17 January 2015

GOOD NEWS FOR OIL-IMPORTING DEVELOPING COUNTRIES – ANALYSIS

By J C Suresh


A decline in oil prices, a stronger U.S. economy, and continued low global interest rates will help fuel the growth of the world economy in 2015, says anew study issued by the World Bank Group on January 13.

The Global Economic Prospects report, published every two years, predicts a global economic expansion of 3 per cent for 2015, 3.3 per cent for 2016, and 3.2 per cent in 2017 – a boost following last year’s disappointing 2.6 per cent growth.

At the same time, the report adds, developing countries are expected to surge from last year’s 4.4 per cent growth to 4.8 per cent in 2015 and then strengthen to a more robust 5.4 per cent by 2017.

The developing world and large middle-income countries are, in fact, expected to benefit from lower oil prices. In Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, and Turkey, the fall in oil prices will help lower inflation and reduce current account deficits. Meanwhile, exporting countries, such as Russia, can expect their economies to contract as a result, prompting opportunities for wide-scale structural reforms.

“Lower oil prices will lead to sizeable real income shifts from oil-exporting to oil-importing developing countries,” said Ayhan Kose, Director of Development Prospects at the World Bank.

“For both exporters and importers, low oil prices present an opportunity to undertake reforms that can increase fiscal resources and help broader environmental objectives.”

“If Only It Were So?”

BY RICHARD L. MORNINGSTAR
JANUARY 14, 2015

More and more conspiracy theorists believe that the United States has so much power that it can wield its insidious hand to dictate everything from world oil prices to fomenting unrest and instability in countries around the world. Nothing can be further from the truth. 

Let’s look at these two disparate examples.

Oil prices have declined by more than 50 percent over the past several months. This is something very few analysts had predicted. The decline can be attributed to a drop in demand, increased production in the United States, and a largely market-based decision by Saudi Arabia and some other OPEC countries not to reduce production. This decision was based primarily on the economic interests of these countries and was heavily contested even within OPEC. 

There are winners and losers as a result of the drop in oil prices. 

Countries such as Russia and Iran have been hurt, which does not upset many in the West, but there is no certainty as to how these countries will ultimately react to the drop in prices. Hopefully they will become more cooperative, but the opposite is also a possibility. 

Countries such as Iraq and Nigeria will face greater difficulties in dealing with their own internal threats as a result of decreased revenues. Mexico is seeing a sharp decrease in revenues. Reduced revenues are having a sharp impact on Venezuela. The ramifications of Venezuela’s increasingly difficult financial straits are unpredictable and could result in major instability. 

Drones Can't Protect Our Borders

January 16, 2015

If America can use drones to spy on Al Qaeda terrorists, then why can't it use them to stop illegal immigrants?

In theory, drones and border security should have been a perfect match. A predator drone can keep a robotic eye on America's vast borders, saving money and personnel while maintaining continuous watch for illegals.

But an audit by the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General finds that despite high hopes for its border drone program, "its impact in stemming illegal immigration has been minimal." In fact, Customs and Border Patrol's fleet of 10 Predator-Bs have accounted for less than 2 percent of illegal immigrants apprehended.

Investigators found a border drone program in disarray. Some of the ills cited include:

-CBP drones are supposed to be flying 16 hours a day, 365 days a year. Instead, they only managed to fly 22 percent of those flight hours.

-CBP claimed its fleet of 10 Predator-B drones cost $2,468 per flight hour. But auditors discovered that this figure did not include the cost of pilots, equipment and overhead. The real number? $12,255 per flight hour.

Given the Massive Size and Huge Budgets of the US Intelligence Community, Why Does It Continually Fail or Underperform?

Cicero Magazine
January 14, 2015

Senior American leaders, from President Obama on down, and the U.S. intelligence community as a whole were caught flatfooted by the seemingly sudden appearance, rise, and rapid expansion of the Sunni extremist organization known as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. How is this possible, given the massive budgets and superior capability of American intelligence gathering organizations in the post-9/11 era?

