24 June 2015

The Taliban challenge

June 24, 2015

Monday’s attack on the Afghan Parliament building demonstrated the Taliban’s unshaken capability to strike at even the most fortified of complexes in Kabul. This fits into its strategy of staging high-profile assaults aimed at gaining asymmetric superiority in the Afghan war. In the past they had attacked the Presidential Palace, the U.S. and Indian embassies and the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. The Parliament attack coincided with a vote in the House to endorse a new Defence Minister. The Taliban have been on the offensive since most of the foreign troops, some 14,000 of them from 40 countries at the peak of war, withdrew late last year. The Taliban’s actions have often been exposing the vulnerabilities of Afghanistan’s fledgling army. If the Taliban are allowed to return to power, it would be catastrophic for the Afghan people, particularly for millions of its women who were deprived of even basic human rights under its erstwhile regime. Given the tribal politics and lawlessness in Afghanistan’s rural areas, and the Taliban’s geopolitical relevance in the extremely complex South and Central Asian theatre, it will prove difficult for any anti-Taliban strategy to gain immediate traction. If the past 14 years of war in Afghanistan offers any definite lessons to the actors involved, it is that insurgency cannot be defeated only by military means. One of the grave mistakes the American-led troops committed was their excessive emphasis on a military solution, while reconstruction and creation of infrastructure, and building of institutions, were pushed to the back seat.

Kidnap for Ransom and Linkages to Terrorism Finance in India

By V. Balasubramaniyan
23 Jun , 2015

India’s tryst with contemporary terrorism started with the birth of the Khalistani movement in Punjab, which was followed by insurgency in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. On the other hand, Maoist insurgency with a pan-Indian presence and insurgency in India’s north-east has been one of the teething issues seen as an impediment to the peace and tranquillity in these regions. While the Maoists have been in existence since the 1970s, insurgency in the North East, such as the Naga insurgency, is a direct legacy of the British rule. Most of the other insurgent groups, like the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), are at least three decades old and have survived repeated government onslaughts and internecine conflicts.1


The ‘why’ factor

Jun 21, 2015

The crux of the NIA findings pointed to a central guiding hand behind the incident, towards elements of China’s People’s Liberation Army that provided training and back up support to the NSCN(K) 

“Through mud and blood to the green fields beyond”
— Motto of the Royal Tank Regiment, British Army

Kidhar India? (India —where are you?)” Are you still bogged down and struggling in the mud and blood? Or, are you slowly pulling yourself out of the quagmire and inching forward towards your destiny?

The single watershed event whose impact overshadowed almost every other issue in the country, including the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Bangladesh, was undoubtedly the ambush of a four-vehicle convoy of 6 Dogra Regiment, in the Chandel district of Manipur, in the close vicinity of the Indo-Myanmar border, which took a toll of 18 soldiers dead and 11 injured. The attack came “out of a clear blue sky” as it were, in an area which had not witnessed tension or conflict over a prolonged period. The resultant national shock and concern was understandable and a babbling cacophony of voices demanded answers — who? But perhaps the more important question would have been — why?

Why had the attack taken place?

Why white papers matter

Written by Shashank Joshi
June 23, 2015

They allow a state to craft its signals carefully. India should take a leaf from China’s book.

One of the perennial problems of international relations is how to assess what an adversary will do next. Do you look at past behaviour, the types of weapons they’re buying, their leaders, or something else? We have a reasonable idea of China’s order of battle — its ships, missiles and satellites. But American satellites can’t tell us what China plans to do with these. So what does one do when a rival simply declares its plans and publishes them on its website — dismiss it as artful misdirection, or accept the threats and assurances at face value?

Where is the LAC?

By Claude Arpi
22 Jun , 2015

Once again, the LAC or Line of Actual Control has recently come in the news.

The latest mention came from Beijing, where China turned down an Indian proposal to exchange maps of the LAC; a move which seemed most reasonable and for-too-long delayed.

It is not the first time the LAC makes the news. Remember the visit of the Chinese President Xi Jinping to India in 2014.

Huang Xilian, the deputy director general of the Asian Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told some Indian journalists: “We tried to clarify some years ago but it encountered some difficulties, which led to even complex situation. …That is why whatever we do, we should make it more conducive to peace and tranquility for making things easier and not to make them complicated.” Huang added: “We have to do many things. We have to seek comprehensive approach to this.”

