward, where we will find a myriad problems, from stacks of bad bank loans to corporates unable to invest, to the slowdown in job creation, to a weak export market, to a violent crisis in Jammu & Kashmir, and so on and so forth.

The other way is to look at India outside in. The world is a more troubled place than India. The central banks have failed to reverse the gloom that began in 2008, terrorism is raising its ugly head in Europe and the refugee crisis is threatening to make things worse, West Asia is a war zone in many places, Chinese banks are about to implode, Russia is struggling due to low commodity prices, Japan is about to try its nth stimulus package.

The biggest thing is this: barring China, interest rates are close to zero in the big, developed economies. This is unsustainable. Money has to find profitable investment somewhere.

The biggest companies in the world, which were the main beneficiaries of the unlimited flow of free cash from central banks, now have over $7 trillion in cash reserves and nowhere to invest, unless they spend it all in internal mergers and acquisitions. That $7 trillion in cash was counted around mid-2014, and could now be even larger. America’s tech biggies, from Apple to Microsoft and Google, collectively hoard more than $400 billion in cash. The top 10 US cash hoarders hold over $650 billion between them – one-third of India’s GDP; over 5,000 corporations around the world held nearly $5.7 trillion among them in end-2013. The cash mountain has only gotten higher since then, as most tech giants have spun more money out of thin air.

Pakistan's Next Army Chief: Will Nawaz Sharif Have a Say?

By Amitava Mukherjee
09 Sep , 2016

A war of authority between the civil and military authorities of Pakistan over the selection of a new army chief is likely to take place as Raheel Sharif, the incumbent chief of the Pakistan army, is set to retire in coming November. Already the army has forced Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, to appoint retired Lieutenant General Zamirul Hassan Shah as the new defence secretary, although the civilian government had at first rejected Zamirul Hassan’s name and called for a change in army’s recommendation. But, the army refused to budge. 

Speculation is rife in concerned circles that the ongoing tension in Indo-Pak relations may influence the ultimate selection of the next Pakistan army chief and that a hawk may occupy the position. That the army had felt comfortable enough to send the name of a retired Lieutenant General for the post of the defence secretary is a clear indication that Nawaz Sharif has lost much of his political as well as governmental authority. But Sharif, the wily politician, must have had enough of the army’s shenanigans and it is equally probable that he might choose the next army chief depending on the latter’s attitude to the civilian government.

There are four senior Lieutenant Generals in line from whom Nawaz Sharif is expected to pick up his next army chief. The senior most among them is Zubair Hayat, the present Chief of General Staff (CGS). Hayat is a voracious reader and is known to be an ‘intellectual’ in the armed forces. In the race for the army top slot, Hayat is now in an advantageous position because his previous stint as the Director General of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which looks after the country’s nuclear command and strategic assets, had given him an opportunity to work directly and in a close manner with Nawaz Sharif.

Has Pakistan's Zarb-e-Azb military operation failed?

Two terror attacks in the northwestern region and the military's claim of averting "Islamic State" attacks have put a big question mark on the "success" of the Pakistani army's Zarb-e-Azb operation against Islamists.

A suicide bomber targeted a court in the northwestern city of Mardan, killing at least 12 people just hours after gunmen stormed a Christian neighborhood in Peshawar - some 30 miles from the site of the second attack - leaving one member of the minority Christian community dead. Both attacks were claimed by the Jamaatul Ahrar (JA) organization, a splinter group of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

It is not the first time that Islamists have targeted lawyers or the Christian community in Pakistan. In March, a Taliban bomber attacked Christians celebrating Easter in Lahore, killing some 70 people. On August 8, a suicide bomber killed 77 people, mostly lawyers, in an attack in the southwestern city of Quetta. The attack was claimed by both the Taliban as well as the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS).

The militant groups continue to target civilians despite the military's claim that its Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which has been ongoing for more than two years, has been a huge success.

A day before the Mardan and Peshawar attacks, Asim Bajwa, the Director General of the Pakistani army's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said that security forces had killed 3,500 terrorists since the launch of Zarb-e-Azb military campaign in June 2014.

The rise and fall of Altaf Hussain

The rise and fall of Altaf Hussain

"No one dared showany disrespect to the party or its leader.” At one of the MQM’s party offices which was demolished by authorities in Karachi, Pakistan.

The MQM without Altaf Bhai offers hope, but also brings forth the fear of blood feuds for the citizens.