In the Global War on Terror, the CIA has become an operations-oriented outfit, moving away from its traditional—and historically more successful—role of analysis. The CIA has developed its own cadres of warfighters and paramilitaries. This work in conjunction with US Special Operations Forces has expended increasing amounts of the funds and energy of the CIA. One severe indicator of this shift in priorities from analysis to operations is the will to do whatever it takes to obtain the Holy Grail of actionable intelligence, the shocking results of which have been brought to light following the release of the Senate report on the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Program.

From ‘Gatherer’ to ‘Hunter’ Culture

The CIA has evolved from a large cohort of bookish Ivy League professors with slides rulers and pocket protectors attacking analytical problems with political, economic, social, and technological tools to a group of torture-minded operatives, assisted by ‘guns for hire’ contractors, interested in stress positions and the ‘rectal hydration’ of detainees. As a doctor, I can inform you that while the mucosal lining of the colon and rectum is able to absorb or reabsorb water, it has no capability to absorb nutrients. This makes former-Vice President Dick Cheney’s heart-felt support for rectal nutritional support for detainees the ultimate oxymoron of 2014. This is not the first time that CIA has drifted too far from its analytical expertise and purview and into warfighting and operations which has led to embarrassment and intelligence failure for America. The Bay of Pigs and Iran-Contra still stand out as shining examples from CIA history of what can happen when too many operators get their hands on the controls.

To Defeat Boko Haram, Give Peace a Chance

Kate Edelen,Allyson Neville-Morgan
January 16, 2015
Source Link


With as many as two thousand people feared dead in what is being called Boko Haram’s deadliest massacre to date, it is well past time for a new approach to countering violence in Nigeria and the broader region. The early days of the New Year leave little doubt of Boko Haram’s resolve to increase its campaign of violence in 2015. January headlines characterize the ambitious expansion of the group’s terror to include more kidnappings, the annexation of military bases andkillings in neighboring Cameroon.

To date, the response by the Nigerian government has been militarized, heavy-handed and largely ineffective. Evidence demonstrates that this approach has done little to improve the situation, and in fact the increasingly abusive Nigerian security forces may be helping to fuel the expansion of Boko Haram. Violence against civilians starkly increased after the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in May 2013, deploying thousands of government troops with enhanced authority. Under this state of emergency, four times as many civilians have been killed than in the previous five years combined. 

Despite the failure of a military approach, the United States government seems inclined to double down, recently committing $40 millionfrom the Global Security Contingency Fund to “train and equip” security forces from neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger in the effort against Boko Haram. This expenditure comes on top of preexisting Department of Defense-sponsored activities that between Fiscal Year 2009 and FY 2013 garnered $288 million for the ever-expanding “War on Terror” in the region as part of the larger Trans Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP).

Does Air-Sea Battle Have a Fatal, Cyber Flaw?

January 16, 2015
Source Link


This commentary offers clarification to the National Interest’s December 8, 2014 article, “Will Air-Sea Battle Be "Sunk" by Cyberwarriors?” (Erica D. Borghard & Shawn W. Lonergan). The article presents a misunderstanding of the multiservice Air-Sea Battle Concept on two levels.

First, the article infers that the Air-Sea Battle Concept does not adequately address the role cyberspace operations would play in an anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) environment. Second, the authors do not understand the limited scope of the Concept and that the cyberspace Defend the Nation mission would not necessarily be executed in combination with Air-Sea Battle. Forcing the two to combine under the Air-Sea Battle Concept would result in an unnecessary and dangerous rigidity, limiting the United States’ strategic flexibility to respond appropriately to a wide range of situations.

The article is correct in noting that theAir-Sea Battle Concept is intended to address the challenges posed by A2/AD capabilities. It is also correct in stating that as one of the five interdependent domains, cyberspace must be actively and extensively integrated with the other four domains (air, maritime, land, space) to successfully counter A2/AD capabilities. However, the authors also state:

“Tragically, the Air-Sea Battle Concept fails to recognize the critical and independent role cyberpower should (indeed, will) play in any Air-Sea Battle confrontation with U.S. adversaries…Furthermore, the Air-Sea Battle Concept prioritizes theater operations without acknowledging the retaliatory risk to the American homeland...The most probable avenue of an attack on U.S. interests by any likely Air-Sea Battle belligerent is via the cyberdomain.”

