16 April 2014

NEW APPROACH TO OLD FOE - There are many benefits in a closer relationship with Pakistan

Writing on the wall - Ashok V. Desai 

In my last column I summarized what Ishtiaq Ahmed wrote about Partition. I found it informative and wise. Naturally, many Pakistanis were incensed. Jinnah is their premier hero; the idea that he could have made a mistake is anathema for them. And having fought and got Pakistan, they can hardly accept that it was a mistake. So Ishtiaq Ahmed got some choice abuse. Some Indians also responded; they were generally smug and satisfied, happy to have got rid of those mad Westerners.

I lived through those years of war, Quit India, mass imprisonment of Gandhians, Independence and Partition; I remember newspapers reporting every day the number of corpses picked up on the streets of Bombay. I share the general view that Jinnah was good riddance, and that it is best for Pakistan to be a separate, independent country. I am sure our perception of history needs corrections, such as those made by Jaswant Singh, and now, Ishtiaq Ahmed. But we are lucky it is history. What matters is the future.

And that is where both India and Pakistan are missing opportunities. They are both acting like elephants in the living room; they have made normal life difficult for their citizens and their neighbours. But let me not waste time scolding them, and make some constructive suggestions. They would have been wasted on the government of Manmohan Singh, who was not bold enough to get closer even to Bangladesh, let alone Pakistan. There is a chance that we will get a bold, almost brash prime minister; I will keep him in mind.

Let Asia Go Nuclear

April 14, 2014

America’s policy of opposing the proliferation of nuclear weapons needs to be more nuanced. What works for the United States in the Middle East may not in Asia. We do not want Iran or Saudi Arabia to get the bomb, but why not Australia, Japan, and South Korea? We are opposed to nuclear weapons because they are the great military equalizer, because some countries may let them slip into the hands of terrorists, and because we have significant advantage in precision conventional weapons. But our opposition to nuclear weapons in Asia means we are committed to a costly and risky conventional arms race with China over our ability to protect allies and partners lying nearer to China than to us and spread over a vast maritime theater.

None of our allies in Asia possess nuclear weapons. Instead, they are protected by what is called extended deterrence, our vaguely stated promise to use nuclear weapons in their defense if they are threatened by regional nuclear powers, China, North Korea and Russia. We promise, in essence, to trade Los Angeles for Tokyo, Washington for Canberra, and Seattle for Seoul, as preposterous as that might seem.

In order to avoid such a test of our will, the United States attempts to contain China in particular, but others as well, via a conventional force buildup—the so-called pivot to Asia. We station tens of thousands of troops in Japan and South Korea, and are expanding our presence in Guam, Australia, Singapore, and the Philippines. The conventional challenge is China’s ability to deny access for US forces in or near the island chains that are our Asian allies and that at the same time guard China. As China’s military grows the access issue becomes more problematic because of China’s ability to saturate the zone with missiles and aircraft that can threaten our military presence. The Air-Sea Battle operational concept, a costly networking of missile defenses, long-range-strike capabilities and naval forces has been the US military’s response. Billions are being spent by the United States to assure our Asian allies of our will to protect them conventionally as well with extended nuclear deterrence.


A furious war of words continues between the BNP and the Awami League, with each contesting the other’s version of history, writes Subir Bhaumik 

Ziaur Rahman was the first president of Bangladesh, and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman an “illegal prime minister” — with an Awami League government in power since January 2009, such claims sound like blasphemy. But this is exactly what the senior vice-chairman of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Tarique Rahman, wants all to believe. He is the eldest son of the late General Ziaur Rahman, the country’s first military dictator, and his widow, Begum Khaleda Zia, now the BNP chairperson. He emerged as the real centre of power during his mother’s last term as prime minister between 2001-2006, although controversies over his reported excesses continue to be a talking point.

For the last six years, however, Tarique has been living in London since he was booked in money-laundering cases by the military-backed caretaker government, which took charge after the BNP’s term ended in 2006. The Awami League government that came to power in January 2009 pursued these cases, although Tarique was absolved of charges in one of them for insufficient evidence. Officially, Tarique is in London for medical treatment, but he has been belatedly very active in raising issues through meetings and party events, betraying no signs of sickness.

In one such event on the eve of Bangladesh’s Independence Day this year, Tarique claimed that his father was the first president of Bangladesh. The basis for that claim was strange — as a young major of the Pakistan army, Ziaur Rahman had taken over for a while the radio station at Chittagong and read out the proclamation of Independence soon after the Pakistani military crackdown on March 26, 1971. But the founder of the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, Belal Mohammed, had reiterated on several occasions that Zia had read out the proclamation of Independence on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the undisputed leader of the Bengali struggle in East Pakistan. Tarique shocked the nation by claiming that the Bangladeshis had fought the Liberation War “only responding to Zia’s call to arms”.

Why China Prefers Europe to the United States

April 14, 2014

Not too long ago, members of the Chinese policy elite were still debating whether China's ties with the United States would constitute their most important bilateral relationship. There was a consensus that China could become mostly trouble-free in its rapid rising to global power, as long as the U.S.-China relationship was stable. The idea that China should start pursuing a westward geopolitical strategy across the Eurasian continent toward Europe, and downgrade its heavy reliance on the geopolitical structures of the Asia-Pacific, was viewed in Beijing with much skepticism only a decade ago. But not anymore.

