3 December 2016

*** Donald Trump’s Phone Conversation With the Leader of Pakistan Was Reckless and Bizarre

Nikhil Kumar 

The U.S. President-elect's ill-considered words could have serious regional and global consequences 

There are few foreign policy topics quite as complicated as the relationship between India and Pakistan, South Asia’s nuclear-armed nemeses. Any world leader approaching the issue even obliquely must surely see the “Handle With Care” label from miles away, given the possibility of nuclear conflict.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, however, doesn’t seem to have read the memo, injecting a pronounced element of uncertainty about the position of the world’s only remaining superpower on this most complex of subjects in a call with the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

According to a readout of the conversation from the Pakistani authorities, he apparently agreed to visit the country and said he was “ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.” He reportedly added: “You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way.”

*** Some ’62 lessons to remember

Mohan Guruswamy

The writer, a policy analyst studying economic and security issues, held senior positions in government and industry. He also specialises in the Chinese economy

Nikita Khrushchev blinked first and the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw its nuclear missiles from Cuba.

In recent times we have had some articles suggesting that the Chinese attack on India in 1962 was coordinated to coincide with the missiles being sent to Cuba. (Photo: AP/File )

On October 14, 1962 US U-2 spy planes over flying Cuba detected Soviet military personnel erecting intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) capable missile launchers. On October 22, President John F. Kennedy ordered a blockade of Cuba. The two superpowers were now eyeball to eyeball and unless one blinked there would be Armageddon. Nikita Khrushchev blinked first and the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw its nuclear missiles from Cuba.

In recent times we have had some articles suggesting that the Chinese attack on India in 1962 was coordinated to coincide with the missiles being sent to Cuba. The facts seem to suggest otherwise.

*** What Trump Should Do in Syria

Kenneth Roth

All wars are frightening for those stuck in the middle, but the five-and-a-half-year conflict in Syria has proven to be especially horrific. What kind of policy might President-elect Donald Trump adopt toward it? How different would his approach be from Barack Obama’s? Despite his early rhetoric about joining with the Russian and Syrian governments to fight the self-declared Islamic State, or ISIS, Trump is likely to encounter a far more complicated terrain than he seems to understand, which will require a much tougher approach toward Moscow than he so far envisions. 

What makes the Syrian war so dangerous is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s determination to fight not simply by attacking opposing combatants, as the laws of war allow, but by targeting and indiscriminately firing upon civilians and civilian infrastructure in opposition-held areas, blatantly flouting those laws. Hospitals, markets, schools, and apartment buildings—the institutions of modern urban life—have all been targeted with unrelenting cruelty. For the past year, Assad’s attacks have been supplemented and intensified by the Russian air force under Russian President Vladimir Putin’s command without a discernible change in targeting strategy. 

President Obama has made sporadic and ultimately unsuccessful efforts to stop this slaughter of civilians; his main preoccupation has been fighting ISIS. Trump seems inclined toward a similar focus, and has suggested a willingness to team up in fighting ISIS with Assad and Putin despite their attacks on civilians and their relative inattention to ISIS. In September, for example, Trump said: 

*** The Uncertain Trends and Metrics of Terrorism in 2016

By Anthony H. Cordesman

The global trends in terrorism present some of the most complex problems for analysis in U.S. national security. The Burke Chair at CSIS has updated a survey of such trends that highlights a wide range of developments since 1970, as well as more recent trends in 2015 and 2016. This analysis is entitled The Uncertain Trends in Terrorism and is available on the CSIS web site at https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/161129_Trends_Metrics_Terrorism_Updated.pdf. The analysis includes both broad trends as presented in the U.S. State Department Country Reports on Terrorism and START data base, and key trend metrics from other sources and NGOs.