Where is the growth in Indian manufacturing jobs?

Jun 10 2015

The slow growth of Indian manufacturing is a concern for many observers of the Indian economy, and India’s manufacturers have long performed below their potential. Although the country’s manufacturing exports are growing, its manufacturing sector generates just 16% of India’s GDP, much less than the 55% from services. Since its liberalisation, India has undertaken many trade reforms to increase its global integration, and the country has invested in domestic infrastructure projects to improve its regional connectivity. These trade reforms have impacted many parts of the economy (e.g. Topalova 2010, Goldberg et al. 2010), and they seem to have held special importance for informal firms (e.g. Nataraj 2011, Thomas 2013).

In India, there is a large disconnect between output and employment across the formal and informal sectors (the informal sector comprises establishments with 10 workers or less that use electricity, or 20 workers or less without electricity). The formal sector accounts for over 80% of India’s manufacturing output, while the informal sector accounts for over 80% and 99% of Indian manufacturing employment and establishments, respectively.

Pakistan: Lessons from the India-US Nuclear Deal

During the seventh round of the U.S.-Pakistan Security, Strategic Stability, and Nonproliferation (SSS&NP) working group earlier this month, Pakistan again demanded an India-style civil nuclear agreement under the auspices of the U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue. As previously, the idea received a noncommittal response from Washington.

Islamabad has been critical of the India-U.S. civilian nuclear agreement, signed in 2008, under which nuclear sanctions against New Delhi were lifted and India was allowed to have civilian nuclear trade along with its nuclear weapons program. The Indo-U.S. nuclear deal recognized the nuclear status of India, while continuing to exclude Pakistan from the nuclear club. U.S. officials argued that India’s case was unique and Pakistan does not qualify for similar treatment. The questions arise: What were the factors that pushed the United States to work so hard to lift nuclear sanctions, both at the domestic and international levels, against India and what lessons Pakistan should learn to qualify for the same consideration?

How Pakistan created a monster out of Taliban


Pakistan's relations with the Taliban regime grew complicated over time. In the second half of the 1990s, Islamabad could pride itself in having achieved a degree of "strategic depth" in Afghanistan, but the other goal the Pakistani government pursued had not been achieved.

By backing the Afghan Islamists starting in the 1970s under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the Pakistanis had hoped to counter Pashtun nationalism. The outcome, however, was very different. The Taliban had developed an Islamic variant of this ideology, drawing as much on the Pashtunwali code as from Sharia law, and, more importantly, Pakistani officials were bitterly disappointed when the Taliban refused to recognise the Durand Line as the international border.

The cost of Pakistan's Afghan policy was not limited to financial support. In addition, there was a considerable loss of customs revenue. In 1950, Kabul and Karachi had signed the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement that aimed to open up Afghanistan by enabling the country to be provisioned through Pakistani ports and cross the "Land of the Pure" without paying customs duties. Predictably, surplus merchandise soon made its way illegally back into Pakistan - where it cost less than from a merchant who had had to pay duty. The black market had little financial impact until the 1990s, at which time it took on huge proportions with the end of a war in which those involved had already regularly taken the Kabul-Peshawar-Karachi route.

Afghanistan-Pakistan: A Temporary Entente

Ashraf Ghani’s overtures to Pakistan are foundering on the latter’s strategic compulsions.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is under immense pressure. His reconciliation attempts are not yielding the desired results. Ghani’s desire to bring peace to his war-torn country cannot be questioned. Before his presidency, Afghanistan’s relations with neighboring Pakistan were persistently rocky. Ghani was sincere in his desire to put the past behind them and open a new chapter in Afghanistan’s embittered relationship with Pakistan. But his method was flawed.

Ignoring critics across the political spectrum, Ghani staked his political future on producing a seismic shift in Afghan policy towards Pakistan. His “pivot” to Pakistan was rooted in the unrealistic hope that Islamabad would cooperate with Kabul in forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table. But his hopes seem to have dashed with the ferocity of the Taliban offensive this summer. Conflict has intensified, with no end in sight. Kabul’s high-security zones have witnessed the worst of the terrorists attacks of late. Increasing instability in northern Afghanistan has also unnerved neighboring Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Like a menacing cloud before a storm, lurking in the background is the Islamic State, awaiting only the right moment to add its own sickening brand of jihadi terror. Both politically and strategically, Ghani cannot afford to be complacent about the potential negative ramifications of Pakistan’s unwillingness or inability to rein in the Taliban.