Relations between China and the United States are today at a crossroads. China is now the second-largest economy in the world and is projected to surpass the United States in the near future. China has also increased its political and military clout commensurate with its economic power. From the U.S. perspective - which is deeply rooted in the Westphalian conception of a world order based on balance of power and sovereignty - this relationship is a "Thucydidean trap," which arises whenever a rising power challenges an established one. Thus the greatest problem is finding a realpolitik or power-backed framework in which both nations can work to avoid strategic miscalculations.

Naturally the U.S. approach has involved an emphasis on the military balance, while China's leaders have proposed that China and the United States seek a new type of great power relationship. But nothing has come out of this idea, for there is hardly any meeting of the minds between the two leaderships. China is perceived in Washington as having a strategy for achieving one long-term goal: forcing the United States to cede its role as the dominant power in the Asia-Pacific. Beijing seems to calculate that its time has not yet arrived. To escape this inevitable trap, which usually leads to war, Beijing is seen to be biding its time while actively preparing for inevitable conflict.

Europeans, however, rarely think this way. The European Union and China have no geopolitical conflicts at all, and neither side perceives the other as a long-term military rival. Instead, talk of cooperation, dialogue, and multipolarity in the new world order prevail over the Eurasian mainland. Despite the euro crisis, mainstream European politicians and policy elites do not use China as a scapegoat, and are hardly persuaded by the Thucydidean trap argument. The relative decline of U.S. influence in world affairs has provided conditions that are more conducive than ever to producing genuine understanding between China and the EU.

Ukraine in crisis

The disappearing country Apr 13th 2014
by T.J. | SLOVIANSK, UKRAINE (for now)

THE KIEV authorities' hold on Donbas and much of the wider region of eastern Ukraine has disappeared. President Oleksandr Turchynov had said that a military operation was imminent and that anyone who left the seized buildings by 6am on April 14th would not be prosecuted.

But by nightfall, as fog covered the Donbas, it was clear that no concerted government action to take back the region was under way. The region’s police appear to have defected en masse to the pro-Russian side. Police buildings in the town of Sloviansk and Kramatorskfell to armed men on April 12th and there were reports of other municipal buildings being taken elsewhere. A Ukrainian security services operation to restore authority in Sloviansk failed. Military or police helicopters flew over the town and unconfirmed sources said crowds prevented them from landing. 

Along the highway leading from the regional capital, Donetsk, barricades have gone up, manned by men wielding clubs and metal batons. Some are armed with guns. At the entrance to Sloviansk, bigger barricades have been erected. In nearby Kramatorsk, small groups of men stood by the police station and nearby barricades.

On the morning of April 13th Arsen Avakov, the Ukrainian interior minister, announced that a fight-back for the east of the country was beginning. A few hours later a film was circulating of stalled armoured personal-carriers, a slumped man who appeared dead and another one on the ground apparently wounded. Mr Avakov said that one had died and five had been wounded in the shootout.

Another film showed a group of well-organised men in military uniform storming the police station in Kramatorsk. They are seen to be followed by men in civilian clothes. On April 13th a few dozen unarmed men were manning new barricades by the police station. The military unit seen in the film was no longer in evidence, having possibly moved elsewhere. Ukrainian officials say they are troops from Russia.

Earlier in the day, at the barricade leading into Sloviansk, the first line of defence was a group of old ladies holding icons and saying they wanted nothing but peace. Behind them was a tyre barricade. On the side Molotov cocktails were being prepared. Behind this were men with clubs, who appeared to listen to orders being given by two uniformed armed men.

Russian flags and those of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic were flying at all the barricades and seized buildings. But what people want is unclear. Some say they want more autonomy, some want a federal Ukraine and some want to be incorporated by Russia. In Sloviansk small groups in front of the barricades by the seized police station chanted: “Donbas rise up!”

Many people railed against their low quality of life. They shouted that they worked hard while western Ukrainians were lazy and had to be subsidised by them. No one who supported the Ukrainian government was in evidence. On the outskirts of Kramatorsk, Dimitry Padushkin was quarreling with a small group of men sent to stand at the entrance of a decrepit and non-functioning municipal airport that he said he owned.

Away from the group of men, who said they had been posted there to see that no Ukrainian forces landed, Mr Padushkin said that local pro-Ukrainians were frightened. “Of course there will be conflict,” he said. And for Russia, “this region will not be enough. They want everything. They will take all Ukraine.”

China Has Begun Listening for American Submarines

Undersea sensors could follow subs’ movements 
David Axe in War is Boring

China has begin installing sensitive hydrophones on the floor of the China Seas in an effort to detect and track submarines belonging to the U.S. and its allies.

Lyle Goldstein and Shannon Knight, both highly-respected naval analysts, described the new listening system as “startling” in a recent article inProceedings, a naval professional journal.

They claimed the “fixed ocean-floor acoustic array” is evidence that Beijing has begin to take seriously the incredible destructive power of enemy submarines—especially American ones.

China’s hydrophone system, which first appeared in 2012, apparently copies America’s own Sound Surveillance System, or SOSUS—an extensive network of hydrophones that helped the U.S. Navy track virtually all Soviet submarine movements starting in the mid-1950s.