The report’s Table of Contents include:

** A Water War in Asia?


Tensions over water are rising in Asia — and not only because of conflicting maritime claims. While territorial disputes, such as in the South China Sea, attract the most attention — after all, they threaten the safety of sea lanes and freedom of navigation, which affects outside powers as well — the strategic ramifications of competition over transnationally shared freshwater resources are just as ominous.

Asia has less fresh water per capita than any other continent, and it is already facing a water crisis that, according to an MIT study, will continue to intensify, with severe water shortages expected by 2050. At a time of widespread geopolitical discord, competition over freshwater resources could emerge as a serious threat to long-term peace and stability in Asia.

Already, the battle is underway, with China as the main aggressor. Indeed, China’s territorial grab in the South China Sea has been accompanied by a quieter grab of resources in transnational river basins. Reengineering cross-border riparian flows is integral to China’s strategy to assert greater control and influence over Asia.

Exit Raheel Sharif

Khaled Ahmed

General Raheel Sharif retired as Pakistan’s chief of the army staff on November 29. He was a popular army chief because he didn’t overthrow the elected government of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) despite a lot of suggestive agitation by opposition politicians. People wanted him to stay on through a three-year extension of his tenure because he had made their lives easy by bringing down the incidence of terrorism in Pakistan by 70 per cent through his Operation Zarb-e-Azb against the Taliban and by going after the target-killers of Karachi.

If you want to know Pakistan you have to know who the army chief there is. So paramount is the power of the army because of Pakistan’s India-centric nationalism. Pakistan’s most popular elected leader, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was killed by his army chief, General Zia ul Haq, who strengthened the other aspect of Pakistani nationalism, Islamic ideology, by bringing in new constitutional amendments. (Bangladesh generals did that too.) As president he ran the country successfully by helping America bring down the Soviet Union, leaning on money from Saudi Arabia to run an economy, which would otherwise have collapsed.

‘It’s in Pak’s interest to keep eastern front with India quiet’


Brig. Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd), who has commanded an infantry brigade in the Gurez sector on the Line of Control in Kashmir and an artillery regiment in counter-insurgency operations, says that India’s actions against Pakistan have been carefully calculated to avoid escalation. In an interview to Sanjib Kr Baruah. Brig. Kanwal talks about the latest developments in the vexed India-Pakistan relationship.

Indo-Pak hostilities have spiralled in recent days. What is your assessment of the current scenario? Where are we headed?

The India-Pakistan relationship has touched a new low. Unless Pakistan’s deep state — the Army and ISI — stops sponsoring terrorism into India and Afghanistan, we may be headed for a short, sharp conflict.

It is said that cross-border raids between the armies of the two countries were fairly common in the pre-2003 days. How correct is it?

This is factually incorrect. On the Indian side there were clear orders to refrain from crossing the LoC, except in retaliation for the barbaric actions of Pakistan’s rogue army. Such trans-LoC raids were few and far between.

Chinese subs for Dhaka: A new worry

Abhijit Bhattacharyya

The very characteristics of the submarine which is being deployed by Bangladesh would reveal the possible future scenario.

Two developments in November linked to India’s strategic interests virtually went unnoticed owing to media hype on demonetisation in India and Donald Trump’s election victory in the United States. Stealthily, China’s money and military power penetrated deeper than ever before in the western and eastern flanks of India. On November 13, Chinese ships opened a new trade route via Gwadar port in Pakistan and set off for Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the UAE and the European Union.

Since China is adept at playing diplomacy through symbols like that of picture script alphabets, the destinations of the ships spoke louder than announcements. The voyage to Dhaka and Colombo constituted the eastern and southern flank (water bodies) of India while the UAE and EU indicated China’s prosperous customers from the oil-producing basin of the Persian Gulf and the quintessential “one Europe-one market” for Chinese products.

The second event happened on November 14, in India’s eastern flank, Bangladesh took delivery of its first submarines, bought from China, as it seeks to boost its naval power in the Bay of Bengal. Bought at an estimated price of $203 million, its genesis goes back to the December 2010 announcement of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for enhancement of “effectiveness” of the Bangladesh Navy.

