7 January 2014

An army of teachers

Tue Jan 07 2014 

Utilising qualified retired military personnel could be a force multiplier in the education sector.Thousands of personnel from the armed forces retire every year and resettle in civil society, with many taking up a second career. While attempts have been made by the services and the government to ensure integration of these personnel into society, much can still be done to leverage the wide range of competencies they have to offer. Recent initiatives to give a serious push to the education sector present an excellent opportunity for the three services to offer skilled manpower and help make India a large repository of human capital. In pursuit of this objective, there is a need to induct ex-servicemen into the education sector. 

The diversity of competencies and qualifications possessed by retiring personnel makes it important to highlight these, so that matching them with suitable institutions becomes easier. Many personnel below officer rank in the army, who retire from the Army Education Corps (AEC) and other technical branches, may have had an opportunity to acquire a graduate degree through correspondence. Apart from an excellent potential to teach in schools, those from the Corps of Signals, Corps of Engineers and Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) are ideally suited to teach at vocational training institutes and ITIs. As far as the navy and air force are concerned, a large percentage of personnel who retire between the ages of 35-45 are graduates; a few are post-graduates, capable of being trained and absorbed at college level, and sometimes even at university level.

A majority of officers in the three services retire between the ages of 54 and 56. Many of them are post-graduates with varied competencies. A large number have teaching and instructional experience in institutions of professional learning spread across the services. The number of doctorates among officers is also increasing. While the corporate sector has welcomed retiring officers with open arms, the same cannot be said of education.

Opportunities abound for ex-servicemen to be absorbed in the sunrise education sector if the right approach is identified. Starting with a bottom-up approach, a number of personnel retire and settle down in their native villages or towns, taking up jobs in the unorganised sector or looking after their ancestral property. Those with graduate degrees can easily be motivated to become school teachers after appropriate training, which need not be a BEd. Personnel with a technical background can join vocational institutes. Officers with more qualifications can easily join colleges, ITIs and other vocational institutes as lecturers, administrators and counsellors after appropriate training. Highly qualified officers can be offered professorships, depending on their experience, competence and willingness. On a different plane, the UGC can offer competitive fellowships and visiting faculty positions to highly qualified serving officers for up to two years at prestigious institutions like IIT, NIT, AIIMS. At senior levels, retiring officers could be included in selection panels for positions like deans or vice chancellors of universities.

Choosing goodwill over rancour

January 7, 2014 


APDialogue between the MEA and the State Department will give much needed clarity to the status of the India-based domestic assistant instead of prolonging a systemic conflict.

The U.S. may have secret agreements with some countries granting their officers at the consulates immunity. However, it felt no need for such an agreement with India as its consular officers were already afforded personal immunity

The arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade and the humiliating treatment meted out to her has triggered an unprecedented row between India and the United States. Asking the U.S. to tender an apology has not helped in resolving the logjam. The U.S. is not used to tendering apologies, especially when it feels that its laws have been broken. Furthermore, the insistence on an apology has only hardened the U.S. position. Our objective should be to identify core issues which have precipitated this and earlier incidents with a view to finding both short-term as well as long-term solutions. In any case, the U.S. has expressed regret over the circumstance relating to the arrest.

One issue that has got highlighted time and again is the U.S.’s refusal to grant diplomatic immunity to persons whom it regards as Consular officials even if they are diplomats of the sending country.

Jointness is no substitute for the CDS system

Lt Gen Harwant Singh (Retd)

Centralised operational control and conduct of war by the Chief of Defence Staff is projected as an impingement on political control. Operations are invariably conducted within the framework of political direction and policy. Fears of relegation of political authority if the CDS system is adopted are ill founded and mischievously raised to scare the ignorant

CONSEQUENT to the Kargil conflict in 1999, Arun Singh and K Subhramanyam committees were constituted. The latter was required to essentially look into the Kargil conflict in its varied aspects. This committee at one point in its lengthy report, made a preposterous observation that the Prime Minister and the Raksha Mantri did not have the benefit of getting the advice of army commanders and their equivalent in the navy and air force, meaning thereby that they must seek advise from them. The number of such commanders in the three services is more than a dozen. Obviously our expert on national security was oblivious of the imperatives of the chain of command in the military!

Arun Singh had asked this writer to give his committee a presentation on the future shape of the army, etc. Besides recommending the raising of a mountain corps for operations along the border with Tibet, the inescapable requirement of adoption of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) system was projected. To start with, two theater commands were suggested by the committee -- one for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the other for Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). To alley misgivings of the air force, the first commander of the proposed J&K theater command (the most active command) could be an air force officer.

Disjointed Command
  • Creation of the post of CDS was recommended by the Kargil Review Committee in 2000
  • A cabinet committee on national security under LK Advani approved the recommendation. However this was later pushed under the carpet
  • The Naresh Chandra Committee moots a permanent Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee as a single point of advice to the government, but is no better than the present arrangement as the operational control of each service still rests with the respective service chief
  • More recently the Integrated Defence Staff was created as an adjunct to the MoD. Such cosmetic dressing up of the defence operational systems is of little avail
  • The possibility of a two front war haunts military planners. While there have been efforts to work out systems and organisations to attend to larger issues of national security, the conduct of operations is being glossed over
Under the CDS system there is a single point of military advice to the government and the overall operational command rests with the CDS as well. Operational command of various theaters rest with theater commanders whose forces may be from two or all three services, depending on the geographical details of their theater. The theater commander could be from any service. The CDS would exercise overall operational command over various theater commands, as well as over intelligence directorates of the three services through the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA). In this system the staff functions would rest with the service chiefs in regard to their respective service.