Danger next door

June 23, 2015 

Parliament attack in Afghanistan points to region’s unresolved crises. India needs its own roadmap to navigate the minefield.
Afghan security forces run at the site of a suicide attack during clashes with Taliban fighters in front of the Parliament, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, June 22, 2015. (AP Photo)

Pakistan: Ferment Against Army Domination of political processes begins sprouting.

By Dr Subhash Kapila
22nd June

The Pakistan Army as a paragon of virtue was a carefully nurtured myth and the first signs of ferment against Pakistan Army dominating political processes exploded last week with former President Zardari’s diatribe against the military establishment and warning it to stay within its constitutional limits.

Pakistan’s civil society has already demonstrated its street-power thrice in the past. First, with the pro-democracy marches in2007 involving all sections of society including women. Second, the million-men march from Lahore to Islamabad on demanding reinstatement of Supreme Court Chief Justice Chaudhary, which also ultimately brought down the military ruler General Musharraf. The low point was in the follow-up on the US raid on Abbottabad Garrison to liquidate Osama bin Laden. Such was the public criticism of the Pakistan Army and its Generals then that a Special Corps Commanders Conference was summoned to let the Government know that the Pakistan Army was not ready to countenance it, or else?

A First: China Sends Troops to US-Mongolia-Led Khaan Quest Exercise

June 23, 2015
Source Link

For the first time, China is sending People’s Liberation Army troops to exercise Khaan Quest.
For the first time ever, China has sent People’s Liberation Army troops to Exercise Khaan Quest, a multinational ground forces peacekeeping drill designed to boost military-to-military interoperability, hosted by Mongolia. The exercise is cosponsored with the United States Pacific Command (PACOM). Khaan Quest was first established in 2003.

China’s participation in Khaan Quest 2015 is notably not being heavily publicized in the Chinese press. Xinhua ran a brief article noting that this was China’s first time sending troops to the exercise, and many other press outlets have been largely silent on the matter. Other major multinational exercises, including the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), have drawn considerably more attention from the Chinese press.

The 2015 US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue: What (and What Not) to Expect

June 23, 2015
Source Link

Four things to expect from this week’s Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

Tonight, officials from China and the United States will gather in Washington, D.C. for a dinner that kicks off the seventh round of the “Strategic and Economic Dialogue,” the highest-level annual meeting between the two sides. Talks proper will unfold June 23 and 24. The S&ED will be led by Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on the U.S. side and by State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Vice Premier Wang Yang on the Chinese side.

So what’s on the agenda for this round of the showcase dialogue platform? Below, four topics to watch that will feature heavily on the agenda, and one thing not to expect.

China's New South China Sea Messaging

China has changed the way it talks about its actions in the South China Sea, signalling a shift in the way it thinks.

The Philippines released photos of China’s construction and land reclamation activities in the South China Sea, on May 15, 2014, a day after Manila accused Beijing of violating the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea by carrying out such construction. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying was asked about the photographs in her regular press conference on May 15. Here’s her response, in full:

China has indisputable sovereignty over Nansha [Spratly] Islands including Chigua Reef [Johnson South Reef] and the contiguous waters. Whatever construction China carries out in the Chigua Reef is completely within China’s sovereignty.

That response did not evolve much over the next ten months. In March 2015, Hua was still defending China’s construction with terse proclamations: “China’s normal construction activities on our own islands and in our own waters are lawful, reasonable and justifiable.”

China Prepares Its 172,000 Civilian Ships for War

Chinese civilian shipbuilders have to ensure that their vessels can be used by the PLAN during times of ‘crisis’.

As my colleague Shannon Tiezzi reported a while back, the Chinese government has approved a plan to ensure that civilian vessels can support military operations of China’s maritime forces in the event of a crisis.

While the recruitment of civilian maritime assets for military purposes is not unusual (e.g., the Queen Elizabeth 2 transported the main British land fighting force to the Falkland Islands during the 1982 Falklands War), the recent announcement is nevertheless a sign of the growing aspirations of Chinese naval planners in developing naval expeditionary warfare capabilities.