There was a time, not long ago, when the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) controlled Karachi completely, run and dominated by its leader Altaf Hussain in self-imposed exile in London. After being formed in 1986, the MQM used to say that in Karachi not even a leaf would bristle without Bhai’s permission. He was called a Pir Sahib for many years, Quaid-e-Tehrik (leader of the movement), Rahber (guide), and always Altaf Bhai. A strike call in Karachi would paralyse the city as Altaf Bhai would address his muhajir disciples over the phone or video links, carried live by every TV channel that wanted to be spared the wrath of the party militants for not showing Bhai’s address. If ever there was a party which once resembled those called ‘fascist’, it was the MQM. No one dared show any disrespect to the party or its leader.

A party of hope

It was not just the fear of reprisal and untold consequences which made the MQM, until the 2013 elections, the third largest parliamentary party in Pakistan since elections on a party basis began in 1988, but also widespread electoral support. This they managed as representatives of the petit-bourgeoisie and sections of a linguistic or ethnic middle class. The Urdu-speaking migrant electorate of the Sindh province — that eventually appropriated the political category ‘muhajir’ rather than just the Urdu meaning of the word ‘migrant’ — almost all of whom are urban, had seen great hope in the party which emerged as a major political player. The migrants (or refugees) who came from parts of India, but especially those who spoke Urdu, many from in and around U.P., and settled in Sindh and in the federal capital, Karachi, had belonged to what were considered to be more educated, skilled, and in line with the official structures of power that emerged in the newly created state of Pakistan.

These Men are Our Warriors

by Major General Bob Scales, U.S. Army, Retired
September 5, 2016

After 14 years of war the ground services, the Army and Marine Corps remain starved of new, cutting-edge, lifesaving matériel, while the Department of Defense and its big defense company allies continue to spend generously on profitable big-ticket programs like planes, ships, missiles, and computers.

Soldiers’ and Marines’ “stuff” today is more Popular Mechanics than Star Wars . . . . [The latter would have been better] in Afghanistan had the nation spent a bit more to give [our forces] an overwhelming, in fact dominant, technological edge over the enemy.

After suffering almost 7,000 dead Soldiers and Marines, the nation still cannot offer an advantage to those who do most of the dying. Our Soldiers and Marines should have gone into Iraq and Afghanistan ready for an unfair fight—that is, unfair in their own favor—at the squad level . . . More Soldiers and Marines might have been saved had . . . body armor been provided before they started on the march to Baghdad in 2003. Too many Soldiers and Marines died from primitive roadside bombs, “improvised explosive devices,” or IEDs, during the early days in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon weapons-buying bureaucracy was too slow in supplying the troops with explosive-resistant vehicles to protect against IEDs.

Army and Marine Corps infantry squads were outgunned in Vietnam by the North Vietnamese Army’s superior AK-47 assault rifles. One would think that maybe, 50 years later, infantry Soldiers and Marines would be able to fire a bullet costing about 30 cents that did not disintegrate in the air. A $200 aiming device developed for hunters would provide the precision needed to hit a distant enemy target with the same relative precision as that of the rifles used by the Taliban. The Army has yet to buy it.

For more than two-thirds of a century, this country has preferred to crush its enemies by exploiting its superiority in the air and on the seas. Unfortunately, these efforts to win with firepower over manpower have failed to consider the fact that the enemy has a vote. From Mao Zedong to Ho Chi Minh to Osama bin Laden, all our enemies have recognized that our vulnerable strategic center of gravity is dead Americans. It is no surprise that the tactic common to them all has been to kill Americans, not as a means to an end but as an end in itself. Every enemy has ceded us those domains where we are dominant—the air and the sea. They challenge us instead where we are weak: small units, on ground unfamiliar to us but familiar to them.

It’s in China’s Interest to Realise Indian Concern

By Claude Arpi
09 Sep , 2016

One Belt One Road is a great initiative, but it’s not an easy one. What looks like a masterstroke on paper, will turn into a nightmare for both China and Pakistan if India is not brought on board

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou in China, he is believed to have raised the topics of terrorism originating in Pakistan as well as the mega China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. Modi told Xi that New Delhi and Beijing must be sensitive to each other’s ‘strategic concerns’, which include terrorism from Pakistan, the CPEC crossing through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Though Foreign Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup did not confirm if Modi raised the NSG issue: “I am not going into specifics, but if you read between the lines, you can pretty well understand that when we talk of strategic interests and aspirations,” he said that the Indian Prime Minister advocated that “to ensure durable bilateral ties, and steady development, it is of paramount importance that we respect each other’s aspirations, concerns and strategic interests.”