The Army Profession: From Macro to Micro How Individual Effort is More Important than Sweeping Initiatives


This post was provided by Steven Foster, an officer in the U.S. Army. He holds a Master of Public Policy degree from George Mason University’s School of Policy Government and International Affairs, and is currently attending the Army’s Basic Strategic Art Program. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Army, the DoD, or the U.S. Government.

“No one is more professional than I…”

“…I will not only seek continually to improve my knowledge and practice of my profession…,”

These excerpts from the NCO and Officer Creeds both highlight an important word, one that has been debated and discussed for several years. Recently on Twitter, the question was asked, “Is the military a profession?” This is not a new question by any means, but how could this question still be asked when in 1962 GEN Douglas MacArthur told the cadets at West Point, “Yours is a profession of arms”?

 

If you ask many senior leaders this question, particularly those familiar with the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic(CAPE), you would in most cases receive an unequivocal “yes”. For around seven years CAPE, and its predecessor the Army Center of Excellence for Professional Military Ethic (ACPME), have carried the torch for the mission of serving, “as the proponent for the Army Profession, the Army Ethic and Character Development of Army Professionals to reinforce Trust within the profession and with the American people.”[i] This brings back to light not only the original question posed above, but more importantly “If we are a profession, why do we need to be told that we are,” and, “Has this drive to build professionalism in the Army for the last seven years achieved its desired effect?”

Breaking Bad: Rethinking Talent Management


20 Questions with Tim Kane

Talent. We’re not always sure what it is, but we know we want some. But do we truly value talent? How well do we manage it? Do we really manage talent at all?

Several months ago, I sat in a very crowded conference room as some of the Army’s most senior leaders discussed talent management. Recognizing that the challenges of the 21st century don’t lend themselves well to a Cold War personnel management model, the discussion focused on how to “get over the hump.” The only system more entrenched than personnel management might be acquisitions: achieving true change in either is like eating an elephant… while the elephant is alive, growing, and putting up a fight. But the harsh truth remains. We no longer have the luxury of a uniformed military so deep that we can afford to bleed out the very talent we so desperately need to retain.

But it’s just too hard to do, right?

Then along came Tim Kane. Air Force Academy graduate, nationally-recognized economist and entrepreneur, think tank boy genius, author. His 2012 book, Bleeding Talent, served as a clarion call for reform, a throat punch to a system optimized for another time, another war. His name soon became synonymous with talent management or, more accurately, talentmis-management. In the same breath leaders would cite his work, they would curse him for the effort required to realize the potential of personnel system optimized for the here and now.

25 years after Tim Kane strolled away from the halls of the Air Force Academy, the debate on talent and talent management rages on. While the Army is finally taking steps toward institutionalizing programs that will provide some degree of professional autonomy consistent with the needs of an all-volunteer force, the policy challenges are significant across the services and the bureaucratic inertia seems like an ascent of K2 on most days.

Can it be done? Well, we’re about to find out.

 1. Talent management. An impossible goal?

That’s funny, but no. Talent management is like tactical combat: it’s going to happen one way or another. The question is how well a military wants to do these things. The Pentagon is excellent at fighting, and made a choice many decades ago to continuously improve its combat tactics. The Pentagon is also managing talent, whether it realizes it or not, but does not have the same rigorous, skeptical, innovative approach to constantly revolutionizing personnel policy. It doesn’t wargame HR. It barely looks at what cutting edge technologies exist in other organizations. Unfortunately, the military branches treat personnel like a logistics problem — something Don Vandergriff calls the beer can model (consume, crumple, restock). I like to emphasize that the military services are way better at managing talent under the All-Volunteer Force than they were under the draft. At this moment, we are stuck in that central planning mentality. The irony for me is humorous: America’s cold warriors successfully defended free-market capitalism and drove central planning out of Moscow, but it escaped and infiltrated our personnel commands.

How can the Army make a career in the force more attractive?

15 January 2015

Historically, the Army has consistently had a shortfall of about 15-18% of its authorised strength. So, in a way, the current figures are in the 'acceptable' range. But given that the Army's role and responsibilities are increasing by the day, the Army cannot afford to let the momentum it has achieved in the last few years slip. 