Infrastructure in the IAF: A Force Multiplier

IssueVol. 28.4 Oct-Dec 2013| Date : 04 Jan , 2014

C130J Super Hercules

Due to its long gestation period, infrastructure needs advance and integrated planning amongst the three services and civil agencies to ensure that the end result is cost-effective without duplication of effort and investment. Some of the measures suggested may be somewhat radical, but after over six decades since Independence, the nation expects results. A sound and secure infrastructure will enable the IAF to undertake its tasks in the most effective manner and thus become a force multiplier in the days to come.

What constitutes infrastructure for an Air Force? Is it only runways and buildings or more than that? As interpreted by the United States Air Force (USAF), defence infrastructure includes defence industrial base, financial services, logistics, a networked information grid, transportation, personnel, health affairs, space, public works, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Considering this vast canvas and its effect on warfare, one needs to analyse the present state of infrastructure in The Indian Air Force (IAF) and its impact as a game changer. Some examples should illustrate the impact of infrastructure on warfare.

During the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict, of the total Arab losses of 450 aircraft, most were destroyed or damaged on the ground. This brought home the vulnerability of parking aircraft in the open, a lesson put to good effect by the IAF in the Indo-Pak conflict of 1971. Secure bases and hardened shelters for parking of aircraft preserve precious assets and in effect serve as force multipliers. Besides the fact that in a dynamic world, the situation is ever changing, the IAF has taken some comprehensive measures to enhance infrastructure over its area of responsibility, which will be described in the succeeding paragraphs.

The IAF is likely to be the primary means for the country to respond swiftly and decisively…

Infrastructure in the IAF

The first consideration is to ascertain the IAF’s vision of itself in the future. The IAF strives to transform itself into a capability-based force, rather than an adversary-centric one. In future, the Service would have a critical role to play, especially in situations demanding rapid response. The IAF’s focus is also shifting from the tactical to the strategic. Its peace-time missions would include humanitarian assistance, disaster management, deployment of peace keeping forces in distant trouble spots or even pre-emptive military intervention in conflict zones. Such contingencies require the capability of power projection through rapid transportation and deployment of adequate force levels. The IAF is likely to be the primary means for the country to respond swiftly and decisively to a variety of crises situations that may develop across the globe thus necessitating its requirement to possess adequate strategic airlift and long-range strike capability.

India's GSLV launch: A major milestone for ISRO

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan
04 January 2014

After two successive failures of its Geostationary Launch Vehicle (GSLV) launches in 2006 and 2010 and an aborted mission in 2013, India's endeavour to launch another GSLV on January 5 is being watched with both hope and apprehension. Though the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has done several trial tests for the launch of GSLV-D5, there is apprehension because of what happened in 2010 and 2013. 

A successful launch of GSLV will place India in the same league as a handful of countries as far as the technological sophistication is concerned. Currently, there are five countries - the United States, Russia, France, Japan, and China - that have demonstrated the cryogenic engine upper stage technology in order to launch heavier satellites in geostationary orbit. India will become the sixth nation to design and develop this sophisticated and complex technology. The GSLV-D5 rocket will carry on board the 2-tonne GSAT-14 satellite capable of delivering communication services in the area of tele-medicine and tele-education. On December 28, 2013, the Mission Readiness Review (MRR) team and the Launch Authorisation Board (LAB) cleared the GSLV-D5/GSAT 14 launch for January 5 and thereafter the rocket was shifted to the launch pad. 

The three-stage rocket, with solid, liquid and cryogenic stages, is "a very complex system compared with solid or earth-storable liquid propellant stages due to its use of propellants at extremely low temperatures and the associated thermal and structural problems", according to the ISRO. Cryogenic technology is significant because the thrust gained through burning every kg of propellant is far higher in a cryogenic engine, which gives the thrust to carry heavier payloads into orbit. 

Starting in April 2001, India has so far carried out seven GSLV launches, including three failures and one aborted launch. Past failures have included problems such as deviation from the predicted flight paths soon after the lift-off. The attempt in 2013 had to be called off hours before the lift-off as they detected a leak in the fuel tank of the liquid second-stage in pre-launch pressurisation phase of the vehicle. 

This time around, ISRO Chairman Dr. S Radhakrishnan and the engineers appear confident of having rectified many of the problems faced in the previous missions. There have been several committees set up to study in detail the cause of failures and accordingly remedial measures have been taken. For instance, they have used an entirely new fuel tank. Apparently, the earlier leaked-prone fuel tank was an old stock, procured four years ago and also the aluminium alloy, Afnor 7020 that was used in the making of the tank tends to develop cracks over a period of time. The booster turbo pump, that ran into problem twice previously, had used different materials that contracted differently at low temperatures, which has been rectified now by using a single material. Similarly, the issues of contamination with the propellant acquisition device procured from Russia have been addressed and this time around, the device is manufactured in India. There has been refurbishing of the casing of the rocket as well. 

Is it the dawn of an electronic age in India?