When in 2013, President Xi first spoke of a project “envisioning a trade and infrastructure network that would connect Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient land and sea routes,” very few realised that the One Belt One Road (OBOR) ‘initiative’ had many similarities with the 19th century’s great game. At that time, the OBOR’s declared objective was to increase connectivity between Europe, Asia and Africa. However, a simple look at a map shows that practically, India is left out of the scheme while the creation of several economic corridors mainly benefited China.
Steve Levine wrote in Quartz magazine that the infrastructure that the British built everywhere during the 19th century “enabled their power like bones and veins in a body. …Great nations have done this since Rome paved 55,000 miles (89,000 km) of roads and aqueducts in Europe. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Russia and the US established their own imprint, skewering and taming nearby territories… Now it’s the turn of the Chinese.”

Hillary and the Case of the Chinese Defector

Bill Gertz 
September 6, 2016 

Clinton Turned Away High-Level Chinese Defector to Assist Beijing Leaders 

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton turned away a high-ranking Chinese defector who sought political asylum after the communist police chief sought refuge in a U.S. consulate in southwestern China four years ago. 

Critics say Clinton’s handling of the defection of Wang Lijun, a close aide to a regional Communist Party leader, was a blunder and lost opportunity for U.S. intelligence to gain secrets about the leaders of America’s emerging Asian adversary. 

Instead of sheltering Wang and granting him political asylum, Clinton agreed to turn him over to Chinese authorities in Beijing, and claimed he was not qualified for American sanctuary because of his past role as a police chief accused of corruption. 

However, the defector’s case highlights Clinton’s policy of seeking to preserve U.S. ties with China’s communist leadership instead of pursuing much-needed intelligence gathering on China at a time when Beijing is emerging as an increasingly threatening power. 

Clinton defended the betrayal of Wang in her 2014 memoir, Hard Choices. The former secretary and current Democratic presidential nominee revealed in the book that the U.S. government agreed to keep secret all details of Wang’s sensational defection attempt in order to help Beijing’s Communist rulers avoid public embarrassment over a major internal power struggle and high-level corruption scandal months ahead of then-Chinese leader Hu Jintao’s transfer of power to current supreme leader Xi Jinping. 

The Secrets of China’s Strategic Support Force

By Ying Yu Lin
August 31, 2016

With the creation of the SSF, China’s reorganized military hopes to foster integrated joint operations capabilities. 

China’s long-rumored military reforms became real in November 2015 when Chinese President Xi Jinping made important remarks at a meeting of the Central Military Commission (CMC) on military reforms. Xi, who also serves as CMC chairman, provided a basic outline of the military reforms, including the replacement of military regions with battle zones as well as other major structural adjustments. The key point was the establishment of a new military structure with a chain of command that gives orders top-down, from the CMC to battle zones and subordinate units, as well as a new corresponding military administrative structure. In other words, the CMC is to take direct command, while the five battle zones are to be responsible for operations, and each service is to focus its efforts on building combat strength. These adjustments started taking shape in January 2016 and the five battle zones (in place of the existing seven military regions) were set up the next month, marking the most significant change to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in decades.

The newly established Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force (SSF), two new services of the PLA, were some of the major changes to the military’s structure. The transformation of the Second Artillery Corps (SAC) into the Rocket Force was not a surprise, as the SAC had already been an independent military branch under the direct control of the CMC. With the mission to “deter against hostile forces in all territories with both conventional and nuclear warheads,” the PLA Rocket Force, like its predecessor, the SAC, is responsible for the stockpile of surface-to-surface strategic and tactical ballistic missiles, which are China’s “lethal weapons” in its nuclear deterrence strategy.

For long-term observers of the PLA’s development, that the SAC was restructured as the Rocket Force was not surprising. The establishment of the SSF, however, was a different story; to many specialists, the SSF represented a major break in tradition. In addition, after China announced its establishment, media reports on the SSF have been scarce. The new service is veiled in mystery. 

3 Years on, Where Does China’s Silk Road Stand?

August 31, 2016

A look at the successes and complications of Xi’s signature project. 

Three years ago, during a visit to Kazakhstan, Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled what has come to be his signature foreign policy initiative: the Silk Road Economic Belt. Speaking on September 7, 2013 at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Xi urged China and Kazakhstan to “work together to build the Silk Road Economic Belt.” In the speech, Xi described a vague vision for renewing the ancient Silk Road in order to “forge closer economic ties, deepen cooperation, and expand development space in the Eurasian region.”