As the nation celebrates Army Day today (15 January), it can safely be asserted that the Indian army continues to perform its duties with admirable dedication and sense of duty. It is truly the pride of the nation—both in war and in peace. But even as we laud our men in olive green who keep the nation safe for us to enjoy the fruits of development and prosperity, it is also necessary to take a closer look at many problems that beset the force. 

Broadly, the Indian army is faced with three main problems: Shortage of officers at the cutting edge level, slow pace of acquisitions of weapons and platforms and overuse of the military in operations other than war (OOW). Since a column is not sufficient to dwell upon each of these aspects, for the moment, let me discuss the first point, the shortage of officers in the junior ranks.

The 1.13 million-strong Indian Army has an authorised strength of about 43,000 officers. As of July 2014 however it was short of 8455 officers, majority in the rank of captain, and major, officers who lead troops on ground. If one looked at the situation positively, this is a far better position than the one in 2009 when the Army was short of a staggering 13,000 plus officers. Since then a combination of extending the tenure of short service commissioned (SSC) officers by four years, higher intake in the training academies and creation of more avenues to join the Army, has reduced the shortage. 

Why the Pentagon and the Defense Industry Need to Engage Silicon Valley

By Tim Wickham and August Cole


Red tape, secrecy and politics. These are not things that innovative technology firms want to be known for in Silicon Valley.

These are some of the defense sector’s many burdens as it works to develop a strategic and military advantage for America that can withstand the 21st Century’s breakneck pace of technological change. The Defense Department spends hundreds of billions of dollars annually on weapons systems that are the envy of the world’s militaries, yet still finds itself falling behind the curve.

With renewed support from top officials worried about the future of the American military, the Pentagon is looking beyond the defense establishment as it searches for technologies that will give it a decisive operational edge. Incoming Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has a chance to own this initiative given his stint as the department’s top weapons buyer, and the fact that he was working in Silicon Valley before being nominated for the Pentagon’s top job in early December. Whether he is successful depends on something that so far is missing from the Pentagon’s pitch to those working on America’s technological future: the value proposition.

The Defense Department already spends heavily on a range of commercial technologies similar to those employed by Fortune 500 companies in areas such as logistics, human resources systems and IT. Yet this new approach is a wholly different one: identifying existing and emerging innovations that can be integrated into today’s military operations, while also spurring investment in leap-ahead technologies that will fundamentally change the way the U.S. military operates. That is why the department recently issued a bureaucratic call for innovative private sector ideas, or a "Long Range Research and Development Plan" request for information in early December. It is the clearest appeal for help yet.

16 January 2015

Holistic plan to tackle economic vulnerabilities

Dr Subir Gokarn
Jan 16 2015

Part-5

Excerpts from the presentations at the Roundtable on National Security Key Challenges Ahead organised by The Tribune National Security Forum in collaboration with the Indian Council of World Affairs See also, www.tribuneindia.com

In the last three years, we have seen repeated jolts and shocks to the rupee. It has moved very sharply in the course of a few weeks and this has been extremely disruptive to business, to sentiment, to overall economic activity. People cannot deal with such volatility in the rupee, particularly foreign investors whose returns were completely neutralised by the rupee depreciation. Why did that happen and what are the national security implications?

Obviously, it makes the economy extremely vulnerable. There is a loss of credibility, a sense of firefighting and the inability to focus on long-term policy-making. All of these are vulnerabilities that we need to recognise, but the key issue is why we, or how we, let our current account deficit increase from a very, very stable 2 per cent of the GDP, or less, for 20 years — in fact, we had surpluses — to a sudden explosion of 4.2 per cent in a year and 4.8 per cent in the second year? That is the context in which rupee vulnerability became very, very acute.

So, a very significant element of economic vulnerability is to have a mechanism in place to not allow the currency to move so dramatically. We were not the only ones affected by this. Other countries also saw a lot of turbulence. But the impact on our economy was acute in the financial and retail sectors and foreign investment. There is a lesson there in terms of trying to create conditions which prevent this kind of shock from manifesting. Why did our current account deficit grow so large? There were four factors.