I don’t think Trump will declare Pak as a sponsor of terrorism: Kanwal Sibal


Trump has large financial interests in the Arab world.

The election of Republican Donald Trump as the next US President has triggered a political storm there but there are many in India who are cautiously optimistic about India-US ties during his presidency. In this email interview, former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal talks with Sridhar Kumaraswami on what Mr Trump’s victory indicates and its implications for India.

What does the victory of Donald Trump represent in the internal evolution of the United States? Is this a “whitelash”?

One would have thought that the election of Barack Obama — the first black President of the US and his re-election — represented a fundamental evolution of race relations in the country. Obviously, this was a misreading. There is certainly a white backlash in the country, fed by insecurities that the white working class of the country is prey to because of the loss of manufacturing jobs in America. If income inequalities in the US had not expanded, if economic growth in the US had picked up faster, if those unemployed had been re-trained for jobs in other sectors and so on, the white backlash may not have occurred to the degree it has. Now we see the surfacing of a strong anti-immigrant and racist sentiment amongst the white population. The country is divided today, but not entirely along racial lines. Many whites too are strongly anti-Trump for what he stands for. The issue is complex.

Kashmir will be a ‘long war’, warns outgoing Northern Army chief DS Hooda

Rahul Singh

On his last day in office, Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda said he didn’t see an easy solution to end the Kashmir conflict, calling it a “long war” that would require a “long-term approach”. 

His comments are significant as government sources predict that the conflict with home-grown militants will end soon. 

A day after seven soldiers were killed in the Nagrota strike, Hooda said on Wednesday that the situation along the Line of Control was not cooling down anytime soon and the hinterland would also remain hot. 

He warned against calling “the first shot fired against a garrison” a security lapse, saying 100% success each time in preventing attacks reflected “little understanding of the battle the army is fighting”. 

“If we look at everything from a two-month perspective, we will end up adopting a short-term view. That will be counter-productive in terms of dealing with Pakistan.” 

Understand Pakistan’s Proxy War – and we could brag less

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

On November 25, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told a rally in Panaji, Goa, “There is no doubt that the army is gallant, but for the first time, the country’s political leadership took a strong policy decision. And after that too, we have given an appropriate response to other cowardly attacks. It was such a powerful response that some days back, finally they called us that please stop this we are pleading with you”, adding, “We said that we have no problem stopping it, but you stop it too. As a result, there is no firing on the border.” Earlier, post India’s the surgical strikes into POK against terrorist launch pads, Parrikar had also said, “We taught the Army their capabilities”. There have been cross border offensive actions earlier too but never have such statements been given, not even after decimating East Pakistan.

Sure the Pakistani DGMO asked for ‘unscheduled’ contact with his Indian counterpart after India inflicted heavy casualties from Pakistan through fire assaults in retaliation to the heinous act of beheading one of our soldiers. The very purpose of the DGMO hotline is that either incumbent can call the other, when deemed necessary in addition to exchange on fixed days, and this has happened on earlier occasion too, from our side also. The request is sent in advance because all such telephonic conversations are recorded; scheduled or unscheduled. Many a times, because of inadvertent border crossings, DGMO of the affected side informs his counterpart on the hotline, asking for the individual to be returned.



Earlier this year, several former ISAF commanders and diplomats wrote President Barack Obama, imploring him to freeze troop levels in Afghanistan until the next administration takes office. Obama ultimately agreed to keep 8,400 troops in country, but while President-elect Donald Trump said many things about many foreign policy during the election season, he gave few hints as to how he would handle the conflict. As the transition is underway, U.S. military planners are still grappling with building effective Afghan security forces — an effort that could take many more years, if not decades. Such an extended endeavor may be in order to secure U.S. interests in Afghanistan, but Trump would do well to ask a few questions of our military leadership before writing another blank check.