Since then, the policy has been both fleshed out and elevated. So much so that some reference to the Silk Road Economic Belt and its overseas counterpart, the Maritime Silk Road, makes its way into statements at every meeting between a Chinese official and his or her Asian or European counterparts. According to remarks from Xi Jinping at a symposium on the Belt and Road held in Beijing on August 17 of this year, over 100 countries and international organizations have agreed to participate. Of those, 34 have signed formal inter-governmental cooperation agreements with China.

Those agreements have come with a raft of Chinese money. Chinese media report investments of nearly $15 billion by Chinese companies in 49 countries along the Belt and Road route in 2015. Much more is on the horizon in the form of planned projects. Read the full story here, in The Diplomat magazine

Or, read the full story with the app

Japan's Military Has Some Serious Problems (As China's Military Gets Stronger)

September 7, 2016 

In late August, the Japan Ground Self Defense Force (GSDF) held its annual ‘Fuji Firepower Demonstration’ at a training area near Mt. Fuji.

During this event, the GSDF shoots off tons of ordnance and ammunition and puts its troops ‘into action’ with helicopters, tanks, and other hardware.

The impressively orchestrated performance draws tens of thousands of Japanese spectators – most apparently unaware they are observing what is, in effect, high-priced ‘kabuki’ that masks serious national defense shortfalls.

This year’s event simulated an ‘island re-taking’ scenario, an operation hard to replicate at a landlocked training area. The GSDF always puts on a good show and the troops are professionals. But one might leave with the wrong impression; specifically, that the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) is a finely tuned force capable of defending Japan.

Instead, the event is a reminder that the JSDF is less than the sum of its parts, and it highlights a number of GSDF and JSDF shortcomings. The Japanese Government (GOJ) needs to remedy these shortcomings, lest it find itself militarily impotent in the face of its powerful and belligerent Chinese neighbor.

In other words, GOJ must fix these problems or face probable strategic military defeat – perhaps without a shot being fired.

Key shortcomings follow:

China’s Oil Paralysis An Opportunity For India To Enhance Energy Security

September 07, 2016

China’s state-owned oil companies have drastically reduced investment in foreign oil fields in the last two years.

This paralysis should mean that one major potential global buyer of oil fields is out of the race, and India can maximise its chances in the oil business.

China’s state-owned oil companies, which were extremely active between 2002 and 2013 acquiring foreign oil fields, have gone really quiet over the past three years, with oil prices crashing and oil fields available at much lower prices than before. The reason for this is a mix of internal politics and weakening financials, the latter driven by the acquisition binge of the past decade.

Their paralysis means that one major potential global buyer of oil fields is out of the race, which should mean lower asset prices for other buyers, such as India, and Indian companies ought to make the most of this window of opportunity, of a market with few buyers at a time when assets are cheap.

This impasse that Chinese firms are going through also shows the downside of a system where the dominant political party is closely intertwined with all sectors of the economy: most senior officials of state-owned companies are also members of the Chinese Communist Party.

From 2002-2010, China’s state-owned oil companies – led by Sinopec, CNOOC and PetroChina – spent $83.2 billion, acquiring oil and gas fields across the world. The next three years (2011-2013), Chinese firms were in overdrive, spending an additional $72.5 billion on oil fields. The year 2013 saw three of the biggest deals ever by Chinese firms (Refer Table 1).

10 new wars that could be unleashed as a result of the one against ISIS

By Liz Sly 
September 7 2016

Turkish soldiers drive back to Turkey from the Syrian-Turkish border town of Jarabulus on Sept. 2. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images) 

The borders of the Islamic State's "caliphate" are shrinking fast. The group’s strongholds in Iraq and Syria are collapsing one by one. The U.S.-led war has reached a point where questions are being raised about what comes next. 

So far, the answer seems likely to be: more war. 

That’s partly because the U.S. strategy for defeating the Islamic State relies on a variety of regional allies and local armed groups who are often bitterly at odds. Though all of them regard the Islamic State as an enemy, most of them regard one another as enemies, too. As they conquer territory from the militants, they are staking out claims to the captured lands in ways that risk bringing them into conflict with others who are also seizing territory. New wars are brewing, for control of the post-Islamic State order. 

Here is a list of 10 of them, in no particular order. There are doubtless more. Some have already started. Others may never happen. But any one of them could increase the Islamic State’s chances of survival, perpetuating the conditions that enabled the group to thrive — and perhaps entangling the United States in the region for many years to come. 