The Soviets learned about SOSUS from American turncoat John Walker in 1968 and subsequently upgraded their sub designs to be quieter. In turn, the U.S. Navy enhanced SOSUS with better hydrophones and trawler vessels towing sensitive sonars.

At its peak effectiveness, SOSUS could detect submarines thousands of miles away. The hydrophone network was America’s “secret weapon,”according to the Navy—even when it wasn’t technically secret any more.

If China’s listening system is even half as effective as SOSUS, it could spell trouble for the U.S., Japanese and Australian navies, among China’s other rivals. The U.S.-led alliance’s numerous, high-tech submarines are its greatest advantage over Beijing’s rising military—and the surest guarantee against Chinese aggression.

If Beijing can reliably track American and allied subs, it can hunt them and potentially destroy them in wartime, thus defeating Washington’s first line of defense in the Pacific.

To be sure, there’s more to setting up a listening array than merely planting hydrophones in the seabed. SOSUS owed its success to steady investment and constant improvement over a period of 40 years—not to mention the U.S. Navy’s careful cultivation of a cadre of specialists able to interpret the array’s data output.

Chinese signaling in the East China Sea?

April 12

A Chinese coast guard vessel sails alongside the Japanese coast guard ship Katori in waters off the disputed East China Sea islands on Sept. 11, 2013. (Kyodo News via AP)

M. Taylor Fravel is an associate professor of political science at MIT and the author of “Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China’s Territorial Disputes.” Alastair Iain Johnston is the Gov. James Albert Noe and Linda Noe Laine Professor of China in World Affairs at Harvard University and the author of “Social States: China in International Institutions.”

The dispute between Japan and China over the sovereignty of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is one of the most volatile flashpoints in East Asia today. After the Japanese government purchased three of the contested rocks from a private Japanese citizen in September 2012, China began to use its coast guard to conduct regular patrols within the 12-nautical-mile territorial waters around the islands. These patrols have contributed to frictions in the Sino-Japanese relationship because they directly challenge Japan’s claim to sovereignty and administrative control. By increasing the number of ships in contested waters, China’s patrols also increase the risk of a collision or other accident that could escalate into an armed conflict between the region’s largest economies.

Daily records published by the Japanese Coast Guard on Chinese patrols suggest an intriguing change in the pattern of Chinese behavior since last fall. Although we are reluctant to infer too much about China’s bargaining strategies from these data alone, China’s history of crisis management and coercive diplomacy suggest that tactical, on-the-ground behavior offer one important means for signaling either escalation or de-escalation.

As Figure 1 shows, since October 2013 there has been a substantial decline in the frequency of Chinese patrols within the territorial waters of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Prior to that China conducted as many as four patrols per week within the islands’ territorial waters. Yet in October, more than three weeks passed in which no patrols occurred in the 12-mile zone (Oct. 2-27). Since then (our data is current as of April 4), the frequency of patrols has dropped and maintained a fairly steady average of about one patrol into the 12-mile zone every couple of weeks.

Does the US Have 'Trump Cards' Over China?

The idea that the U.S. has several “trump cards” to use against China ignores the complexity of U.S.-China relations. 
April 14, 2014

Although the war bugle has yet to be sounded, the increasingly confrontational tensions between China and the U.S. over a series of regional issues seem to indicate that both sides are trying to test the other’s red lines. Each side hopes to be able to lay significant strategic weights or threats on the other side without being actually dragged into a war. In a recent meeting, Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission Fan Changlong directly expressed his disapproval of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s remarks in Tokyo on the East China Sea dispute. “The Chinese people, including myself, are dissatisfied with such remarks,” Fan said. Such open and face-to-face criticism is not common in the history of China-U.S. relations.

In recognition of increased tensions, a recent article on Financial Times’ Chinese language site describes a “storm approaching” in current China-U.S. relations, indicating that the probability of a violent conflict between these two countries has been significantly increasing. This article also emphasizes that the U.S. has two trump cards to play: “First, [the U.S. could] utilize the fact that Chinese society is going through a grand transition that has brought about frequent incidents of social unrest and intensified confrontation between the public and the ruling party. [The U.S. could] seek a color revolution using the weapon of democracy. Secondly, [the U.S. could] obstruct China’s economic transformation by using its supremacy in global trade rule-making processes.”

However, analysis of these two so-called trump cards may in fact suggest that these are two weaknesses for the U.S. as it tries to balance the rapidly emerging China. At the least, it’s hard to prove that the U.S. has distinct advantages on these two matters.

First, it is a fact that conflicts and resistance in Chinese society have been increasing at an astonishing rate after years of social and economic transformation. According to The China Society Yearbook (2013) published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, recently there have been tens of thousands or even over a hundred thousand incidents of social unrest in China each year. Of these incidents, approximately 50 percent are caused by inappropriate land acquisitions, 30 percent are caused by environmental issues and labor disputes, and 20 percent stem from other various disputes. The question is: will these pockets of unrest directly and definitely lead to a color revolution in China?


By Michele Penna

Staring at Beijing on a smoggy winter day you wouldn’t think it, but in 2013 China strengthened its position as the world’s leading investor in clean technology. According to a recent research published by the Pew Charitable Trusts – a non-profit organization – last year the People’s Republic solidified its global preeminence, attracting US$54.2 billion in investments. Among other data, the paper points out that the People’s Republic has “the world’s most robust wind market” which alone attracted US$28 billion.