After all, our collective efforts under the leadership of those who signed the letter to Obama have left us, after 15 years of war, with muddled results at best. We have expended $64 billion to create a massive security force that shows an incredible willingness to fight but cannot hold off the Taliban, a force with a fraction of the resources. We have also plowed $113 billion into development projects with only reports of endemic corruption, waste, and inefficiency to show for it. Much has been written — some of it even commissioned by the military — about the larger failures of our post-9/11 strategy. Yet very little has been said about how the military’s approach to Afghanistan shaped, and ultimately limited, our overall strategy.

Gwadar Port benefits to China limited

By Li Xuanmin

The CPEC terminal will provide development opportunities for Pakistan

The benefits of Pakistani Gwadar Port to the Chinese economy may be limited, as the port's capacity cannot satisfy China's oil import demand and a proposed pipeline from Gwadar to western China would be both economically and geographically infeasible and would raise crude transport costs by as much as 16 times, experts said.

However, the port is a bonanza for Pakistan, experts said, noting that it will bring a string of opportunities for the country, including revitalizing its lackluster economy and attracting more foreign capital.

Following the first trade cargo ships that departed from Gwadar on November 13, the National Business Daily (NBD) suggested China would benefit a lot from the port because of its strategic location. 

The port "is located on the Arabian Sea and occupies a strategic location," Bloomberg reported, giving China access to the Persian Gulf region and the Middle East. 

Inside and Outside the System: Chinese Writer Hu Fayun

Ian Johnson

Over the summer I traveled to Wuhan to continue my series of talks with people about the challenges facing China. Coming here was part of an effort to break out of the black hole of Beijing politics and explore the view from China’s vast hinterland. 

Wuhan seemed a logical place to start because it is one of the country’s great inland port cities—it has a population of more than 8 million and is a gateway to the interior. A conglomeration of what were once three cities, Wuhan is at the intersection of two of China’s most important rivers, the Yangtze and the Han. This made it a prize of European imperialists, who occupied it in the nineteenth century, building impressive Western-style banks and office blocks along the Yangtze River front—a smaller version of Shanghai on the coast. More recently, layoffs in its vast steelworks have led to worker unrest, while the city has been at the center of disputes over forced urbanization and evictions. 

In an earlier post, I talked to the documentary filmmaker and feminist scholar Ai Xiaoming, who spoke about her efforts to document those struggling for social justice. Ai had been born in Wuhan but spent most of her adult life in Beijing or Guangzhou. I wanted to talk to someone more permanently rooted in this city, and so was drawn inexorably to Hu Fayun, a sixty-seven-year-old writer who has spent his entire life in Wuhan, except for two years during the Cultural Revolution when he was exiled to a village. 

China’s spies gain valuable US defense technology: report


According to the annual report of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Chinese cyber espionage is a "major problem" for America

China has gained military benefits in recent years from stealing defense secrets through industrial and cyber espionage carried out by its intelligence services, according to a US congressional report.

“In recent years, Chinese agents have extracted data on some of the most advanced weapons and weapons systems in the US arsenal, such as jet fighters and unmanned submersible vehicles,” states the annual report of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, released on November 16.

“The loss of these and other sensitive defense technologies undermines US military superiority by accelerating China’s military modernization and giving China insight into the capabilities and operation of US weapons and weapons systems,” the report adds.

Must-reads from across Asia - directly to your inbox

The Surest Measure of How China's Economy Is Losing

By Derek Scissors

American presidential elections are a patchy time for the use of facts. It turns out presidential transitions are, too. Donald Trump as president-elect has triggered a slew of comments and articles about China’s pending leadership of the world economy. Journalists and pundits may value words over money; economists should not.

There are data, grounded in real-world calculations, that show China’s economic importance falling -- not rising slowly, nor staying stable, but falling. The most important indicator is net private wealth, which is the single best measure of a country’s economic size and of the pool of resources available to its public sector for military or social spending.