Firstly, gold imports grew from 1.2-1.3 per cent of the GDP in 2007 to about 3.1-3.2 per cent in 2012. It was a massive increase, but it created a big hole. The second factor was oil and the increase in its prices from about $80-85 per barrel in 2010 to $105-110, which persisted until a few months ago. Two other factors came into play in 2010 and 2011. Our coal imports grew from virtually nothing in 2007. We import lots of coaking coal, but not non-coking coal. Now, we import about $10 billion worth of non-coking coal because we have to feed all the power generation capacity we created without the corresponding increase in coal capacity. And we know the story behind that. But this kind of rapid increase and dependence on other countries for critical items is something that is of great significance when it comes to managing microeconomic vulnerability. We need to focus on it as we move forward.

Can the ‘unknown angel’ deliver?


Erik Solheim


The most difficult challenge for Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena will be reconciliation with the Tamils

Anyone who two months back bet on Maithripala Sirisena winning the presidential election in Sri Lanka would be a millionaire. Most international experts expected former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to win and strengthen his family rule. He controlled the resources of the state to fund his election campaign and administered thousands of buses to transport people to election rallies. The state-controlled media broadcast Pravda-style propaganda and outright lies about high-profile defections from the opposition, even on election day. Fake pamphlets called on Tamils to boycott the elections. The economy was good and Mr. Rajapaksa, who so brutally ended the long war with the Tamil Tigers, was still popular with the Sinhalese majority. But more and more voices from Sri Lanka itself whispered to me — please wait and see, the opposition may still win.

Victory for Sri Lanka

The victory for Mr. Sirisena was a huge victory for Sri Lanka. Mr. Sirisena led one of the broadest coalitions in politics seen anywhere at any time. It included the left wing party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the right wing United National Party (UNP) party. It was supported by Tamils and Muslims as well as the hard-core Buddhist nationalist of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) party. The two historical leaders Chandrika Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickramasinghe joined hands with cricket stars and general Sarath Fonseka, who led the war against the Tamil Tigers.

Militants behind the veil

Rafia Zakaria
16 Jan 2015

The attack took place in one of the busiest areas of Istanbul. On 6 January, a woman in a niqab blew herself up at a police station in Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet district, killing one officer and injuring another. So far, it is not known which group was responsible or who the woman was. Witnesses said she spoke in English with a heavy accent but little else is known about her ~ only that she was one of an increasing number of women joining militant organisations and being used to carry out terror attacks.

On Sunday, 11 January. two female suicide bombers from the Nigerian group Boko Haram blew themselves up in a market in north-eastern Nigeria killing at least four people and injuring dozens. This attack came the day after a similar bombing, in which an explosive device was attached to a girl reportedly 10 years old. That attack killed at least 20 people.

In Pakistan, extremist groups espousing militancy are casting their own seductive shadows on women. In November last year, a video emerged produced by the female students of the Lal Masjid-run Jamia Hafsa seminary. In it, the women declare their support for the Islamic State group that operates out of Syria and Iraq. The speaker in the video ~ which was reportedly endorsed by the seminary’s principal, Umme Hassan, wife of the Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz ~ speaks entirely in Arabic and expresses support for IS, urging Pakistani militants to join its ranks. The video attracted little attention in Pakistan when it was first released. In the months since then, however, the actions of Maulana Aziz and those of his wife and followers have once again landed them in the spotlight. Maulana Aziz’s refusal to condemn the Peshawar school massacre garnered protests from civil society organisations and led to an arrest warrant being issued against him. A report by security agencies in January also mentioned the construction of a new branch of the all-female Jamia Hafsa in Mal Pur village in Islamabad, and implied that the land had been obtained illegally.

A closer look at the doings of Jamia Hafsa since its notorious acts of vigilante justice right before the 2007 siege of Lal Masjid reveals even more pressing concerns. Back then, the women of the seminary had been roaming the city abducting women they alleged were involved in illicit activities: they have now begun to exert a more insidious appeal.