This may seem contradictory given that the Chinese market has shrunk by 6 percent in absolute terms. But at a time when clean energy investments worldwide have declined 20 percent from a 2011 record of $318 billion, the losses were offset by others’ troubles, while fast-growing countries – such as Japan – are still no match for the Chinese numbers.

The trend is deeply uneven. G-20 countries have generally underperformed: total investments in clean technology have declined overall by 16 percent. Only three of them – Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom – have been bumping up investments, with Japan at the forefront. In 2013 the land of the rising sun increased investments by 80 per cent and broke its national record, reaching an expenditure of $28.6 billion.

Looking at the global picture, it emerges that the most significant decreases come from a region which covers Europe, the Middle East and Africa, where “clean energy investment [..] declined sharply for the second year in a row, falling 42 percent in 2013 to levels not seen since the mid-2000s.” Overall, investments shrank to $55 billion, says the paper, “less than half the region’s 2011 record of $115 billion.” The last two years have inverted a trend which had been going on for a while, since this part of the globe used to be “the world’s most attractive clean energy market over the past decade”.

Much is to be blamed on Europe, where “major clean energy markets decreased considerably in 2013, with year-over-year investments down 55 percent in Germany, 75 percent in Italy, and 84 percent in Spain.” The only one going in the opposite direction is the United Kingdom, where “a few large offshore wind projects gained significant financing and several were completed.”


April 14, 2014 · by Fortuna's Corner 

Commentary: Russia and Ukraine — The Energy Angle
Posted on March 18, 2014 
by Amy Myers Jaffe in General

A giant sign for OAO Gazprom stands above a building in Moscow. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)

Even with all the speculation and debate about Vladimir Putin’s nationalistic motives for Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, there still seems to be room for more thoughtful consideration of the oil and gas aspects of the conflict. Putin may be a nationalist and he may primarily worry about Russia’s national cohesion and periphery but Russia is fundamentally a petro-state and it is important not to forget that fact in analyzing the thorny problem of Ukraine.

Russia relies heavily on oil and gas for its national budget and has been under pressure from the prospects of increased competition. So far, that competitive pressure is limited to the natural gas side but prospects that either Iraq or shale oil could uptick in the coming years pose a long term threat as well. When Putin analyzes who to back in the Middle East, he most certainly needs conflict to stifle oil and gas production expansion there. Mideast conflict is also good for Moscow’s budget woes.

Gazprom saw an 8 percent loss in export market share to Europe in 2012 and the problem is likely to get worse, not better, over time. The most important aspect of Gazprom’s export conundrum is not the revenue loss per se, though that is problematical. It is that Putin’s real inner circle is made up of oil and gas barons and there isn’t enough growth to go around. The European pie is shrinking and that leaves Igor Sechin (Rosneft), Gennady Timchenko (Novatec) and Alexey Miller (Gazprom) with a problem with each other. Novatec has picked off the plum domestic industrial customers for gas inside Russia, leaving Gazprom under even more pressure. All three entities are actively trying to capture the Asian market, so far without much luck. China has been favoring liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from Australia and elsewhere and piped gas from Central Asia, and prospects for Arctic development by Russia’s state behemoths looked highly risky even before the Ukraine mess.

The Ukraine protests, in a way, took an already acrimonious discussion about what to do about future Russian energy strategy and made it worse. For sure, the Kremlin cannot allow its own citizens to ask how Putin himself, Igor Sechin, Gennady Timchenko or Alexey Miller and their investor cadres got their wealth. So by extension, it cannot have the citizens of the Ukraine investigate how Dmitry Firtash made his. The gas trading schemes between the Ukraine and Russia are about as opaque as they come, with some analysts actually speculating that Russia has operatives inside the Ukraine who steal Russian gas as “Ukrainians” under orders from the Kremlin specifically so that Russia can intervene. Russia has made no secret that it is trying to use debt or other means to buy up critical energy infrastructure assets in Eastern Europe, including in the Ukraine, and European capitals now need to give pause before offering any more of its energy assets for sale. One Gazprom ploy has been to solicit France’s Total, Norway’s Statoil, Italy’s ENI and Germany’s Wintershall with investment goodies to try to weaken European political resolve on borders, supply contracts, liberalization and overall security relations.


April 14, 2014 · in Analysis

After Ukraine, conventional deterrence will be the main purpose of NATO’s armed forces. NATO contingency planning, operational training and defense planning will all revolve around conventional deterrence. Russia’s ready use of force in Ukraine, Georgia and beyond shows that its non-NATO neighbors are very much at risk for military intervention. President Putin challenges the post-Cold War order by breaking the rules underlying its stability. His means include the use of covert agents to stage unrest and create excuses for Russia to intervene in the supposed name of Russian-speaking minorities. Could Moscow apply the same measures in a NATO country with a significant Russian minority population, such as Latvia? This question should keep NATO leaders up at night and by the morning they should realize that the solution is conventional deterrence.

