11 September 2015

Counter View: OROP, Bungled Promises And Warped Goodwill

9 Sep, 2015

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch (Retd) is a Special Forces veteran of the Indian Army.

The current lopsided OROP announcement has resulted in the BJP losing goodwill amongst military veterans.

Speaking at Faridabad on September 6, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that those taking voluntary retirement also will be eligible to OROP. One wonders if he realized that after 15-months of inter-ministerial deliberations, insertion of the VRS clause was anything but bureaucratic mischief. Especially, since VRS does not exist in the military. Had VRS existed, perhaps half the military would have gone for it considering the political and bureaucratic apathy that the military has been subjected to over past several decades by all governments. Just the number of personnel from Special Forces who took pre-mature retirement in the last 10-15 years because of such apathy would shock the public. That the number would have been much more but for the cap on how many can leave is a separate issue.

While announcing OROP, the Defence Minister, reading from a prepared script though flanked by the Service Chiefs, apparently had little idea about the implications of announcing that personnel taking voluntary retirement would not be eligible to OROP – indeed a sad state of affairs. His body language anyway indicated he had been stumped by the financial pundits.

A Strategic Dilemma: Fast Depleting Submarine Force Levels

By Rear Adm AP Revi
09 Sep , 2015

As far as submarine design expertise is concerned – India is at present at the initiation point of the learning curve. The submarine design capability curves of others like USA, Russia, UK and France have more or less peaked to a plateau. After the Cold War ended – the design effort in that direction tapered off and accordingly the availability of skill levels have also deteriorated. A serious debate is raging among the major maritime powers as to how to sustain the submarine design capabilities built up painfully over the years. The USA is re-orienting its build strategy to a process involving a seamless design exercise termed Integrated Product and Process Development (IIPD)

Historical Perspective

The Indian Navy (IN) has had a long standing aspiration for building a credible submarine arm. The government on the other hand, initially opposed the idea on ideological/ethical grounds. It considered the submarine as an offensive weapons platform. The policy went to the extent of blocking the acquisition of submarines even for purposes of preparing the IN for anti-submarine warfare. In the late 1950s and 1960s, the IN had to make do with British Royal Naval (RN) submarines once a year, during the Commonwealth Joint Exercises off Trincomalee (JETEX). The Navy’s weakness in this domain was manifest in the loss of INS Khukri during a submarine active search operation against Pakistan Navy’s Daphne class submarine in 1971.

Afghanistan’s 32-Year Refugee Crisis

September 09, 2015

Afghanistan’s refugee crisis is decades old. Afghans began fleeing the country after the Saur Revolution in 1978; more fled in the opening scenes of the Soviet invasion in 1979 and throughout the war. Another wave left during the civil war in the early 1990s, and when the Taliban seized control even more fled. The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan over the last decade has both pushed yet more Afghans to leave the country, while the U.S. and other international donors have invested in assisting returnees. The Costs of War project writes that “before the recent upsurge in violence in Syria and Iraq, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that Afghanistan remained the world’s top producer of refugees for the 32nd year in a row” in 2014, with more than 3.7 million as of July 2014, 700,000-plus of which are internally displaced persons (IDPs).

According to UNCHR, since 2002 more than 5.8 million Afghans have returned from abroad. Still, as of December 2014, nearly 2.5 million Afghan refugees (both registered and undocumented) lived in Pakistan, with nearly a million more in Iran.

See Pakistan’s New Deadly Drones

Sep 8, 2015

An indigenously-developed drone killed three militants in Pakistan on Monday, marking the first use of the missile-firing aircraft in combat, the military said.

One of Pakistan’s Burraq drones, which carry two laser-guided Barq air-to-ground missiles, hit a suspected militant target, killing three people, in the North Waziristan tribal region near the border with Afghanistan, military officials said.

“1st ever use of Pak made Burraq Drone today. Hit a terrorist compound in Shawal Valley killing 3 high profile terrorists,” Major Gen. Asim Bajwa, the military spokesman, said in a message on his verified Twitter account.

The casualties couldn’t be independently verified as access to the area is restricted.

Before the drone strike on Monday, the U.S. and Israel were among the few countries to have ever used armed drones in combat, according to the New America Foundation, an independent Washington-based think tank.

A Perplexing Signal on Iran’s South Asia Energy Policy

September 09, 2015

As high-ranking Indian officials continue to beat a path to Tehran to bolster Indo-Iranian energy cooperation and secure Iranian natural gas imports to India, one of Iran’s senior diplomats in South Asia sent a perplexing signal about the future delivery of Iranian gas to the Subcontinent. The curious comments were made by Iran’s ambassador in Dhaka, Abbas Vaezi. If representative of the current thinking of Iran’s policymakers, Vaezi’s comments could indicate a marked shift in Tehran’s plans to transport natural gas to India.