China Deals Up Pressure On TPP

June 22, 2015

Beijing’s latest agreements leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership at risk of losing relevance. 

Asia’s “noodle bowl” of bilateral trade deals has become even more entangled, after China’s latest agreements with South Korea and Australia. With Beijing pushing for a broader Asian trade pact, the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks face an increasing battle to remain relevant.

On Wednesday, China followed up its recent pact with its top import supplier, South Korea by inking a free trade agreement (FTA) with Australia, ranked as its sixth-largest import source and a major provider of resources such as iron ore, coal and gold.

Following 10 years of negotiations, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott described the deal’s signing in Canberra as a “momentous day,” saying it would “change our world for the better.”

Who has seen Zhang Dejiang?

June 21, 2015

The Indian media is a strange creature. It spends its time and energy on obsessions; every few days, it focuses on a new one while wearing blinkers for everything else. But even when it ignores ‘important’ news, nobody seems too much disturbed, as long as there is a good cricket ingredient and some spicy masala.

Last week, it was the Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj’s ‘chance’ to make the headlines; the Everest could have change place (and it did, moving a few centimeters inside Tibet), nobody was bothered.

Of course, cricket is the national game and it has to prime over all other national and international issues. With the foreign minister linked with a latest cricketgate, other information had no chance to make it on the TV plateaus or on the first page of the ‘national’ press (these days, page 1 often becomes page 3 or 5, thanks to giant advertisements for e-commerce or attractive investments).

Why China is far from ready to meet the U.S. on a global battlefront

By David Axe
June 22, 2015

Two J-10 fighter jets from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force August 1st AerobaticsTeam during a demonstration at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Both of these statements are true:

1) China possesses a rapidly improving military that, in certain local or regional engagements, could match — and even defeat — U.S. forces in battle.

2) In military terms, China is a paper dragon that, despite its apparent strength, is powerless to intervene in world events far from its shores.

Seeing the distinction between these two ideas is the key to understanding China’s strategic aims, its military means and the threat, if any, that the country poses to its neighbors, the United States and the existing world order.

The first time in hot pursuit

India finally attacks rebels across the border in Myanmar, adding a new page to its counter-insurgency strategy, writes Subir Bhaumik 

In an unusual display of controlled aggression, Indian para- commandos crossed the border into Myanmar on June 9 to strike at Naga and Manipuri separatist bases, after losing nearly 30 soldiers in a string of rebel attacks in the last two months. But if the army was just keen to put the rebels on notice about its intentions, the political establishment messed it up by unwarranted braggadocio. While the military spokesperson was cagey about the location of the exact strikes, only claiming that the commandos inflicted 'significant casualties' on the rebels, India's minister of state for information, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, spilled the beans. He made it clear that rebel bases inside Myanmar had been hit in 'surgical strikes' based on precise intelligence and that none other than the prime minister, Narendra Modi, had authorized them.

The national security advisor, Ajit Doval, and the foreign secretary, S. Jaishankar, has tried assuaging Myanmarese sentiments. They met President U Thein Sein and a host of top Myanmar officials to convey Indian gratitude for cooperation in counter-insurgency. But they also tried to persuade the Myanmarese to ensure that anti-India rebel bases in Sagaing are closed down. Only time will tell whether Myanmar will deliver on that request.

How Fragile Is the Peace in Tajikistan?

Will Muhiddin Kabiri, the leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), return to the country this week to celebrate the 18th anniversary of the peace treaty that ended the Tajik civil war?

According to Asia-Plus, on Monday, the party’s deputy, Mahmadali Hayit, told a news conference in Dushanbe that while Kabiri plans to return the party advises him to stay away.

“We advise Muhiddin Kabiri not to return to Tajikistan until a real peace is reestablished in the country, until the authorities stop pressure on the IRP members,” Hayit said.

Kabiri left the country shortly after the March parliamentary election results were revealed. The election, like every election the country has held, was judged to be unfair. His party, which has come under increasing pressure by the government, lost its last two seats. Although largely nominal, IRPT’s presence in parliament (two seats out of 63), was to many observers at least a nod to democracy. It was also a visible piece of the peace treaty that ended the devastating Tajik civil war.