18 August 2019

How A British Royal's Monumental Errors Made India's Partition More Painful

by Adil Najam, Boston University

The midnight between August 14 and 15, 1947, was one of history’s truly momentous moments: It marked the birth of Pakistan, an independent India and the beginning of the end of an era of colonialism.

It was hardly a joyous moment: A botched process of partition saw the slaughter of more than a million people; some 15 million were displaced. Untold numbers were maimed, mutilated, dismembered and disfigured. Countless lives were scarred.

Two hundred years of British rule in India ended, as Winston Churchill had feared, in a “shameful flight"; a “premature hurried scuttle" that triggered a most tragic and terrifying carnage.

The bloodbath of partition also left the two nations that were borne out of it - Indiaand Pakistan - deeply scarred by anguish, angst, alienation and animus.

By 1947, the political, social, societal and religious complexities of the Indian subcontinent may have made partition inevitable, but the murderous mayhem that ensued was not.

Lord Louis Mountbatten, viceroy of India, met with Indian leaders to discuss partition. Max Desfors/AP

India responds to Belt and Road Initiative with infrastructure push

Rupakjyoti Borah

The recent launch of a direct flight between Guwahati in northeast India and Dhaka in Bangladesh marks the beginning of a new phase in the ties between that region of India and its neighborhood. Bangladesh is a key country for India, particularly in the light of the friendly relations between the two governments.

But more than a simple aeronautical arrangement, the route shines a light on India's Act East Policy, which aims to improve connectivity -- and relationships -- between India and its eastern neighbors, including the ASEAN countries. That this comes as China increases its influence in the region through the Belt and Road Initiative should not surprise anyone.

New Delhi is working on a host of other connectivity initiatives. It is involved in the Kaladan transport project, which links the remote Northeast with other parts of the country via Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal.

Location of Nagaland in India. Source: Wikipedia Commons.

By M.A. Athul*
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The National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) in a letter sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 7, 2019, expressed doubt in the sincerity of the Government of India (GoI) to resolve the Naga political issue. The letter written by ‘chairman’ Q. Tuccu and ‘general secretary’ Thuingaleng Muivah lamented that the talks that were supposed to take place at the highest level have been reduced to the Governor’s level. In the letter it was claimed that the commitments given by successive Prime Ministers that the talks will be at the highest level; that the venue of the talks will be outside India, in a third country; and without any pre-condition, have now been dishonoured.

On August 2, 2019, NSCN-IM had claimed that the latest round of formal talks between the outfit and the GoI held at Hebron Camp at Dimapur in Nagaland on August 1, had not gone down well with the NSCN-IM negotiators led by ‘general secretary’ Thuingaleng Muivah. NSCN-IM also alleged that R.N. Ravi, GoI’s interlocutor to the Indo-Naga political talks since August 29, 2014, and now also the Governor of Nagaland, was ‘capricious and bossy’ in the latest round of formal talks. R.N. Ravi was appointed Governor of Nagaland on July 20, 2019.

What the Bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir Tells Us About India’s China Strategy

By Samanvya Hooda

For better or worse, the BJP government’s decision to scrap Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is historic in its consequences. While a great deal has been discussed about the move’s internal security and politicalimplications, the bifurcation of the state into two union territories also has significant bearings on India’s strategy vis-à-vis China.

Undivided Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) consists of the erstwhile Indian state of J&K, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and Aksai Chin, controlled by China. China also controls the Shaksgam Tract, which was ceded by Pakistan to China by the Boundary Agreement of 1963. Aksai Chin has been occupied since the 1962 Sino-Indian War, and is currently a part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Its importance lies in allowing National Highway 219 to connect Xinjiang and Tibet, both of which are under the jurisdiction of China’s Western Theater Command (WTC), which is responsible for all operations along the border with India. While the Shaksgam Tract itself does not pose an immediate military threat to Indian military forces in Ladakh, connectivity between the various Chinese group armies in Tibet and Xinjiang is an important aspect of military operations against Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.