Speaking before the Diplomatic Correspondents’ Association, Bangladesh, on September 1, Vaezi proposedextending the Iran-Pakistan (IP) natural gas pipeline to Bangladesh. The ambassador’s proposal, widely reported in the Iranian press as well as in Bangladesh, is curious on several different accounts. Any extension of the IP pipeline to Bangladesh would have to cross a considerable swath of Indian territory. The air travel distance between Nawabshah, Pakistan, the current proposed endpoint for the IP pipeline, and the Bangladeshi border is more than 1,000 miles (1,609 km), most of which is across India. Such a route would not be feasible without Indian participation and Vaezi hinted that Tehran had already engaged New Delhi on the topic.

Sri Lanka’s ‘Accountability’ Dilemma

September 10, 2015

With the opening of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s 30th session just days away, many Sri Lanka watchers are waiting to see how Colombo deals with the release of a major U.N. report focused on wartime abuses in Sri Lanka and its plans for handling “accountability” issues domestically. What will Colombo’s accountability mechanism actually look like? And is it actually possible for such a mechanism to work properly? What role, if any, will international actors play in such a process?

Sri Lanka’s new government has said publicly that they will pursue accountability via domestic means, although (broadly speaking) ethnic Tamils simply do not have faith in a domestic accountability process. The thinking being that for decades the Sinhala-dominated state has created commissions of inquiry or domestic accountability mechanisms, yet genuine justice does not follow and impunity remains institutionalized.

US-China: Climate Change Challenge and Opportunity

By Li Shuo
September 09, 2015

With so many contentious bilateral issues between the U.S. and China – the South China Sea and cyber security to name just two – hopes are building for President Xi Jinping’s first official visit to the U.S. this September. The world’s two biggest CO2 emitters could deliver another environmental high note, one that could have crucial significance for climate talks in Paris in December this year.

China and the U.S. surprised the world with their joint statement on climate change last November and with their environment cooperation plan announced in June’s Strategic & Economic Dialogue. With the all-important Paris Conference just around the corner, now could be the perfect time for the world’s two largest economies to draft a long-term carbon mitigation policy a structured plan to wrestle the world’s temperature rises to below two degrees by the middle of this century.

Genuine mutual interests are driving both Beijing and Washington to act. Bilaterally, the two sides are badly in need of some sunshine in their gloomy relationship. Unilaterally, both leaders are in need of an image boost. Obama, who in Alaska on Monday claimed he is “determined to make sure American leadership continues to drive international action [on climate change],” is looking to secure his climate legacy. Meanwhile Xi is looking to demonstrate China’s position as a responsible global power, and will have the perfect stage to do so at his first appearance before the UN end of September.

Celebrating The Past: China’s Military Parade 2015

By S Rajasimman
10 Sep , 2015

By order of missing out on the finer details of the military parade held in Beijing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Chinese military victory over occupying Japanese forces in 1945, an overview of China’s relation with its past and future provide the methodology for the possible use of military hardware displayed during the parade.

China’s display of armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and air borne early warning systems is in line with the general trend in warfare of the 21st century.

Following an evolving military doctrine which assumes the future warfare scenario to be – LOCAL, HI-TECH and LIMITED, China’s military prepares to fight and win modern warfare with a self-claimed orientation towards “defence” vis-a-vis “offence”. The distinction between the two methods is of course a matter of debate and shares a mutual relation. The first phase of modern combat is likely to start with manned/unmanned aerial bombing or jamming of air-defence forces. This act of initiating of offence is a defensive measure undertaken to secure the air space required to initiate armed combat sorties for further military missions.

Get Ready, China: America Is Upgrading Its Missile Defenses

September 8, 2015

While most folks were getting ready to head out for Labor Day barbeques, American defense planners were preparing what could be a big upgrade of U.S. missile-defense platforms on the high seas.
In a press release last Friday by Lockheed Martin, the company detailed a new contract worth as much as $428 million over ten years to modernize the highly respected U.S. Navy Aegis Combat System’s hardware and software. And the timing could not be any better considering the news coming out of Asia these days.

Lockheed explained in its release that the upgrades, or the Ship Integration & Test (SI&T) program, “will will integrate Aegis onboard new Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and modernize destroyers and cruisers to operate the latest iteration of the Aegis configuration, called Baseline 9.”

China's military: How strong is the People's Liberation Army?

Chinese soldiers march past Tiananmen Square before a military parade in Beijing marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. 

China's People's Liberation Army is the world's largest military force, with 2.3 million troops serving on the ground, in the air and in the increasingly robust force China is deploying on the high seas.