R. Swaminathan
03 January 2014

There is an element of tautological rhetoric in India's claim to be an Information Technology superpower all set to enter the era of ubiquitous digitalisation. It has all the visible bells and whistles of an electronics giant, from software revenues touching US$100 billion last year to consumption of electronic goods and gadgets breaching the US$125 billion mark this year. If all goes to script, with nothing to indicate that it will not, India would be gobbling up US$400 billion worth of gadgets and goods by 2020. That's a 300 percent increase in just about seven years. Yet amidst this healthy, prosperous glow there is an underlying structural flaw that's been bedevilling our policy makers for at least four decades. The flaw in simple terms is that India doesn't produce enough of what it consumes. In fact it just about produces 10% of the electronics goods internally. The rest of it is imported. And this flaw is only expected to get bigger with over 70 percent of the 2020 demand, that's US$300 billion, being sourced from outside the country. The coming decades are going to see an intensification of digitalisation, so much so that our daily life will necessarily get intersected and interwoven with chips, intelligent electronics, smart algorithms and digital devices. That's the future. In short, India's dreams of becoming a superpower will remain just that if the country doesn't establish an electronic design and manufacturing foundation. Some history is necessary before we jump into the National Electronics Manufacturing Policy of 2012. To its credit India started quite early in establishing a technological base with the first two five year plans channelising a substantial amount of the Indian State's resources in building up institutions devoted to fundamental research, higher education and research and development. In fact, a 22 member committee of scholars and entrepreneurs under the chairmanship of N R Sarkar was set up immediately after independence to set up world class institutions of higher science education. The renowned Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) was a product of this commission. By the late 1950s the government had acquired computers, EVS EM, from the Soviet Union to use in large companies and research laboratories. Unlike the popular perception that ties in India's exposure to computerisation to the early 1990s, the country experienced it way earlier during the last years of 1950s. Of course the story of Tata Consultancy Services, established in 1968, is quite well known to bear any repetition here. 

The country appeared to be on the right course in establishing what were then romantically referred to as 'temples of modern India' when the first Electronic Commission was set up in the early 1970s under the legendary science and technology policy leader MGK Menon. The Mission received support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and it formulated a strategy for establishing regional computer centres. The idea behind setting up such centres was to create hubs of manpower development and diffuse informatics and technology into the local economic processes. One of the crucial decisions of the Commission was to channelise the country's resources and energies into creating intellectual capital and knowledge base, rather than large-scale hardware production base. Almost every single institution from the National Informatics Centre, set up in 1975, the iconic Computer Maintenance Company (CMC), established the following year, to Tata Infotech, Patni Computer Systems and Wipro, can trace their roots to that single decision of MGK Menon Commission. However, in retrospect, that single decision can also be held largely accountable for India missing the microchip revolution of the 1980s; a revolution that propelled Taiwan and South Korea, and later on China, to leadership positions in the world. First Indira Gandhi and later Rajiv Gandhi recognised the importance of developing an ecosystem for electronics and telecommunications as future drivers of India's growth. They were right. Yet despite efforts to set up an indigenous electronics manufacturing base, the most notable being the effort to set up semi-conductor manufacturing plants in Mohali, the growth remained stymied due to a variety of factors, ranging from the easier access to electronic goods and gadgets post liberalisation, a flawed tax structure that made imported gadgets cheaper than domestically produced or assembled ones, a weak R&D culture to economies of scale fostered by a globalised economy and a weak system of vocational and technical training. While the three decades between 1990 and 2010 saw a massive growth in software services sector, with a major push coming from exports, the growth in the hardware sector was primarily fuelled by imports. The worldwide electronics industry is one of the fastest growing in the world, with an estimated billing of US$1.75 trillion. Ironically, the Indian market has contributed over US$100 billion to that bill, with over 90% as imports. Of course, as indicated earlier, the Indian import bill will be over US$300 billion in 2020. The National Electronics Manufacturing Policy of 2012 has to be positioned within this background. It directly tries to address three interconnected challenges. 

Another Challenging Year Awaits for India’s Economy

Lower growth rates and stubborn inflation will keep the Reserve Bank of India on its toes.

January 06, 2014

India’s economic policymakers move into the New Year probably relieved that a very difficult 2013 has finally ended. However with low growth rates; persistent and problematic inflation; ongoing worries about when the U.S. Fed’s “taper” will actually kick in and what effects it will bring; and an uncertain political situation created by the upcoming summer elections, 2014 may turn out to be pretty difficult too.

The main economic growth figure India uses is based on a fiscal year ending each March. The figure released in March 2013 was at a decade low of only 5 percent. It seems likely that India’s 2013-14 fiscal year ending this March will bring an even lower figure, which the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) predicted may be 4.8 percent in a review document back in October.

The Reserve Bank of India remains extremely important in India’s multiple economic battles into 2014. Governor Raghuram Rajan surprised many when he chose to leave rates on hold a few weeks ago.

This rate hold was despite stubborn inflation figures for November. Consumer prices rose 11.24 percent in the month from a year earlier. Wholesale inflation came in at 7.52 percent for the same month. Food inflation remains a primary driver, and Rajan’s comment that “…We are not ignoring food inflation, but we would like to see through the noise. And for that, we want to wait for a month more” suggests that the RBI is indeed focusing on core inflation, or the rate of price change without food and energy costs included.