'There's a lot for India to be worried about'

‘The American and Indian security interests continue to be sharply aligned in Asia. And no US visit by Imran Khan, no matter how successful it may have been, can alter that calculus,’ says Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director, Asia Programme, and South Asia Senior Associate at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, DC, and a leading specialist on India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and their relationship with the United States.

In the concluding part of his interview, he tells Rediff.com’s Archana Masih, that India is a perfect security ally for the US -- and an Afghan political settlement that leaves the Taliban in a position of power would be a blow to Indian strategic interests. But it would not necessarily pose as grave a security threat for India as some commentators may fear.

Do you think the Imran Khan-Donald Trump summit in Washington has in any way downgraded India’s importance as America’s security partner in the region?

America Has Responsibility To Pick Winners and Losers in Afghanistan


The question of United States withdrawal from Afghanistan is no longer if but when. With the Afghan government, the Taliban, and the warlords and other mafia type outfits recognizing this, they have shifted to positioning themselves for the aftermath of America’s longest war. In the “survival of the fittest” environment of Afghanistan, corruption and crime is both a major cause of the conflict and a terrible form of conflict resolution.

All actors realize that political arrangements and economic motives are inherently linked. Political positions enable control of economic rents, while those same rents offer stability and status within new uncertain political arrangements. These personal and pecuniary motives have led to an influx of both formal and informal negotiations.

Jodi Vittori is a nonresident scholar in the Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program. She is an expert on the linkages of corruption, state fragility, illicit finance, and U.S. national security.

The Great Game Reinvigorated: Geopolitics, Afghanistan, and the Importance of Pakistan

By Mark Gilchrist
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Geopolitical conditions in South and Central Asia have changed dramatically since the commencement of the Afghanistan War and the formation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in 2001. In 2019, great power politics are at the forefront of national security considerations. Russia is increasingly belligerent, and China has forcefully reasserted its role and influence in the global order. Linked to both these developments is Central Asia’s potential as an economic corridor of geostrategic importance underpinned by unprecedented Sino-Russian cooperation in Eurasia.

Russia and China are posturing to take advantage of post-NATO Afghanistan by seeking to deny the United States enduring influence in South Asia and secure their regional interests. As American commitment to Afghanistan comes under further pressure, Russia and China continue to play the long game by supporting all sides in the Afghan conflict. Iran adds further complexity due to its evolving strategic partnership with Russia and its increasingly disquieting relationship with the United States. Like Russia and China, Iran is seeking to expand its regional clout and has increased support to the Taliban, providing further opportunity to respond to American sanctions by proxy.

Taliban, U.S. Pact in Afghanistan Could Boost Islamic State

Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Ahmad Sultan 

A deal between the Taliban and the United States for U.S. forces to withdraw from their longest-ever war in Afghanistan could drive some diehard Taliban fighters into the arms of the Islamic State militant group, Afghan officials and militants say.

Such a deal is expected to see the United States agree to withdraw its forces in exchange for a Taliban promise they will not let Afghanistan be used to plot international militant attacks.

As part of the pact, the Taliban are expected to make a commitment to power-sharing talks with the U.S.-backed government and work out a ceasefire.

The Afghan affiliate of Islamic State, known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), after an old name for the region, first appeared in eastern Afghanistan in 2014, and has since made inroads into other areas, particularly the north…

Overcoming Inertia: Why It’s Time to End the War in Afghanistan

by John Glaser and John Mueller 

The war in Afghanistan has become America’s longest war not because U.S. security interests necessitate it, nor because the battlefield realities are insurmountable, but because of inertia. Policymakers have shied away from hard truths, fallen victim to specious cognitive biases, and allowed the mission to continue without clear intentions or realistic objectives.

Although the American people are substantially insulated from the sacrifices incurred by this distant war, the reality is that the United States can’t win against the Taliban at a remotely acceptable cost. Almost two decades in, the insurgency is as strong as ever, and the U.S.-backed Kabul regime is weak and mired in corruption. And while official assessments of the conflict have long acknowledged it as a stalemate, top military leaders have consistently misled the public and advised elected civilians to devote greater resources to achieve victory.