Why conventional deterrence? A superficial structural balance of power analysis suggests that Russia will be deterred by NATO’s nuclear arsenal and will therefore not launch Ukraine-style operations against NATO members. But NATO never relied on nuclear deterrence alone. For deterrence to work, a convincing part of it must exist in time and in place. Simply put, as the ability to project power declines with distance, so does the ability to deter. An American carrier group in the Pacific is not a carrier group in the Baltic or Black Seas. Some – credible – conventional deterrence is necessary in the region. Russia is less likely to overreach if its forces cannot cross the border unharmed.

When it comes to risk perceptions, geography matters and the relevant comparison may not be between Russia’s defense budget (around USD68 billion according to the Military Balance) and the U.S. budget (around 600 billion), but between Russia and the aggregate defense budgets of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (around 1.2 billion). While Russia is unlikely to commit the bulk of its armed forces in an incursion against a Baltic state, Russia’s conventional advantage in the region is still decisive. Only conventional deterrence can make sure that Russian decision-makers do not come to think that they could invade NATO territory without major military costs.

The credibility of deterrence rests on the actual ability to interdict and punish any challenger. The insurance premium has to be paid for insurance to work, and the lock on the door has to be locked to be effective. NATO’s contingency plans for the Baltic countries and beyond should be backed up by a corresponding change in the Level of Ambition (NATO’s agreed force posture) as well as in extended training and exercises and a repurposing of the NATO Response Force.

Go Ahead, Vladimir, Make My Day

APRIL 12, 2014

This story is included with an NYT Now subscription.

SO the latest news is that President Vladimir Putin of Russia has threatened to turn off gas supplies to Ukraine if Kiev doesn’t pay its overdue bill, and, by the way, Ukraine’s pipelines are the transit route for 15 percent of gas consumption for Europe. If I’m actually rooting for Putin to go ahead and shut off the gas, does that make me a bad guy?

Because that is what I’m rooting for, and I’d be happy to subsidize Ukraine through the pain. Because such an oil shock, though disruptive in the short run, could have the same long-term impact as the 1973 Arab oil embargo — only more so. That 1973 embargo led to the first auto mileage standards in America and propelled the solar, wind and energy efficiency industries. A Putin embargo today would be even more valuable because it would happen at a time when the solar, wind, natural gas and energy efficiency industries are all poised to take off and scale. So Vladimir, do us all a favor, get crazy, shut off the oil and gas to Ukraine and, even better, to all of Europe.Embargo! You’ll have a great day, and the rest of the planet will have a great century.

“Clean energy is at an inflection point,” explains Hal Harvey, C.E.O. of Energy Innovation. “The price reductions in the last five years have been nothing less than spectacular: Solar cells, for example, have dropped in cost by more than 80 percent in the last five years. This trend is underway, if a bit less dramatically, for wind, batteries, solid state lighting, new window technologies, vehicle drive trains, grid management, and more. What this means is that clean energy is moving from boutique to mainstream, and that opens up a wealth of opportunities.”

New houses in California now use one-fourth of the energy they used 25 years ago, added Harvey. Chevrolet, Dodge and Ford are in a contest to make the most efficient pickup — because their customers want to spend less on gasoline — so they are deploying new engines and lighter truck bodies. Texas now has enough wind to power more than 3 million homes. New Jersey generates more solar watts per person than California.

And check out Opower, which just went public. Opower works with utilities and consumers to lower electricity usage and bills using behavioral economics, explained Alex Laskey, the company’s co-founder, at their Arlington, Va., office. They do it by giving people personalized communications that display in simple, clear terms how their own energy usage compares with that of their neighbors. Once people understand where they are wasting energy — and how they compare with their neighbors — many start consuming less. And, as their consumption falls, utilities can meet their customers’ demand without having to build new power plants to handle peak loads a few days of the year. Everybody wins. Opower just signed up the Tokyo Electric Power Company and its 20 million homes.

The United States’ Middle East peace process paradox

Jackson DiehlDeputy Editorial Page Editor 

(Hazem Bader/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images) - A clash between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the West Bank town of Hebron on Friday. 

Monday, April 14

The Middle East “peace process” can look like an endless loop of diplomatic failures that leave Israelis and Palestinians stuck in in­trac­table conflict. So as the latest round of U.S.-sponsored negotiation teeters on the brink, it’s worth pointing out that during the course of the last 25 years the two peoples have made glacially slow but cumulatively enormous progress toward coexistence. In fact, they have traveled most of the path to a final settlement. 

A decisive majority of Israelis and the political elite have given up the dream of a “greater Israel” and accepted that a state of Palestine will be created in the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank. That was out of the question in 1990, when Secretary of State James Baker threw up his hands in frustration and advised the parties to “call us . . . when you are serious about peace.” 

Jackson Diehl 

The Post’s deputy editorial page editor, Diehl also writes a biweekly foreign affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog. 

Palestinians have dropped their denial of Israel’s right to exist and, for the most part, the tactics of terrorism and violence that undid the diplomacy of the Clinton administration. Once racked by suicide bombings and messy military sweeps, Israel, the West Bank and lately even Gaza have been islands of relative tranquility in a bloody region. Israeli troops that once patrolled every major Palestinian town are gone. They are replaced in the West Bank by competent Palestinian security forces whose commanders work closely with their Israeli counterparts — another once-inconceivable development. 

True, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are still far apart on the specific terms for the Palestine state, including where the border will be drawn, how former Palestinian refugees will be handled and whether and how Jerusalem will be divided. But, contrary to the claim of Secretary of State John F. Kerry, the time for a two-state settlement is not running out. In fact, the doomsayers who made that same argument 25 years ago, such as Israeli demographer Meron Benvenisti , had a more plausible case. 

The Arabs' 1848

April 14, 2014

The Arab upheaval has been the cause of profound bewilderment in the developed world and among policy makers, not least in Washington. Great enthusiasm for the Arab Spring was quickly replaced by confusion and concern regarding Islamic democracy or an Islamist Winter, depending on one's perspective. This was as quickly supplanted by disconcert and despair in the face of military takeovers and ferocious civil wars. The European revolutions of 1848, the 'Spring of Nations', with their great hopes and dashed dreams, have often been cited as an analog. But indeed, what can the European experience of modernization and regime change during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries teach us about the contemporary Arab world? History does not quite repeat itself, as differences of conditions, place and time are as significant as similarities. Still, history is the best we have got.

What makes nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Europe and the current Middle East similar is their relative position on the road to modernization. According to the most authoritative estimates, by Angus Maddison, real GDP per capita in non-oil producing Arab countries is in the same range as mid- to late-nineteenth-century Europe (roughly one-tenth of today's affluent world). Urbanization rates in Egypt and Syria are, respectively, just below and above 50 percent, a level crossed by the United Kingdom around 1850 and by Germany around 1900. Illiteracy in the major Arab countries still hovers between 20 to 30 percent (greater among women than men), again in the same range as in mid-nineteenth century Europe (with the exception of the continent's highly literate northern countries).

While these major indicators are of fundamental significance, differences remain that should also be factored in. Whereas nineteenth-century Europe and the West were the world's pioneers and world leaders in modernization, today's Arab countries are among the world's strugglers, with only Africa trailing behind. Because of this, the Arab world enjoys many of the fruits of modernization as imports from outside—in communications, household appliances, computers, medicine and the like. This also means that the Arab world is susceptible to pressures from the hegemonic developed world—most notably economic, partly military, and, more ambivalently, intellectual—even if the efficacy of such pressures is inherently limited. Finally, there are all the differences of culture and historical traditions, for, as we know, the process of modernization, while most powerful and deeply transformative, is far from being linear.


By Patrick Bond

The Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa bloc met in Durban at the end of March last year, expressing both continental and global ambitions. But things have not gone well since then. Extremely challenging financial, geopolitical, military and environmental problems emerged over the subsequent year – in Africa and across the world.

This issue of Pambazuka – co-edited with Khadija Sharife – takes repeated snapshots of BRICS corporate and parastatal activities across Africa, with a bias towards the southern region, especially Zimbabwe, Angola and the DRC. This partly reflects our editorial location, but also that because South Africa has recently claimed to serve as a more active ‘gateway’ for BRICS investments in Africa, we can start in the countries closest to Durban.

As we will see, the vast investments anticipated in infrastructure across the region are mainly aimed at extraction of resources, along neo-colonial lines. In March 2013, it was telling that the single biggest deal announced at the BRICS summit was a Chinese bank loan to Transnet of $5 billion; and it is telling that exactly a year later, the largest investment Transnet has ever undertaken was announced: $4.8 billion in locomotive purchases.

Such locomotives were once made in South Africa; now the critical first batch of more than 1000 will be imported from China, through the Durban port. In July 2013, that port received several mega-cranes from China, capable of unloading four containers in a single-lift. The digging out of Durban’s port to handle ships with more than 15,000 containers is the next big investment for Transnet, and no doubt the finance will include Chinese bank loans.


Reliance on China is, in turn, quite a gamble for Durban municipal planners as well as for National Development Plan authors in Trevor Manuel’s planning ministry. Manuel is expected to leave office after the 7 May elections, having served 20 years – mostly as a notoriously neoliberal finance minister – and will go into business or a multilateral organization. He has often been mentioned as a front-runner for leading jobs in the Bretton Woods Institutions, for example.

World Economic Outlook (WEO)

World Economic Outlook (WEO)
Recovery Strengthens, Remains Uneven
April 2014

Global activity has broadly strengthened and is expected to improve further in 2014–15, according to the April 2014 WEO, with much of the impetus for growth coming from advanced economies. Although downside risks have diminished overall, lower-than-expected inflation poses risks for advanced economies, there is increased financial volatility in emerging market economies, and increases in the cost of capital will likely dampen investment and weigh on growth. Advanced economy policymakers need to avoid a premature withdrawal of monetary accommodation. Emerging market economy policymakers must adopt measures to changing fundamentals, facilitate external adjustment, further monetary policy tightening, and carry out structural reforms.

The report includes a chapter that analyzes the causes of worldwide decreases in real interest rates since the 1980s and concludes that global rates can be expected to rise in the medium term, but only moderately. Another chapter examines factors behind the fluctuations in emerging market economies’ growth and concludes that strong growth in China played a key role in buffering the effects of the global financial crisis in these economies

Global solar dominance in sight as science trumps fossil fuels

09 Apr 2014

Solar power will slowly squeeze the revenues of petro-rentier regimes in Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. They will have to find a new business model, or fade into decline

There are already 19 regional markets around the world in which PV solar panels can match or undercut local electricity prices without subsidy Photo: Reuters


Solar power has won the global argument. Photovoltaic energy is already so cheap that it competes with oil, diesel and liquefied natural gas in much of Asia without subsidies.