Rajan was also given a bit of reprieve by the stronger performance of the rupee since the “taper-scare” of the late summer and early autumn. Indeed the drop in the rupee (which was arrested soon after Rajan took over at the RBI and has risen 11 percent from its mid-2013 lows) was also a key driver of inflation. The RBI’s hold in December certainly feels more like a wait-and-see strategy ahead of December’s inflation data.

Imran Khan, a Pakistani provincial leader, complicates NATO plans for Afghanistan

By Tim Craig, Published: January 5 
Source Link

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — For years, American officials have tried to persuade Pakistan’s military chiefs and prime ministers to cooperate with U.S.-led war plans in neighboring Afghanistan.

But now it is a politician in a far-flung province who is standing in the way.

Lawyers for the former Pakistani president say he is ill, but critics suspect that he is hiding from the law.

State destroys six tons of confiscated ivory, joining global effort to halt illegal killings of endangered species.

Angered by U.S. drone strikes, Imran Khan has effectively halted NATO convoys through northwest Pakistan, a vital crossing point for trucks carrying supplies to and from landlocked Afghanistan.

Khan, an Oxford-educated millionaire and former cricket star, has no real power in the national government. But his party controls the local government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which NATO convoys must pass through to reach the northern border crossing.

After U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan this fall, the 61-year-old politician called on his supporters to block the transit routes in protest. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government has appeared powerless to stop him.

With Sharif and Pakistan’s military vowing that the supply routes must remain open, Khan’s campaign is a remarkable show of defiance in a country that has been under military rule for more than half of its 67-year history.

A self-described liberal pacifist who became more attuned to his Muslim faith after his globe-trotting cricket career ended, Khan shows no sign of backing down. He says that although U.S. drone strikes may be aimed at violent militants, many wind up killing innocent civilians and fuel terrorism by angering the local population.

What To Make Of The India-Pakistan DGMOs Meeting?

Indian and Pakistani military officials held a rare meeting at the end of 2013. Did it accomplish anything? 
January 06, 2014 

After a tumultuous year, top Indian and Pakistani military officials held a rare meeting to round out 2013. The Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both India and Pakistan met on the Pakistani side of the Wagah border – the first such meeting in 14 years, since the end of the Kargil War – to “discuss ways to ensure peace along Kashmir’s de facto border.” The meeting was somewhat surprising given the marked decline in relations between India and Pakistan against the backdrop of several ceasefire violations by both sides on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. 

The joint statement (affixed below) was relatively curt and full of predictable platitudes. It noted who led each delegation, that the meeting was held in a “cordial, positive and constructive atmosphere,” and finally offered a few vague guarantees that the LoC and the thus far ineffective hotline between New Delhi and Islamabad would be rendered more “effective and result oriented.” 

The third point in the joint statement is perhaps the sole concrete outcome of the meeting: “two flag meetings between Brigade Commanders will be held on the Line of Control in the near future, to ensure maintenance of peace and tranquility along the Line of Control.” Of course, it’s easy to read this assurance with a cynical eye, particularly given the political response in India to the ever-increasing number of ceasefire violations along the LoC. Ceasefire violations in 2013 more than doubled in number compared to the total number in 2012. It remains to be seen if a consultation between the DGMOs will have any actual perceivable impact on the state of matters on the LoC. 

It is almost certain that the meeting allowed both sides to broach more sensitive matters in a rare setting for Indian and Pakistani military officials – we’ll perhaps never know the extent of those conversations since they couldn’t be neatly wrapped up in the rhetorical package of the joint statement. The joint statement seems to ring hollow on certain points – surely a decision had been made prior to the December 2013 meeting that each side would inform the other should a civilian “inadvertently” cross the LoC? 

Afghanistan after the US drawdown

by Daveed Gartenstein Ross — December 6, 2013 5:06 pm

The Afghanistan war was one of the opening salvos in a struggle that will not end with the war’s official completion.

The coming drawdown in US forces from Afghanistan won’t be the first time the country has faced a significant turning point rooted in a foreign invader’s departure. Afghanistan has known some 2,600 years of foreign invasion: outside conquerors have done a great deal to shape the country’s culture, religion, politics, and geography, and some of Afghanistan’s most critical turning points came as those invaders left the scene.

Afghanistan’s founding as a modern state grew out of the collapse of the conquering Persian Afshar dynasty led by Nadir Shah, following Nadir’s assassination in 1747. After Nadir’s own Qizilbash guards beheaded him, a young Pashtun named Ahmad Khan who worked for Nadir, did what any young man in this position might: he helped himself to all he could purloin from the slain ruler’s treasury. Thereafter Ahmad was chosen by a loya jirga to lead Afghanistan, thereby giving birth to both Afghanistan as we (roughly) know it today and also the Durrani hereditary line that would rule the country for more than two hundred years.

Another turning point came in 1842, as the British military hastily retreated at the end of the first Anglo-Afghan war. Historian and American diplomat Peter Tomsen referred to this flight, occurring in the dead of winter, as “a death march” in The Wars of Afghanistan. As the British fled, their former puppet Shah Shuja turned on his benefactors and began exhorting other Afghans to kill them. Having fooled nobody, Shah Shuja was soon murdered by his erstwhile subjects, while Dost Muhammad—the man whom the British invasion was intended to overthrow—ruled for another twenty years.