WAR NO. 1: U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces and Turkish-backed Arab forces 

Sept. 11 Legacy: One Endless War Against Many Radical Enemies

September 6, 2016

U.S. Army soldiers take up a position during a patrol in Baghdad in 2007. The U.S. has been waging war nonstop for 15 years since the Sept. 11 attacks. Despite the protracted conflicts and disappointing results, U.S. involvement in multiple wars appears set to continue for years to come.

In the quarter-century from the end of the Vietnam War in the 1970s until Sept. 11, 2001, the United States rarely went to war, and when it did, the conflicts were so brief they were measured in days. The Gulf War in 1991 lasted 43 days. Airstrikes in the former Yugoslavia in 1995 went on for 22 days, followed by another round in 1999, that time for 78 days.

But since the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States has been fighting every single day for 15 straight years, the longest unbroken period in American history. The U.S. has carried out airstrikes, sent in ground forces, or both, in seven countries stretching from Pakistan in the east to Libya in the west. None of these conflicts has been resolved, and all signs point to years of strife ahead.

Sept. 11 has reshaped the U.S. in countless ways, but perhaps the most profound has been the transformation from a country where peacetime was the norm into one seemingly locked into a permanent state of war. Yet strangely, the country doesn't feel much like it's at war.

"Like the war on drugs or the war on poverty, the war for the greater Middle East has become a permanent fixture in American life and is accepted as such," writes Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel and professor at Boston University.

Former US Commanders Take Increasingly Dim View of War on ISIS

September 1, 2016

It’s a most peculiar war: rarely has the U.S. been killing so many while risking so few. The U.S. is beating ISIS handily, judging by Vietnam’s body-count metric. The total number of ISIS battlefield deaths claimed by U.S. officials has jumped, from 6,000 in January 2015 to 45,000 last month—a bloodbath for an enemy force estimated to number about 30,000. Three U.S. troops have died. That’s an eye-watering U.S.-to-ISIS “kill ratio” of 15,000-to-1. “We’ve got good momentum going,” General Joseph Votel, chief of U.S. Central Command, who is overseeing the war, said Tuesday. “We are really into the heart of the caliphate.”

But some of his predecessors disagree. James Mattis, a retired Marine general who commanded Central Command from 2010 to 2013, says the war on ISIS is “unguided by a sustained policy or sound strategy [and is] replete with half-measures.” Anthony Zinni, a retired Marine four-star who held the same post from 1997 to 2000, says he doesn’t think he could do so today. “I don’t want to be part of a strategy that in my heart of hearts I know is going to fail,” he says. “It’s a bad strategy, it’s the wrong strategy, and maybe I would tell the President that he would be better served to find somebody who believes in it, whoever that idiot may be.”

Day after day, American warplanes, sometimes joined by allies, have been attacking individual ISIS targets, down to backhoes and foxholes. ISIS has lost 40% of its Iraqi territory, the Pentagon says, and 5% in Syria. It doesn’t seem to have lost any of the terrain it has staked out on the internet. That’s slow progress by a 27-state military alliance against a two-year-old rump state…

The next frontier for digital technologies in oil and gas

By Harsh Choudhry, Azam Mohammad, Khoon Tee Tan, and Richard Ward

Harnessing new technologies could boost efficiency—a mandate that’s especially important for oil and gas players globally. 

Over the past several years, the global oil and gas industry has had to navigate very choppy waters; after a prolonged run of high and growing rig counts, mega-capital-expenditure projects, and plentiful capital to support investment, oil prices slid precipitously in 2014 and 2015. Within a matter of months, oil companies that had invested heavily based on rosy forecasts were slowing or even halting operations

A recent price rebound has increased optimism slightly, and efforts are under way to contain costs by reducing head count, postponing projects, and cutting spending. Still, in the face of uncertain long-term forecasts, it is time to explore more drastic strategies to boost efficiency. 

In response to recent technological advancements, oil executives should consider digital technologies with the potential to transform operations and create additional profits from existing capacity. Our research finds that the effective use of digital technologies in the oil and gas sector could reduce capital expenditures by up to 20 percent; it could cut operating costs in upstream by 3 to 5 percent and by about half that in downstream. 

Oil and gas companies were pioneers of the first digital age in the 1980s and 1990s. Long before phrases such as big data, advanced analytics, and the Internet of Things became popular, oil executives were making use of 3-D seismic, linear program modeling of refineries, and advanced process control for operations. The use of such technologies unleashed new hydrocarbon resources and delivered operational efficiencies across the value chain. 