India in 2015: Optimism Returns as Modi Finds His Footing

Jan, 2015 


When U.S. President Barack Obama visits India in January on the occasion of the country’s Republic Day, he will be talking ordnance. “India and the U.S. are discussing defense technology transfer and joint defense production as a prelude to President Barack Obama’s visit,” notes business daily The Economic Times. India is the world’s largest arms importer ($14 billion over the past three years and a projected $139 billion up to 2020). The U.S. has recently displaced Russia as the largest supplier of arms to the country.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the other hand, is thinking ordinance. His reforms process was being thwarted by a filibustering opposition in the upper house — the Rajya Sabha — where his coalition lacks a majority. In late December, he used executive fiat (or ordinance) for coal sector reforms, to amend the land acquisition laws, and to hike the foreign direct investment (FDI) ceiling in insurance from 26% to 49%. In January, it was the turn of the mining and minerals sector.

“The ordinances demonstrate the firm commitment and determination of this government to reforms,” said finance minister Arun Jaitley. “It also announces to the world that this country can no longer wait even if one of the houses of Parliament waits indefinitely to take up its agenda.”

The ordinances do not become law automatically; they have to be passed by Parliament within six weeks of the commencement of the next session. There is a way to tackle a recalcitrant Rajya Sabha; Modi can call a joint session of Parliament and, with his Lok Sabha (lower house) majority, get the ordinances passed into law. “The ordinance route definitely makes the intent of the government very clear,” says Kaustubh Dhargalkar, associate dean and head of Innowe, the Center for Innovation and Memetics at WE School. “It spells out the fact that there is no time to waste on the niceties of democracy when a job needs to be done.”

“I think the prospects for GDP growth in the medium to long term are very positive.”–Jitendra V. Singh

A War Between Two Worlds

January 14, 2015

The murders of cartoonists who made fun of Islam and of Jews shopping for their Sabbath meals by Islamists in Paris last week have galvanized the world. A galvanized world is always dangerous. Galvanized people can do careless things. It is in the extreme and emotion-laden moments that distance and coolness are most required. I am tempted to howl in rage. It is not my place to do so. My job is to try to dissect the event, place it in context and try to understand what has happened and why. From that, after the rage cools, plans for action can be made. Rage has its place, but actions must be taken with discipline and thought.

I have found that in thinking about things geopolitically, I can cool my own rage and find, if not meaning, at least explanation for events such as these. As it happens, my new book will be published on Jan. 27. Titled Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe, it is about the unfolding failure of the great European experiment, the European Union, and the resurgence of European nationalism. It discusses the re-emerging borderlands and flashpoints of Europe and raises the possibility that Europe's attempt to abolish conflict will fail. I mention this book because one chapter is on the Mediterranean borderland and the very old conflict between Islam and Christianity. Obviously this is a matter I have given some thought to, and I will draw on Flashpoints to begin making sense of the murderers and murdered, when I think of things in this way.

Let me begin by quoting from that chapter:

We've spoken of borderlands, and how they are both linked and divided. Here is a border sea, differing in many ways but sharing the basic characteristic of the borderland. Proximity separates as much as it divides. It facilitates trade, but also war. For Europe this is another frontier both familiar and profoundly alien.

Islam invaded Europe twice from the Mediterranean - first in Iberia, the second time in southeastern Europe, as well as nibbling at Sicily and elsewhere. Christianity invaded Islam multiple times, the first time in the Crusades and in the battle to expel the Muslims from Iberia. Then it forced the Turks back from central Europe. The Christians finally crossed the Mediterranean in the 19th century, taking control of large parts of North Africa. Each of these two religions wanted to dominate the other. Each seemed close to its goal. Neither was successful. What remains true is that Islam and Christianity were obsessed with each other from the first encounter. Like Rome and Egypt they traded with each other and made war on each other.

Military Courts in Pakistan: A Soft Coup by the Pakistan Army?

January 14, 2015

In the immediate aftermath of the Peshawar carnage, Pakistan’s National Assembly and Senate approved the 21st Constitutional Amendment on 8 January 2015. This paved the way for the establishment of Military Courts with the responsibility of ensuring the speedy trial of ‘hard core terrorists’. Although the amendment was passed by an overwhelming majority, a fairly large number of members in both the houses abstained. In the Senate, of the 114 members, 78 voted in favour and 36 abstained; similarly in the National Assembly, 218 out of 342 members voted in favour and 124 abstained. This clearly points to the underlying political opposition.