Despite the traumatic ending to this war, the British invaded again, in 1878, and then left again, in 1880. Following the second Anglo-Afghan war, an Afghan leader remained whom the British believed would be sufficiently sensitive to British interests, a strongman named Abdur Rahman Khan. Abdur Rahman, who would be the last Afghan ruler to die peacefully while still holding office, focused on centralising Afghanistan. He conquered non-Sunni areas of the country, pacifying the predominantly Shia Hazarajat and the pagan Kafiristan.

Balochistan’s Missing Persons

When will the international community begin to pay attention to the missing Baloch?

January 06, 2014
In Balochistan, a resource-rich province of Pakistan, thousands of innocent civilians, suspected militants and activists are missing. Locals say the missing individuals have been abducted by Pakistan’s military and associated forces as a way to suppress and subjugate the Baloch people. There is disagreement on the actual number missing. An association for peaceful protest formed by some of the families of those missing, called theInternational Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (IIVBMP) says that up to 18,000 Baloch are currently unaccounted for, of whom more than 2000 were killed between 2001 to 2013. That figure is much higher than data from other NGOs and human rights organizations, but the IVBMP says it will be publishing details of all its data early next year.

In October 2013, in an effort to draw international attention to the humanitarian crisis, the IVBMP began a long march from Quetta to Karachi, which will continue to Islamabad where it will finally end in February. About 20 families of persons believed abducted and killed by the Pakistan military, mostly women, are taking part. Unfortunately, the march has received scant coverage from media, either within Pakistan or internationally.

The Diplomat has spoken to dozens of victims and interviewed IVBMP members during their march near Quetta and Karachi.

IVBMP was formed when its current vice chairman Mama Qadeer Baloch invited family members of other Baloch missing persons to a meeting in Quetta on October 28, 2009. Among them were the current general secretary Farzana Majeed Baloch and the current chairman Nasrullah Baloch. Ten members of the executive were appointed and the group began to speak out about their missing sons and brothers, urging the media and government to investigate.

South Asia: 2013

A view and a review 
N Sathiya Moorthy

A year ago in ORF’s annual assessment, ‘South Asia-2012’, its scholars had highlighted the impending elections across the region, barring, of course, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. And now in the first half of 2014, national elections are due in three important countries -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India. Inevitably, elections in the rest of the region has been the focus of ‘South Asia: 2013’, with in Sri Lanka, too, the historic Northern Provincial polls, the first one in the Tamil-majority region, too being in the news for its own reasons.

India-Sri Lanka: Battle Over Fishing Grounds

January 6, 2014
ISSSP Reflections No. 10, January 6, 2014
Author: Dr. M. Mayilvaganan

Fishery resources have always sustained fishermen communities in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, however over time these resources have become the object of “uncommon controversy.” The battle over fishing in the Palk Straits especially for tuna, prawns, lobsters, blue swimming crabs and cuttlefish is a classic political maritime confrontation: a showdown between the state government, India and Sri Lanka which, like past disagreements, snowballs into a major diplomatic row between two countries. With the continuing trend of attacks and arrests of Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan authorities, the issue is slowly approaching a ‘crescendo’, with no solution in sight.

Sri Lanka’s decision to detain and prosecute Indian fishermen, who poach in Sri Lankan waters, indicates a qualitative change in their handling of the issue since August 2013. The change has accentuated the sense among the fishermen community in Tamil Nadu that it is a vindictive action by Sri Lanka for India’s political posture vis-à-vis Colombo. The surfacing of photographs showing detained Indian fishermen being chained and handcuffed in Sri Lanka on December 1, 2013 and later the news of Sri Lankan court in Mallagam extending remand of 30 Indian fishermen, hailing from Pudukottai and Rameswaram clearly points to a change in Sri Lanka’s tactics.

The alleged assault of four Indian fishermen besides pelting of stones at a boat carrying Indian fishermen injuring 20 of them on December 22, 2013 by Sri Lankan Navy and detention of 25 fishermen on January 3, 2014 has caused outrage among the Indian fishing community, human rights activists and political parties in Tamil Nadu. The latest arrest has come as a shock especially to the fishermen community as their delegation recently met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on December 28, 2013 seeking his intervention. This has turned the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) in the Palk Bay into a sensitive and volatile space. N J Bose, General Secretary, Tamil Nadu Coastal Mechanised Boats Fishermen Association argues that the handcuffing and chaining of Indian fishermen “is an insult not just for the fishing community but for India. It is a challenge to India by the Sri Lankan Government.” Further he points out that Indian authority treat detained Sri Lankan fishermen with respect and with their remand being extended through video-conferencing.

Important Congressional Research Service Reports

China reforms – too little, too late

by Anantha Nageswaran — December 6, 2013 5:05 pm

In the three critical areas, China’s new reform package has been remarkably brief and vague. 

Too much paeans have been sung in praise of the Chinese government’s new reform initiatives unveiled in November after the Chinese Communist Party Plenum. The government released a brief initial statement of reforms. It did not set create much excitement. The government was anxious to send the right signals to financial markets. Hence, two days later, it released a detailed list of reform guidelines with some specific measures. Quite why China was keen to impress international financial markets of its reform intentions is interesting in itself. Justified or not, China sees an opportunity in the policy fuddle in the United States. It sees the US dollar as a currency that is in an inevitable decline.