Roughly 29pc of electricity capacity added in America last year came from solar, rising to 100pc even in Massachusetts and Vermont. "More solar has been installed in the US in the past 18 months than in 30 years," says the US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). California's subsidy pot is drying up but new solar has hardly missed a beat.

The technology is improving so fast - helped by the US military - that it has achieved a virtous circle. Michael Parker and Flora Chang, at Sanford Bernstein, say we entering a new order of "global energy deflation" that must ineluctably erode the viability of oil, gas and the fossil fuel nexus over time. In the 1980s solar development was stopped in its tracks by the slump in oil prices. By now it has surely crossed the threshold irreversibly.

The ratchet effect of energy deflation may be imperceptible at first since solar makes up just 0.17pc of the world's $5 trillion energy market, or 3pc of its electricity. The trend does not preclude cyclical oil booms along the way. Nor does it obviate the need for shale fracking as a stop-gap, for national security reasons or in Britain's case to curb a shocking current account deficit of 5.4pc of GDP.

Hope the West isn't heading towards climate colonialism

April 14, 2014

I agree with the assessment of the fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that increased temperature and increased frequency of extreme weather events will have an impact on economic activities, including agricultural production, infrastructure, and health. 

While India is vulnerable to climate change because of its population, poverty and economic inequalities, I disagree with the report’s assessment that the country and China will be the worst sufferers. 

Climate change will impact both developed and developing countries equally. The impact of flooding and destruction of roads in Colorado and in Uttarakhand in 2013 are reflection that disasters affect all regions.

The 2003 heat wave in Europe killed nearly 52,000 people within a fortnight in August. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated southern US; last year, Hurricane Sandy devastated eastern US; and the bushfires in Australia and California, are examples which show that even developed countries are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. 

Given this, it appears that there is a political motive in identifying India and China as the most vulnerable — to hasten the process of industrialisation and economic development. Both nations are emerging economies and while the economic slowdown of 2008 affected the US economy, India and China were not severely affected by the crisis. 

In The Global Financial Crisis and Short-run Prospects for India, R Jha says India’s economic growth has been rising and has become more stable for the past 25 years, fuelled by higher savings and investment, the demographic dividend of a younger, a more educated labour force and accelerated productivity growth. 

Another dimension is that developed countries depend on China and India for a large number of their manufactured products. In the IT sector, the US is dependent on South Asian countries. 

Regarding the reduction of CO2 emissions, developing countries — including India and China — demand that developed countries accept the Kyoto Protocol, which recognises developed countries as responsible for the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, and places a heavier burden on them under the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’. 

In the case of emerging economies, reduction in CO2 emissions means a reduction in the level of income and a decline in GDP. Thus, it is not possible for developing countries to reduce their emissions. 

Girl power

I see that Christine Cheng, lecturer of this parish, was on BBC Woman’s Hour this morning, discussing whether or not women should be allowed to serve in frontline combat roles. On Twitter, Richard Kemp, a retired Army Colonel, thinks they should not, on purely physical grounds – you don’t, he argues, see women in the English rugby team or the Men’s Boat Race. In a desperate struggle at close quarters, physical superiority will win out, and men, on average, are stronger than women. Fit, strong and aggressive male infanteers are likely to be fitter, stronger and more aggressive than women.

I disagree with that premise for judging women infantry soldiers. Why?

- liberal society demands equality of opportunity, not outcome. Women deserve the right to attempt to qualify for the infantry, and only then to serve in it. A very small number of women will display the abilities required. Standards should not be lowered from those expected of men.

- at the same time, however, a review of those standards might be in order. Technical and intellectual acumen are important in modern combat, and will become increasingly so as new robotic technologies proliferate. These include technologies that will diminish the weight burden on infantry soldiers, and increase their ability to direct their fire more accurately from distance.

- losing a tactical action because women can not prevail in a hand to hand encounter is extremely unlikely to be decisive because

1. western infantry forces rarely engage in such close quarters combat, benefiting from increasingly timely, discriminate and lethal firepower from distance. Combined arms are not on offer to the England rugby team.

2. such action is almost inevitably tactical, not strategic. If we, as a nation, are solely reliant on a determined bayonet charge to win a battle, or even a campaign, we have likely lost it already. The same is not true of the Boat Race crew, for whom the tactical event is all. The Falklands Conflict offers an ostensibly compelling counter-example, but was conducted in a different era, with different standards of technology and different attitudes towards women.

3. Most of those doing the grappling will remain men and (per my point above) will, if they are women, have already proved themselves at least physically equal.

Maoists: Disrupting Democracy

Fakir Mohan Pradhan
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

The Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) appears to be trying to stare down the ‘critical situation’ facing the movement, exploiting the vulnerabilities of the security arrangements to perpetrate violence in the heightened atmosphere of the ongoing General Elections. Despite increased Security Force (SF) presence to secure free and fair polls, the Maoists have hit multiple States in the areas where elections were held on April 10, 2014, in the second of the nine-phase election declared by the Election Commission.

In Chhattisgarh, the CPI-Maoist struck twice in an hour on April 12, killing 14 people, including seven polling officials and five Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, as they blew up a bus and an ambulance, respectively, in the Bijapur and Bastar Districts.