In work dating back to 2000 and carried out with no geo-economic agenda, Credit Suisse has estimated private wealth. The new estimates, through the middle of 2016, show American private wealth at $84.8 trillion and Chinese private wealth at $23.4 trillion. Moreover, the gap is widening. With $60 trillion less in private wealth than the United States, China’s global economic leadership is a fable.

The Coming War on ‘Radical Islam’


How President-elect Trump’s government could change America’s approach to terrorism. 

In the fall of 1990—around the time U.S. troops arrived in Saudi Arabia, enraging Osama bin Laden—the historian Bernard Lewis sounded an alarm in The Atlantic about brewing anti-Americanism in the Muslim world. “[W]e are facing a mood and a movement far transcending the level of issues and policies and the governments that pursue them,” he wrote. “This is no less than a clash of civilizations—the perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both. It is crucially important that we on our side should not be provoked into an equally historic but also equally irrational reaction against that rival.”

America’s two post-9/11 presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, attempted a balancing act: combatting jihadist terrorism while seeking to avoid the impression that the Western and Muslim worlds were engaged in the kind of clash Lewis described.

Destructive Hacks Strike Saudi Arabia, Posing Challenge to Trump Michael Riley

Michael Riley

State-sponsored hackers have conducted a series of destructive attacks on Saudi Arabia over the last two weeks, erasing data and wreaking havoc in the computer banks of the agency running the country’s airports and hitting five additional targets, according to two people familiar with an investigation into the breach.

Saudi Arabia said after inquiries from Bloomberg News that “several” government agencies were targeted in attacks that came from outside the kingdom, according to state media. No further details were provided.

Although a probe by Saudi authorities is still in its early stages, the people said digital evidence suggests the attacks emanated from Iran. That could present President-elect Donald Trump with a major national security challenge as he steps into the Oval Office.

The use of offensive cyber weapons by a nation is relatively rare and the scale of the latest attacks could trigger a tit-for-tat cyber war in a region where capabilities have mushroomed ever since an attack on Saudi Aramco in 2012.

Nationalism, Internationalism and New Politics

By George Friedman 

A new political dichotomy is replacing the old left vs. right divide. 

The world is experiencing a shift from the old liberal-conservative model to an internationalist-nationalist model. Nationalist challenges against the internationalist model have moved from the margins of the political system to the center, winning victories in the United States and the United Kingdom, and rising in strength in other countries. The rise of nationalism is the decisive character of the day. Internationalism is on the defensive. Whatever the ultimate outcome, this struggle will politically define at least the next decade.

The world that emerged from World War II was built on certain assumptions. First, that the origins of the war rested in the rise of nationalism in Germany and the inability of other countries to form an effective and proactive alliance to contain German and destroy the Nazi regime. Second, the economic crisis that preceded World War II was rooted in the collapse of international trade due to protectionism. In the U.S., this was represented by the Smoot-Hawley tariffs. 

Looks like an interesting read. RCP Eyes, Ears, and Daggers

by Thomas H. Henriksen

Each war tells us something about the way the next war will be fought.


One of the things we have seen since 9/11 is an extraordinary coming together, particularly the CIA and the military, in working together and fusing intelligence and operations in a way that just, I think, is unique in anybody’s history.

-Robert Gates

When Nathan Hale stood on the scaffold in 1776 and uttered his immortal regret that he had only one life to give for his country, he came to embody a timeless patriot. In retrospect, Hale was also a progenitor of the soldier-spy fusion that has become so noteworthy in the early twenty-first-century conflict with jihadi terrorism. Days before his execution, the young military officer had volunteered to dress in civilian clothes, go behind enemy lines, and scout out the Red Coats’ plans at the start of the American Revolution. His fellow officers shrank from the mission out of fear of dying from an ignominious execution by hanging, rather than an ennobling death on the battlefield. The British caught and hanged the twenty-one-year-old captain from the Seventh Connecticut regiment for spying.