Internationalisation of the Renminbi is firmly on the agenda. China has been striking swap agreements with many Asian countries. It has allowed two-way direct quote on the Renminbi against the Australian dollar, the British pound and the Singapore dollar. Hitherto, that honour was reserved for the US dollar and the Japanese yen. But, these are baby steps. Much more has to happen before the Renminbi can mount a challenge to the US dollar as a global reserve currency, if at all is able to. Many reckon and Baretalk concurs that the Renminbi might become an international currency as several other currencies – the Swiss franc, the Canadian dollar, the Australian dollar, etc. – have become but it might not become a global reserve currency. That requires far more than economic heft and clout. But, that is not going to stop China from trying. That is what separates China from India. The former is ambitious, focused and never loses sight of the ultimate goal even if the progress is halting and slow. Further, no opportunity is too small to press ahead. That is the stuff of winners.

Capital account liberalisation is an important milestone in this journey. China has been liberalising its capital account rather slowly and correctly so, given the huge domestic credit bubble that it has yet to confront. Worse, China keeps resorting to pumping up credit to address even minor economic slackening. But, we will come to that in a while. China has created specific quotas for qualified international investors to invest into China stocks. That is a neat psychological ploy. It makes those investors and countries feel special. In reality, given China’s corporate fundamentals, it is not a privilege but a cross to carry. China’s stocks before the global crisis of 2008 were stark underperformers. Only in 2006, did they begin to generate investment returns only to slip into bubble territory quickly and burst shortly thereafter. Its recovery since 2009 was tepid to start with and has mostly evaporated. China’s stock markets remain the most severe indictment of the Communist Party’s model of capitalism with Chinese characteristics. However, this is not going to prevent international investors from investing on hope as they have been doing in other markets and stocks in recent years and decades.

As China contemplates more significant capital account liberalisation measures than these stock quotas, it has to ensure that there is international interest in the currency and that liberalisation does not lead to a one-way movement in the Renminbi with money flowing out. Smart Chinese residents taking money out must be met by inflows from naïve international investors led by Western investment banks. Hence, all the “song and dance” about the new round of China economic reforms as these banks are only too happy to oblige and humour the Chinese government.

Three main areas for reforms in China are excess capacity in several sectors, excessive borrowing by local governments and the persistent bubble in the property sector. In March 2007, former China Premier Wen Jiabao had gone on record calling the Chinese economy unstable, unbalanced, uncoordinated and ultimately unsustainable. In the six plus years that have gone by since then, the problems have become bigger. The perception and fear of a rising China, apparently strong Central government finances, capital account restrictions and the West’ economic hara-kiri have kept China afloat. One should not fail to mention the huge bargaining chip that China has. It has vast holdings of US Treasuries. It can hurt the United States (as much as it would hurt itself) if it began to offload them in the market. That threat has kept American money centre banks from precipitating a China crisis as they usually do in less important and less cooperative countries.

In the three critical areas that we mentioned earlier, China’s new reform package has been remarkably brief and vague. Local governments will not get any taxation rights and no new property sector bubble-control measures have been announced. The fountainhead of excess credit creation, misallocation and excess capacity is the mispricing of capital and the State (read ‘Party’) dominance of the financial sector. Banks do not have the freedom to price capital correctly – either when they lend it out or when they accept deposits. There is no time line on that reform. Even if there had been one, it might not happen because it would strike at the very heart of the control of the Communist Party over China’s economy and finances.

The reform package proposes introduction of competition in the banking sector, appointment of non-party talent in the management of state-owned enterprises, allowing markets a decisive role in the pricing of several other essential services and liberalisation of interest rates. The problem is that most of these have been proposed on several occasions in the last decade with precious little follow-through. There is no reason to believe that it would be different this time. If anything, entrenched interests might be more difficult to dislodge. The Party has gorged on the gravy train too long to let go of its control over the commanding heights of the economy.

In 2007 in the wake of the Wen Jiabao remarks on the China economy, Morgan Stanley’s Stephen Roach, a long-time China watcher and admirer, wrote thus on the firm’s research pages: For those of us in the West, this is a strong signal we need to update our perceptions of China. Think less of open-ended unbalanced growth and more of a somewhat slower and better balanced expansion. Think less of an industrial-production dominated model with destabilising implications for natural resource consumption and the environment. Think more of a shift to consumption and ‘greener’ growth. Think also of macro stabilisation policies – not just those of central bank but especially those of the central planners at the NDRC – that will be used increasingly to up the ante on the tightening required to achieve these objectives. But don’t think for a moment that China will back down on the reforms that have driven nearly three decades of its extraordinary transformation. Time and again, China has used the reform process to spark key transitions in its development journey. I suspect a similar transition is now at hand. 

Six and half years later, the ratio of Credit/GDP in China is more than 200 percent and the imbalance between investment (more) and consumption (less) has worsened further and changes have been pledged and proposed again. In the opinion of this columnist, China might have left its reforms a little too late. The path of least resistance for the Chinese currency is down, once the reform euphoria (resistance to reality) fades.

Indeed, the two behemoths of the world – the United States of America and China – are perched atop fragile and shaky foundations. They need nothing more than a small accident to collapse. Policymakers, with their unprecedented and untested experiments are working overtime to create such an accident. The world is on course to experience the chaos and vacuum of the interregnum between the two Wars. You heard it here first.

Photo: Wolfgang Staudt

V Anantha Nageswaran is the Fellow for Geo-economics at the Takshashila Institution.