Ukraine Seeks an Unmanned Edge on the Battlefield

September 06, 2016

As the conflict in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian rebels enters its second year, Kiev is trying to gain technical leverage by investing in advanced battlefield technologies.

In August, the Ukrainian defense industrial conglomerate Ukroboronprom showcased two unmanned platforms -- the Gorlitsa unmanned aerial vehicle and the Phantom unmanned wheeled platform. The high-profile unveiling was attended by the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Alexander Turchinov, Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak, and Commander of the National Guard of Ukraine Yuriy Aller, along with the directors of more than 100 industrial members of Ukroboronprom.

The domestically produced Gorlitsa is expected to have a range of 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) and to carry various munitions. Meanwhile, the United States is assisting Ukrainian capabilities with the delivery of 24 short-range Raven mini-UAVs as part of an aid package -- the Raven is widely used by American and other forces across the world.

While unmanned aerial systems are broadening their spread across the world's conflict zones, land-based unmanned vehicles are covering new terrain on the battlefield. According to respected military blog BMPD, the unmanned multipurpose tactical vehicle Phantom was presented as a remote-controlled 6x6 vehicle. The prototype features a turret equipped with a 12.7-mm machine gun and is supposedly equipped with a day-and-night sighting system that allows for firing at any time to a distance of more than 1 kilometer. Phantom is equipped with a hybrid engine -- pairing a gasoline generator and electric motors -- as well as a power reserve of up to 20 kilometers. The vehicle is controlled over a secure radio range of up to 2.5 kilometers or via an optical fiber cable with a length of 5 kilometers. The prototype is designed for transporting ammunition and evacuating the wounded from the battlefield, and to perform a variety of combat missions. Earlier this year, Russia also unveiled an unmanned ground vehicle prototypedesigned for battle -- the tracked, tank-like Uran-9 platform is expected to be fielded with the Russian military and even exported abroad.

Infrastructure as a Tool of Foreign Policy


The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is China's answer to the multi-trillion dollar infrastructure spending gap in Asia. However, many see the bank as an extension of Chinese geopolitical influence. As leaders from Group of 20 (G20), representing 85 percent of global GDP, met in Hangzhou China last weekend, The Cipher Brief sat down with Parag Khanna, author of “Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization,” to discuss the merits of the AIIB and how American policymakers should deal with the bank.

TCB: In your book, Connectography, you talk about how it is incorrect to view international trade and economics in the framework of national competition. Is that still true in the case of something like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which is often seen to be in direct competition with Western institutions?

PK: The AIIB is infrastructure as a tool of grand strategy, it’s infrastructure as a tool of foreign policy, it’s infrastructure as a tool of empire-building and hegemony, and within that there are competitive dynamics. But, first and foremost, it’s a Chinese project that is multilateralized, in the same way that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an American project that is multilateralized. This is why I refer to the AIIB as the “new NATO of the East” in Connectography.

However, the AIIB doesn’t just compete with western institutions, it also overlaps because its membership overlaps with western organizations. You could never have imagined members of the Warsaw Pact also being members of NATO - that would make no sense. But today, you have American allies like South Korea, Australia, Canada and all of Europe joining the AIIB, which makes Washington’s head explode. But that reaction misses the fact that we no longer live in a set of rigid blocs because infrastructure is connecting all of these regions. Even though we think of individual countries and alliances as competing, in reality they are also collaborating.

Ukraine’s Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace

September 7, 2016 

Kiev thinks it’s ready to face an endless list of enemies. But it can’t.

By tradition, the Ukrainian political season begins the week after independence day—August 24. This year’s celebration was especially poignant, as it marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of Ukraine’s declaration of independence.

What was the public’s mood on the eve of this silver anniversary? A survey conducted this August by SOCIS, one of Ukraine’s best known sociopolitical research and marketing companies, provides a rather striking answer.

The survey, which was conducted in Odessa, Ukraine’s third-largest city, suggests that over half of Odessans describe their city as “tense,” while nearly ten percent say it is “explosive.” But even more interesting is that Odessans view the situation in Ukraine overall as much worse, with over ninety percent describing it as either “tense” or “explosive”!

Lest readers think that Odessa is an anomaly, I should point out that these results do not differ substantively from surveys conducted in February or June2016, which show a steady decline in public trust in government since the 2014 Maidan uprising.