Investing for the Pacific Century

By Naz El-Khatib, Abby Bard

If budgets reflect interests and values, then our decisions in Asia today border on executive and legislative malpractice

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently completed a tour of the Indo-Pacific. The trip was meant to strengthen relationships with allies and partners in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. It took place amid an ongoing national debate on how the United States should respond to China's rise. 

Pompeo's efforts must take stock of an under-appreciated reality: The scale of American diplomatic underinvestment in Asia defies belief. We must take steps to remedy that shortfall now if we want to meaningfully reassure our allies -- and if we hope to operationalize any new strategy for the region.

While U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century has largely revolved around conflicts in the Near East, the world’s center of gravity has careened toward China, India, and the countries on their peripheries. Outside of the United States, the countries of this region are home to over half of the world's population, Fortune 500 companies, and middle-class, in addition to over forty percent of global GDP and military spending. Fifty years ago, Asia would have barely registered on any of these dimensions besides population; fifty years from now, it may dominate all. It should therefore come as no surprise that most of Washington’s major geopolitical challenges -- China, Russia, North Korea, nuclear proliferation, rising authoritarianism, human rights crises, and climate change, among others -- are disproportionately located in Asia or influenced by its affairs.

Cisco frozen out of China as Trump’s trade war rages on

Alex Scroxton
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The fall-out from US president Donald Trump’s ongoing trade war with China is beginning to hurt US technology suppliers selling into the Chinese market, according to Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins.

Although Cisco describes its Chinese operations as a very small part of the business, contributing less than 3% of its total sales, Robbins said the slowdown in its Chinese operations had nevertheless been a significant one.

“The overall Chinese market… is certainly not a major play for us, but it has just dropped precipitously in light of the trade discussions,” said Robbins. “It’s been slowly declining and we saw it even decline more rapidly last quarter.

“What we’ve seen is in the state-owned enterprises… we’re being uninvited to bid. We’re not even being allowed to even participate any more…. That’s where the large impact was this past quarter.”

Cisco is by no means the first business to have been impacted by Trump’s trade war. In July 2019, SAP CEO Bill McDermott said that while the Chinese economy was healthy and the software firm’s sales pipeline robust, he was seeing some “postponed decisions” in the region.

China’s Defense Policy: Questions and answers

By Vladimir Petrovsky

The Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China has published a paper titled the White Paper “National Defense in New Era”. The document is designed to become a response of the Chinese leadership to other countries’ fears over the growing military power of the PRC. The paper outlines the main points of China’s national defense agenda. They envisage the containment of any external aggression, the safety of the population, social stability, protection of the territorial integrity and the marine and space interests of the PRC. 

The White Paper for the first time outlines the priorities of the Chinese army in the new era on the basis of the “four strategic pillars”. According to the paper, the Chinese army, acting in accordance with the strategic requirements of national security and development, carries out the assignments set by the Party and the people and provides strategic support for strengthening party leadership and the socialist system and for protecting the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the country. In addition, the army guarantees strategic support to protect the interests of China abroad and contributes to peace and development on the planet.

Will China Freeze America Out of the Arctic?

by Mark Rosen
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo openly challenged China’s and Russian’s Arctic intentions at the May 2019 Arctic Council Meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland. This marked a dramatic rhetorical shift in the usual diplomatic line that the United States regarded the Arctic as a venue for cooperation and research and that climate change is the clear and present danger to Arctic security. Climate change unquestionably is altering the Arctic landscape and will have long term effects. However, Pompeo’s statement was a significant expansion of the warning by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the United States is “late to the game” in the Arctic and needs to start making policy, security, and economic investments in the Arctic or be left on the sidelines. Even though Pompeo did not suggest that the Arctic Council should take any particular action(s), it was clear that the Trump administration was not satisfied with what was happening in the far North.