China’s Air Power Future Is Visible in These Two Photos

Snapshots reveal badly-needed new engine and refueling pod

David Axe in War is Boring

Two photographs posted to the Internet in early January reveal much-needed advancements for the Chinese Air Force and Navy. If the photos really do show what they appear to show, Beijing could soon have the ability to carry out long-range carrier air strikes and transport missions—a combination that, at present, only the United States can undertake on a large scale.

The photo above appears to depict an air-to-air refueling pod underneath the center fuselage of a J-15 carrier-launched jet fighter. The pod, which includes a hose that can be reeled in and out and trailed behind the jet, transforms any J-15 carrying it into a refueling tanker able to give fuel to other fighters, thus extending their range.

The pod appears to be based on the Russian UPAZ-1A Sakhalin, which is standard on Moscow’s large aerial tankers and fighter-bombers. That should come as no surprise: most Chinese aerospace technology is directly copied from Russian models—sometimes legally, other times in violation of international licensing.Russian fighters refueling using a UPAZ pod. Via Air Power Australia

The Chinese Navy—specifically its J-15s—really needs a refueling pod. The J-15, a copy of the Russian Su-33, is Beijing’s only carrier-compatible jet fighter. But it compares poorly to the American F/A-18 and the French Rafale, its closest rivals. That’s because Liaoning, China’s sole aircraft carrier, is a refurbished Russian design that lacks a steam catapult for boosting planes from her deck, and instead uses an angled ramp.

The ramp manages to get planes into the air—but inefficiently. To get airborne, the J-15 must stay light, limiting it to a small fuel and weapons load. Even then, the fighter has a useful combat range of just 100 miles, according to a scathing criticism in the Chinese state media. French and American carriers can, by contrast, routinely send their fighters hundreds of miles with heavy weapons loads.

Unlike the Americans with their hundreds of KC-130, KC-135 and KC-10 aerial tankers, the Chinese military possesses only a few dedicated tankers—Russian models, again. Liaoning’s J-15s cannot depend on big tankers to lend them an effective flying distance. But a refueling pod would allow J-15s to refuel other J-15s.
If Lioaning’s air wing—ultimately including probably a dozen or more J-15s plus helicopters—has enough refueling pods and its pilots are good at using them, it might be able to launch effective air strikes over distances possibly equal to what American and French wings can accomplish. Suddenly Liaoningis more than an experimental vessel. She could be actually useful in combat.Chinese Il-76 with new engine. Via Alert 5
Long-haul power

In December 2012, satellites spotted a new Chinese transport plane—Beijing’s first homegrown strategic airlifter in the class of the American C-17. The new Y-20 took flight for the first time in January 2013 and landed in front of a flag-waving crowd.

CAR: Back to chaos and lawlessness

Maneo Kayina
06 January 2014

When the long-running civil war in the landlocked Central African Republic (CAR) between rebel and government forces ended in 2007, observers hoped that peace would usher in a new era of economic recovery and development. Instead, CAR has plunged into a state of chaos since President Francois Bozizé was ousted in March 2013 by the Séléka rebel alliance who accused the President of not abiding to the peace agreements signed in 2007 and 2011. Bozizé, the then Army Chief of Staff, started a rebellion in 2001 during which his forces captured the capital Bangui in March 2003, while the then President Ange-Félix Patassé was outside the country. 

Fast-forward to December 2012, and the Séléka rebel coalition undertook a successful coup. After ousting Bozizé, Séléka leader Michel Djotodia proclaimed himself as the President. In September 2013, he dissolved Séléka and integrated some of them into the army, leaving the others unattended to. 

The country has now plunged into chaos as undisciplined rebels commit widespread looting and abuses against those they consider as Bozizé supporters. And hopes that the Libreville agreements signed on 11 January 2011 would end the stalemate were quickly dashed. 

After getting its independence from France in 1960, CAR has been in an almost constant state of rebellion. Its four million citizens have experienced authoritarian rule, the failure of an elected government, as well as more than ten coup attempts and mutinies. CAR has been one of the poorest, most unstable countries in the world. With the collapse of law and order and the spread of deadly violence between disbanded rebels and self-defence groups, more than half a million people have fled their homes to the bushes. 

Often referred to as "forgotten crises", the CAR conflict has now returned to the fore. Sadly enough, the recent rebellion is just the latest in a long history of upheavals that have plagued the African continent. One of the most important challenges on the horizon is to make sure that the CAR does not slip back into obscurity at a time when continued international support will be crucial. Addressing local issues is the key to ending violence and to ensuring the stability of the national and regional settlements. 

The Islamic Factor 

For the first time in the country's history, large-scale atrocities are being committed along Muslim-Christian lines and any semblance of law and order in the Central African Republic has vanished. The Central African Republic's heterogeneous population with over 60 different ethnic groups, proved to be too volatile for the country's political stability, laying the foundations for the ongoing conflict. Also regional neighbours, notably Chad and Cameroon, are at risk of the conflict spilling over. 

Where Do We Stand in the Fight Against Al Qaeda?