It is apparent that the military, in connivance with an embattled Nawaz Sharif, has pushed through the constitutional amendment which will have serious implications for the rule of law and the democratic fibre of Pakistan. Not only have the civil society and human right organizations come out strongly against this move, the two important mainstream parties – Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) and Tehrik-i-Insaf Party (TIP) – have openly condemned the measure. Bilawal Bhutto tweeted his opposition to both the military courts and capital punishment. For its part, Imran Khan’s TIP, although it has otherwise adopted a soft stand towards Islamists and militants, has not been forthcoming in its support for the amendment either. The TIP’s abstention is particularly relevant since the carnage of school children took place in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where it runs the government.

Why Military Courts?

Why is the Pakistan military pushing for these courts when the country already has a fairly robust “Anti Terrorism Act” together with designated Anti Terrorism Courts? The latter were specifically set up to try terrorism related offences, although they have failed to provide the desired speedy justice. Two reasons are offered for their poor track record: One, intimidation by radical organizations has either prevented judges from giving judgments against terrorists or simply slowed down the legal process; Two, there is a lack of admissible evidence primarily because people are scared of retribution and do not therefore come forward to give evidence. Under these circumstances, the obvious way forward was to address these issues by providing protection to both judges and witnesses and adopting other associated legal measures. Instead, what we are witnessing is a circumvention of the due process of law and a mockery of constitutional provisions for the sake of political expediency.

China's Uyghurs and Islamic State

January 15, 2015

A report from China’s Global Times (picked up and summarized by Reuters) says that China has arrested 10 Turkish nationals in Shanghai for their role in assisting ethnic Uyghurs in illegally leaving China. According toGlobal Times, the Uyghurs intended to use fake Turkish passports to travel to Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to fight alongside Islamist militants.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei did not directly confirm the story, but told journalists that the Chinese media report “has gone into great details… I have nothing new to add.” Hong did elaborate a bit on China’s general position on the issue, saying that “cracking down on illegal immigration is an aspiration shared by the international community, and also the persistent stance taken by the Chinese government.”

Interestingly, Hong made no mention of the reported connection with terrorism, which is a major focus of theGlobal Times story. The piece opens by saying that in November 2014, authorities in Shanghai uncovered a organization of Turkish nationals that provided “Chinese terrorists” with false Turkish passports that could then be used to illegally leave the country. Each fake passport cost 60,000 RMB ($9,680), according to the report.

In addition to the 10 Turkish nationals, Shanghai authorities arrested nine Uyghurs from Xinjiang who planned to use the fake passports and two Chinese citizens who assisted with the illegal immigration scheme. Shanghai authorities have arrested the Uyghurs on suspicion of “organizing, leading, and taking part in terrorist organizations” and are conducting an investigation. Officials said that they had discovered video materials related to terrorism in the possession of the suspects, and that the suspects were planning to travel to Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – implying that the suspects wanted to join terrorist organizations in those countries, notably Islamic State, which has operations in all three.

China and the Lethal Drone Option

January 15, 2015

Jane’s Defense Weekly has a piece on China’s dronesthis week, analyzing the new design of the Tian Yi unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), manufactured by Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC). In the works since 2006, the new Tian Yi appears to be designed with stealth in mind; Jane’s notes modifications to the engines and air intake “are most likely intended to suppress the UAV’s infrared signature.” In addition to the modified Tian Yi, CAC showed off a scaled-down version of its Soar Dragon UAV in November 2013. Jane’s notes that the appearance of two UAVs in quick succession “may indicate they are the PLA’s current development priority for CAC.”

I’ll leave the details of military technology to the professionals over at Jane’s and instead attempt to tackle a question outside Jane’s analysis: what might these drones be used for? In particular, I was intrigued by a question posed by Bill Bishop in his invaluable Sinocism newsletter: what happens if and when China begins making use of armed drones to wage its war on terror – in Xinjiang and possibly beyond?

This is not an idle thought exercise. China has already deployed surveillance drones to Xinjiang to track the movements of suspected terrorists. According to Chinese media reports summarized by the New York Times, drones are being used “on multiple missions round-the-clock” and have already provided intelligence used to either locate or arrest suspects.