How Close Is Hong Kong to a Second Tiananmen?

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In late October 1956, students and workers massed in the Hungarian capital of Budapest to protest Soviet rule and demand the end of Moscow’s political domination. Largely leaderless at first, the protests were galvanized by increasingly aggressive police action to become a full-blown revolt against a government widely viewed as a Soviet puppet. By the end of the month, with a new rebel government in place, it seemed that Moscow might be willing to negotiate the withdrawal of Soviet troops—after all, then-First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev had denounced Joseph Stalin several months earlier.

This optimism was short-lived. At 4:15 a.m. on Nov. 4, Soviet tanks entered the city, leaving thousands of Hungarian citizens dead and eliciting widespread international condemnation, though no actual action. Yet the crackdown had succeeded in its immediate objective—forestalling Moscow’s loss of political control, at least until the collapse of the Soviet Union three and a half decades later.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has a long memory, and it is increasingly obsessed with the fate of the Soviets. As usual, we don’t know what Xi Jinping and other leaders were discussing at the recently concluded yearly meeting in the seaside resort of Beidaihe—but it seems likely that the memory of 1956 loomed over discussion of unrest in Hong Kong, arguably the most significant political challenge outside its own ranks the CCP has faced since Xi assumed power in 2012.

Will China’s Next Crisis Be in Tibet?


How the question of the Dalai Lama’s successor could create another hot zone of instability along China’s periphery.

In April of this year, the Dalai Lama was admitted to a hospital in New Delhi for a chest infection. He was discharged three days later, reassuring the world that he felt “normal” again. But the words of the Tibetan spiritual leader did little to quell the anxieties of those who have tracked Tibet’s plight over the years. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the future of Tibet hinges on the question of who will succeed the Dalai Lama, and on the reaction to his death by Tibetans in exile, by Tibetans in Tibet—and most of all by the Chinese government. We could soon see another hot zone of instability erupt along China’s periphery.

This year the 84-year-old spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism celebrated the 60thanniversary of his exile from his homeland of Tibet, occupied by the People’s Republic of China, to Dharamshala, India. For most of its history, Tibet was an obscure and inward-looking country. But for the past sixty years, the Dalai Lama has worked assiduously to bring the cause of Tibet to international attention, gaining, as a side effect, global celebrity status. He has managed to unite a disparate group of refugees under a common banner and to establish the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) as a means both of governing the roughly 100,000 exiled Tibetans in India and of serving as a voice for the six million Tibetans still living in Tibet, who have been silenced by China’s crackdown on dissent. As the final phase of his leadership approaches, the Dalai Lama’s legacy is in jeopardy.

Will Beijing Use Force to End the Hong Kong Protests?

By Shannon Tiezzi

On August 13, U.S. President Donald Trump posted an ominous tweet: “Our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe!”

His pronouncement followed widespread reports about “armored personnel carriers (APC), trucks and other vehicles of the [People’s] Armed Police [PAP]… heading in the direction of Shenzhen over the weekend.” Shenzhen, in China’s Guangdong province, is the closest city on the mainland to Hong Kong. Satellite photos released to the media of Maxar’s WorldView appear to show “500 or more” PAP vehicles parked in a soccer stadium in Shenzhen, according to the Associated Press.

Chinese state media outlets carried photographs and videos of the vehicles traveling to Shenzhen. The Global Times reported that the PAP was massing in Shenzhen “for apparent large-scale exercises” – but both it and the People’s Daily pointedly noted that “The tasks and missions of the Armed Police include participating in dealing with rebellions, riots, serious violent and illegal incidents, terrorist attacks and other social security incidents.”

China Stands Tall in the Trade War!

by Frank Li
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Hot off press: The Trump administration delays a portion of planned China tariffs until December. What does that mean? President Trump blinked in the trade war against China, and will blink more in the coming months!

In other words, China is standing tall!

In this post, I will provide a piece of strong evidence to demonstrate it, followed by an in-depth discussion.