With Beijing's increasing military assertiveness, most notably in territorial disputes with other Asian nations in the South China Sea, many are taking a hard look at the PLA and Beijing's ambitions to modernize it.

China has upped its military budgets by more than 10% a year over the last five years -- at least as reported -- but what's been the result?

The emblem of the People's Liberation Army. 

Under Xi, China Prepares for Modern Warfare

September 3, 2015

Chinese President Xi Jinping waves as he reviews the army, at the beginning of the military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, in Beijing, China, September 3, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters) 

Chinese military muscle was on full display in Beijing this week, with hundreds of new weapons platforms, fly-bys, 12,000 troops, and foreign dignitaries all in the global spotlight of Tiananmen Square. Yet, it wasn’t just the land-based anti-ship ballistic missiles and ground assault units that stole the show. Simmering behind the scenes, and underpinning Chinese President Xi Jinping’s evolving political-military agenda, were the renewed discussions of imminent plans for an overhaul to the operating structure of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). 

Beginning with Xi’s announcement of a 300,000 reduction in Chinese troops from the Tiananmen Square rostrum, subsequent plans will include a comprehensive upending to the military’s existing structure, a vision of U.S.-style joint command structure adapted to the Chinese forces. This is no small undertaking for the Chinese, akin to the introduction of theU.S. National Security Act in 1947, with a similarly large scale of ripple effects throughout the political system. 

Unnatural aristocrats

In China and its role model, Singapore, “meritocratic” leaders are under scrutiny Sep 5th 2015 

CLOSELY tracking the Shanghai Composite Index in its downward slide in August was the reputation of China’s government for consistency, competence and even common sense. Worse, its hapless response to the bursting of a stockmarket bubble, which its own propaganda had helped to inflate, was only one of a number of bungles. It mismanaged a modest devaluation of its currency, the yuan. And a catastrophic explosion in the northern port city of Tianjin revealed appalling lapses in the enforcement of regulations. All governments make mistakes. But China’s bases its legitimacy on its performance rather than a popular mandate. Now foreigners and citizens alike are asking whether the Chinese authorities have lost the plot.

The ISIS Campaign: The War No One in Washington Wants to Talk About

September 9, 2015

As Australia prepares to expand its air war against the Islamic State (ISIS) to Syria, it’s interesting to note that the first anniversary of the beginning of the bombing campaign against ISIS has passed virtually unnoticed in Washington.

This is quite incredible given that by August 31, 2015 the air war alone had cost the U.S. treasury well over U.S.$3 billion, or about US$9.4 million per day. Since the beginning of the bombing, there have been almost 20,000 bombs and missiles dropped by American and coalition aircraft for an estimated 15,000 ISIS fighters killed. That success rate is poor and has come at great expense. And it would appear that ISIS is able to replace its losses with new foreign recruits quite easily.

The lack of public interest in this war is even more extraordinary given that all the top military leaders have admitted that this will be a very long fight indeed. This is a war that the next two administrations will likely have to deal with. For example, General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has stated that the war against ISIS is a “generational conflict.” And General Ray Odierno, the Army’s out-going Chief of Staff, has echoed these sentiments by stating that “ISIS is a 10 to 20 year problem; it’s not a two year problem.”

Wake Up, World: Time to Step Up Support for Syria's Refugees

September 9, 2015

The heart-wrenching stories and pictures of people fleeing Syria’s bloodletting have stirred debate, anguish and abundant finger pointing. The latest catalyst was the photograph of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on Turkey’s coast after the jam-packed boat he and his family boarded to escape Syria capsized. (His mother and brother, aged five, also drowned; their grief-consumed father survived.)

The EU is now bickering over which member state should take how many refugees. European governments’ responses to the soaring inflow, from Syria and elsewhere, have varied. Germany has admitted some 100,000 asylum seekers since 2011. Sweden has received 14,000 from Syria alone since the civil war began there that year. Chancellor Angela Merkel recently allowed several thousand Syrians stranded in (an inhospitable) Hungary to enter Germany via Austria.

This Is What ISIS' Rise Means for the “Kurdish Question”

September 9, 2015

The rise of the group that calls itself the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) is changing the political landscape of the entire Middle East, fueling old tensions while also creating new ones. More recently, much ink has been spilled on the sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites. However, while many analysts debated the actual or potential military effectiveness of the Kurdish paramilitary groups against ISIS, the implications of the organization’s rise to prominence for the fate of the Kurdish populations in the Middle East remains a relatively underexplored area.