While so far these drone missions have been limited to surveillance, that might change in the future. There’s no question that China is focusing on developing armed drones. According to the U.S. Department of Defense’s 2014 report on China’s military development, of four UAVs confirmed by China to be under development three “are designed to carry weapons: the Xianglong (Soaring Dragon); Yilong (Pterodactyl); Sky Saber; and Lijian, China’s first stealthy flying wing UAV.”

China showcased its armed drones during multilateral anti-terrorism drills held under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization last August. According to Xinhua, a drone (the specific model was not clear) participated in live fire drills and “shot off several missiles.” A spokesman from the PLA Air Force said that “the drone, tasked with surveillance, reconnaissance and ground attacks, will play a vital role in fighting against terrorism” (emphasis added).

Relax, China Won't Challenge US Hegemony

January 14, 2015

Needless to say, the Sino-U.S. relationship is one of the most important yet complicated bilateral relationships in the world today. This explains why Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang’s recent comments on Sino-U.S. relations have stirred up a debate online (here and here). Wang Yang stated that China “[has] neither the ability nor the intent to challenge the United States.” Partly because it is rare for a senior Chinese leader to make such soft remarks with regard to Sino-U.S. relations and partly because Wang’s remarks are seemingly inconsistent with China’s recent assertive foreign policies, there has been a fierce debate about the true meaning of Wang’s remarks in the United States. Most American analysts, however, are skeptical toward Wang’s conciliatory remarks and continue to believe that China’s ultimate aim is to establish a China-centric order in Asia at the expense of the U.S. influence in Asia. In other words, China seeks to replace the U.S. as the new global hegemon.

The reactions from the U.S. side, again, reveal the deep mistrust with regard to China’s long term goals. But such skepticism is misguided and even dangerous to Asia’s peace and stability if left uncorrected. Why? Because Wang Yang was sincere when he said that China does not have the capabilities and desires to challenge the United States. The evidence of his sincerity is apparent.

First let us look at China’s capabilities, which need to be especially formidable if China wants to challenge the United States. Although China’s comprehensive capabilities have been growing rapidly for the past three decades, almost all analysts inside and outside of China agree that there is still a huge gap between China and the U.S. in terms of comprehensive capabilities, particularly when the U.S. is far ahead of China in military and technological realms. China’s economy might have already passed the U.S. economy as the largest one in 2014, but the quality of China’s economy still remains a major weakness for Beijing. Thus, it would be a serious mistake for China to challenge the U.S. directly given the wide gap of capabilities between the two. Even if one day China’s comprehensive capabilities catch up with the United States, it would still be a huge mistake for China to challenge the U.S. because by then the two economies would be much more closely interconnected, creating a situation of mutual dependence benefiting both countries.

Is China’s One-Child Policy Irrelevant Now?

By Ma Junjie
January 14, 2015

When Jane Austen wrote “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,” it was the time of the landed gentry in the days of the Regency era. In China today, though, Austen’s words resonate for many. For China in 2015 is home to more than a few single men in possession of a good fortune, but not so many women. At least not in the rural areas.

My hometown is village of 5,000 in Hebei province. During a recent visit, I took the opportunity to catch up with my old elementary school teachers. The textbooks, teacher salaries, and school facilities had all changed, but what astonished me was the number of pupils. When I was in school, there were two parallel classes in each grade with at least 30 to 50 pupils in each class. And there were six grades in total. Now, there is but one class for each grade, with at most 30 pupils, only five or six of whom are girls.

As I chatted with my old teachers, they confirmed what was readily apparent: There are fewer pupils, fewer of whom are girls. According to my teachers, this situation was rather common, at least outside the city.

What will that mean a couple of decades from now? Perhaps the story of my cousin can offer some insight. He was born in 1991, at a time when the one child policy was arguably at is strictest. As the third child of his family (he has two older sisters), my uncle paid a handsome fine to keep him, while my aunt played several games of hide and seek with officials from the local family planning office. My cousin recently became engaged, to a great deal of relief. It did not occur to me how lucky he felt until my uncle told me there were at least 30 young men in my village who are in their twenties and are looking for a marriage partner. Thanks to China’s economic development, these young men have much to offer, but the search is difficult.

Why is it so hard for them to find a wife? The answer is really quite simple.