1. The writing is on the wall!

The picture below is from the last trade talk between the U.S. and China. Can you read the writing on the wall?

Can Hong Kong’s Protests Survive?

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Welcome to the second issue of Foreign Policy’s China Brief—born, like the People’s Republic, in turbulent times. What we’ve got today: Growing violence in Hong Kong feeds Chinese propaganda, Chinese Communist Party officials meet for a seaside retreat, and U.S. President Donald Trump calls a Christmas truce in the U.S.-China trade war.

After Hong Kong Airport Protests, Beijing Turns Up the Propaganda

Flights resumed today at Hong Kong International Airport after two days of shutdowns following clashes between protesters and police. It’s still unclear whether the airport actually had to be closed or whether the authorities did so in a bid to heighten the impact of the disturbance. (The airport said it had an injunctionlimiting where the anti-government protests could take place.)

On Tuesday, the protests in the airport grew violent. A group of demonstrators attacked two men they assumed to be deliberate infiltrators. One may have been a mainland police officer, while the other was a journalist for the ultra-nationalist Global Times. The event has been a propaganda gift to Beijing, with the videos shared all over mainland Chinese sites and social media.

Weaponizing Biotech: How China’s Military Is Preparing for a ‘New Domain of Warfare’


We may be on the verge of a brave new world indeed. Today’s advances in biotechnology and genetic engineering have exciting applications in medicine — yet also alarming implications, including for military affairs. China’s national strategy of military-civil fusion (军民融合) has highlighted biology as a priority, and the People’s Liberation Army could be at the forefront of expanding and exploiting this knowledge. 

The PLA’s keen interest is reflected in strategic writings and research that argue that advances in biology are contributing to changing the form or character (形态) of conflict. For example:

In 2010’s War for Biological Dominance (制生权战争), Guo Jiwei (郭继卫), a professor with the Third Military Medical University, emphasizes the impact of biology on future warfare. 
In 2015, then-president of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences He Fuchu (贺福初) argued that biotechnology will become the new “strategic commanding heights” of national defense, from biomaterials to “brain control” weapons. Maj. Gen. He has since become the vice president of the Academy of Military Sciences, which leads China’s military science enterprise. 

Insurgents And The Flip Side Of Special Operations – Analysis

By Ian Rice*
(FPRI) — While the Islamic State’s physical caliphate is no more, it is clear that the group has successfully transitioned back to a uniform insurgency contesting for influence in areas of Syria and Iraq. Certainly, its far-flung affiliates in Asia and Africa believe in the sustainability of the brand, foregoing an opportunity to drop their allegiance to a “guerrilla caliph” and instead renewing their pledges. Efforts to gauge the possibility of an Islamic State comeback “After the Caliphate” would be wise to consult its previous rise to power before 2014, a period that is understudied and widely misunderstood—despite the fact that the Islamic State has regularly published on its insurgency doctrine and noted its pre-caliphate roots. As part of a larger investigation of how the group gained its caliphate, we recently published an article titled “Black Ops: Islamic State Innovation in Irregular Warfare” (Studies in Conflict and Terrorism) that investigates the evolution of a sophisticated style of insurgency that experimented with the use of special operations. Below, we summarize our results for the policy community and present the findings for those interested in how militant tactics and strategies are evolving.

Why would insurgents develop a special operations capability, and what exactly does that look like? In an era where state militaries rely on well-resourced special operations forces and use them at an unprecedented rate, little attention has been paid to militant development of a parallel capability. Much of this neglect is compounded by the fact that insurgent operations are often clandestine in nature, a mix of terror and guerilla tactics, and vary by village, region, and country. Sorting through this complexity to find examples of special operations is a difficult task and requires a great deal of conceptual sorting. Our research into Islamic State of Iraq/Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (a.k.a. ISIS) claims and documents from 2006-2014 revealed three anomalous operations that we felt qualified as special operations.

What Makes Special Operations, Special?