The so-called “Kurdish question”—the fact that while they can easily fulfill the criteria for nationhood, Kurds have long been denied self-determination, “trapped” and divided inside the borders of four sovereign states—has been one of the most persistent yet relatively ignored puzzles of the Middle East during the century that followed the demise of the Ottoman Empire in 1923. It has been persistent, in the sense that the Kurdish populations spread out in modern Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran have resisted assimilation to the broader putative “nations” that controlled the central governments in their respective territories.

Why Some Arabs States Refuse to Accept Syrian Refugees

Jared Malsin / Cairo 
Sept. 8, 2015

Lebanon and Jordan host almost 2 million refugees while the rich Gulf states host none
Syrians fleeing war are driven to board precarious boats to cross the Mediterranean. They crowd onto trains and climb mountains. They risk detention, deportation, and drowning.

There is growing evidence that the people dying to reach the shores of Europe are fleeing not only war in Syria, but oppression in other Middle Eastern states.

As pressure rises for European leaders to resolve the refugee crisis, critics are also asking why Middle Eastern governments have not done more to help the four million Syrians who represent one of the largest mass movement of refugees since World War Two. Much ire has focused on the relatively wealthy states along the Persian Gulf. According to a report by Amnesty International, the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council offered zero formal resettlement slots to Syrians by the end of 2014.

How to Fight the Islamic State

SEP 8, 2015 10

Joseph S. Nye, Jr., a former US assistant secretary of defense and chairman of the US National Intelligence Council, is University Professor at Harvard University and a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government. He is the author, most recently, of Is the Am… read more

CAMBRIDGE – The Islamic State has captured the world’s attention with gruesome videos of beheadings, wanton destruction of antiquities, and skilled use of social media. It has also captured a large part of eastern Syria and western Iraq, proclaimed a caliphate based in Raqqa, Syria, and attracted foreign jihadists from around the world.

US President Barack Obama says that the Islamic State must be degraded and ultimately defeated. He has appointed General John Allen to lead a coalition of some 60 countries in the task, relying on air strikes, special forces, and training missions. Some critics want him to send more American troops; others say that the United States should settle for a doctrine of containment.

Iraq and Syria opinion poll - the world's most dangerous survey?

By Jonathan MarcusDiplomatic correspondent
9 September 2015 
As a wave of refugees heads north-westwards into Europe from the Middle East it may not be surprising to hear that a majority of Iraqis and Syrians appear to believe their countries are heading in the wrong direction.
That is one of the findings from an opinion poll commissioned by the BBC from ORB International that examines public opinion in both Iraq and Syria.

Some 66% of those questioned in Iraq and 57% in Syria think their country is heading in the wrong direction. Perhaps more shocking is that one quarter of those questioned in Iraq and more than one third in Syria think their country is actually on the right track.

Iraq poll
Of 1,234 Iraqis surveyed


think the country is going in the wrong direction

Counter-Terrorism: Shoot First, Shoot To Kill And Aim For The Leaders

September 9, 2015: In early September 2015 the U.S. revealed that an August 25th UAV missile attack in eastern Syria (near the city of Raqqa) did, as suspected, kill Juanaid Hussain, a British citizen believed to be the most skilled computer hacker working for ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). Hussain was one of the key people in ISIL’s twitter based recruiting and publicity operation. Hussain did not have world class hacking skills but he came to Syria in 2013 as a bright British teenager who had a talent for hacking, good knowledge of Internet culture and eager to “defend Islam” any way he could.

Hussian was yet another victim of the “decapitation” tactics that proved successful in Iraq before U.S. troops left in 2011 and earlier in Israel where it was developed to deal with the Palestinian terror campaign that began in 2000. The Israelis were very successful with their decapitation program, which reduced Israeli civilian terrorist deaths within five years from over 400 a year to less than ten. Actually decapitation tactics are an ancient practice. American troops have used similar tactics many times in the past (in World War II, 1960s Vietnam, the Philippines over a century ago, and in 18th century colonial America) but tend to forget after a generation or so. Some things have to be relearned.

America's F-22 Stealth Fighter vs. Russia's PAK-FA: Who Wins?

September 10, 2015

This year marks a decade since the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor was declared operational with the U.S. Air Force.

Billed by many as the most capable air superiority fighter ever built, the Raptor only recently proved its mettle in combat over Syria and Iraq about a year ago. But the jet wasn’t used to annihilate a Soviet air armada over the Fulda Gap or rip apart an advanced enemy integrated air defense system as its designers had envisioned. Instead, the Raptor has most been relegated to the role of a flying sensor platform.

Nonetheless, the day is coming when the F-22 could face a foe that might have a chance of going toe-to-toe with it and winning—albeit a small one. Russia and China are hard at work developing the Chengdu J-20 and the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA. Of these two machines, the PAK-FA is probably the more serious challenger. Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has somehow managed to retain a more or less credible defense industrial base—even if it’s just a shadow of its former self.