Maoists first triggered a powerful blast, targeting a bus when a polling party was returning, between Kutru and Gudma in Bijapur District. Seven members of the polling party were killed in the explosion and subsequent firing, which also left five persons injured. Sources indicate that 75 to 100 armed Maoists were involved in the ambush.

Within an hour, Maoists struck again and blew up an ambulance, killing five CRPF personnel, a medical attendant and the driver on the spot, in Darbha on the Jagdalpur-Sukma national highway in the Bastar District.

On April 9, 2014, three personnel of the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) unit of the CRPF were killed and another three were injured in a Maoist ambush in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma District. The incident occurred near the Chintagufa village, when a team of the CoBRA and Sukma Police was returning after escorting a poll party. In another incident on the same day, three personnel of the 85th battalion of the CRPF were injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast near Kikler village in Bijapur District. 

On April 10, 2014, in Bihar, two CRPF troopers were killed and seven others were injured when the Maoists triggered an IED planted under a bridge targeting a team of the paramilitary force and Bihar Police personnel in two jeeps on their way to a polling station in the Jamui parliamentary constituency. The incident occurred near Sawa Lakh Baba Mandir (temple) on the fringes of the Bhimbandh Forest in Munger District, just four hours before polling commenced.

15 April 2014

Shyam Saran: India-China border dispute - Coping with asymmetry

Sustaining the status quo depends on our ability to make attempts to change it risky for the other side

Shyam Saran 
April 13, 2014

In 1983, when I was serving in our embassy in Beijing, there were a series of informal and confidential exchanges on the possibility of resolving the border issue. The Chinese leadership was keen on a visit to Beijing by then India Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had also taken over the same year as chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement. It was pointed out to our Chinese interlocutors that such a visit would hardly be possible without the border issue being resolved in a satisfactory manner. The answer was to point to Deng's package proposal, i.e. to formalise the status quo. Our counter was that something more than the status quo would be necessary given the grievous blow to Indian psyche that the 1962 war had delivered. There was some indication that if Gandhi would be ready to visit, then some additional territory in the western sector, occupied as a result of the 1962 operations, may be conceded. Unfortunately, the Indian side did not follow up on this and the opportunity was lost.

In 1985, the Chinese side formally reinterpreted the package proposal saying that we had misunderstood Deng's words. The fresh Chinese position was that since the area of largest dispute was in the eastern sector, India had to make meaningful concessions in that sector and the Chinese side would then make appropriate and corresponding concessions in the western sector. Additionally, an explicit demand was now advanced for ceding Tawang, which the Indian side was accused of occupying at a much later date after its independence. It was pointed out to us that since the fifth Dalai Lama had been born in Tawang, the place was of special significance for the Chinese people, in particular for China's Tibetan nationality. This remains the current Chinese position on the border dispute and the Indian side, of course, rejects it.

In 1992, an informal suggestion was made to the Chinese side that India gives free access to Chinese pilgrims to Tawang, while China reciprocally gives similar access to Indian pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar. The Chinese never responded. One reason for the insistence on Tawang being conceded may be the fear that if the next Dalai Lama were to be "discovered" in Tawang , a Chinese rival may not enjoy the same legitimacy. As will be apparent, the issue of Tibet continues to be embedded in any consideration of the border.

Nitin Pai: Our foreign policy is 8% growth

Nitin Pai 
April 13, 2014 

I took the opportunity on one of my infrequent visits to New Delhi last week to have coffee with one astute observer of the Indian policy scene. The discussion strayed, as discussions often do these days, into the composition of the new cabinet. I was struck by most of his choices, but most of all by his views on the foreign and defence portfolios.

He couldn't care less, he said, because these are mostly irrelevant to India's national priorities at this stage. Wars involving us are unlikely, neighbouring countries are caught up in webs of their own making and most international developments don't involve us, even if they sometimes affect us a little. In his view, therefore, the foreign and defence ministries are best used to balance competing political factions within the ruling party, rather than to house the best qualified person for the job. The key economic portfolios, on the other hand, ought to go to the best talent the ruling party or coalition can muster.

It is hard to contest this assessment at a time when growth has slowed down, inflation remains high and investment is yet to pick up. Getting back onto the path of high growth is the single biggest policy agenda before the new government. Students at Pune's Symbiosis International University were taken aback last year, when I argued, in a lecture on geopolitics, that "our China policy is 8 per cent growth, our America policy is 8 per cent growth and our Pakistan policy is 8 per cent growth". Now more than ever, it is important for India's foreign policy establishment to acquire a deep understanding of the economic bases of national power. It would be fruitless, almost absurd to talk about the new government's foreign policy agenda without rooting it firmly in the economic agenda. Now, more than ever.

Despite some attempts by some eager foreign analysts to over-read the semantics of party manifestos, there has been more continuity in the substance of India's foreign policy than it would appear. The 1998 nuclear tests were in the works under three prime ministers. The India-US strategic partnership was initiated by at least one previous government and realised by its successor. Negotiations with China have been taking place for two decades under different governments. There have been changes in tone, in style, in rhetoric and in specific priorities, but there have been few sharp departures. It is in reaction to events where these are most discernible. Different governments responded differently to terrorist attacks and national security crises in different ways.