January 6, 2014

Al Qaida still a potent threat

Manish Rai

The Frontier Post (Pakistan)

January 6, 2014

As we begin 2014, it’s worth reflecting on where we stand in our fight against al-Qaida and global terrorism. Throug­hout 2012 and much of 2013, the Obama administration has toed the line that al-Qa­ida is on the path to defeat and with it, the terrorism is no longer the threat it once was. Nothing could be further from the truth. During his landmark counterterrorism speech in May 2013, President Barack Obama all but declared an end to the global war on terror. 
He said that al-Qaida was “on the path to defeat” the White House touted the death of Osama bin Laden as the death knell to al-Qaida. Pre-9/11, al-Qaida maintained large-scale operations in South Asia, complete with training camps and operational capabilities. Surely that capability of Al-Qaida is dented but it is far from over. Today, al-Qaida is a complex, adaptive, and resilient organization. 
The administration’s successes against high-value targets have fostered a false sense of security. Right now, al-Qaida controls or operates in more territory around the globe that it did than at any point of time since its creation in 1988. Al-Qaida and its affiliates are resurgent in Iraq, a major player in Syria, a force in Yemen and Somalia, still active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, operational in the Caucasus, and in pockets throughout the Middle East and North Africa. 
This isn’t what I’d call success. Over the past several years, al-Qaida has developed a new strategy to foster affiliate groups that still maintain strong connections to the core. Take Syria for instance. A terrorist named Abu Khalid al Suri is fighting for a hardcore jihadist organization named Ahrar al-Sham. 
Ahrar al -Sham does not self-identify as al-Qaida. Yet Suri is a leading figure in the movement and serves as al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s main representative in the Levant, according to the Long War Journal. So although al-Qaida may not have its name plastered all over the Middle East or publicly announce its affiliations and locations, it is always lurking beneath the surface. 
This doesn’t mean al-Qaida is weakened or on the verge of defeat, it means it has altered the way it conducts its terror campaign and spreads its roots, burying our heads into the sand and pretending it isn’t so only increases al-Qaida’s likelihood of controlling territory or launching successful attacks. 

Iraq in Crisis

JAN 5, 2014
As events in late December 2013 and early 2014 have made brutally clear, Iraq is a nation in crisis bordering on civil war. It is burdened by a long history of war, internal power struggles, and failed governance. It is also a nation whose failed leadership is now creating a steady increase in the sectarian divisions between Shi’ite and Sunni, and the ethnic divisions between Arab and Kurd.

Iraq suffers badly from the legacy of mistakes the United States made during and after its invasion in 2003. It suffers from the threat posed by the reemergence of violent Sunni extremist movements like al-Qaeda and equally violent Shi’ite militias. It suffers from pressure from Iran and near isolation by several key Arab states. It has increasingly become the victim of the forces unleashed by the Syrian civil war.

Its main threats, however, are self-inflicted wounds caused by its political leaders. Its election in 2010 divided the nation rather than create any form of stable democracy, and pushed Iraq’s Prime Minister, Maliki to focus on preserving his power and becoming a steadily more authoritarian leader. Other Shi’ite leaders contributed to Iraq’s increasing sectarian and ethnic polarization – as did key Sunni and Kurdish leaders.

Since that time, a brutal power struggle has taken place between Maliki and senior Sunni leaders, and ethnic tensions have grown between the Arab dominated central government and senior Kurdish leaders in the Kurdish Regional government (KRG). The actions of Iraq’s top political leaders have led to a steady along rise in Sunni and Shi’ite violence accelerated by the spillover of the extremism caused by the Syrian civil war. This has led to a level of Shi’ite and Sunni violence that now threatens to explode into a level of civil conflict equal to – or higher than – the one that existed during the worst period of the U.S. occupation.

This struggle has been fueled by actions of the Iraqi government that many reliable sources indicate have included broad national abuses of human rights and the misuse of Iraqi forces and the Iraqi security services in ways where the resulting repression and discrimination has empowered al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. As a result, the very forces that should help bring security and stability have become part of the threat.

South China Sea and ASEAN Chairmanship

Paper No. 5630 Dated 06-Jan-2014
By Dr. Subhash Kapila

Introductory Observations

South China Sea disputes involve five ASEAN nations whose sovereignty in different portions of this strategic sea region stand contested by China adopting a mixed strategy of political coercion, military brinkmanship and use of force to occupy its claimed islands and landforms.

Vietnam and the Philippines as ASEAN nations in closest proximity to China have been victims of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

The Chairmanship of ASEAN in relation to South China Sea was never a subject of regional or international scrutiny until 2012 when Cambodia as Chairman of ASEAN for that year caved–in to China’s pressure not to permit the issue of the Joint Communique which contained references to the South China Sea not entirely favourable to China.

It was the first time in ASEAN’s history that a Joint Communiqué issue was scuttled by an ASEAN Chairman Nation under pressure from a non-ASEAN nation.

Myanmar has taken over the Chairmanship of ASEAN for the year 2014 and concerns exist whether Myanmar given its close linkages to China in the past may be brought under similar coercive pressures by China not to give prominence to China’s not too positive formulations on the South China Sea disputes discussion at ASEAN Meets in 2014.

Myanmar’s Chairmanship of ASEAN: Politically and Strategically Significant for Wider International Recognition

Myanmar allowed its chance to pass to become Chairman of ASEAN in 2006 as it was still under Western sanctions and it was feared that Western nations may not have attended connected meets. The question of adequate infrastructure to host over 300meetingsASEAN major meetings may also have been a major consideration

In 2014 Myanmar has a new Capital City begun six years ago to host AEAN meets. More significantly, Western nations have significantly removed a wide range of sanctions and the United States is involved in evolving strategic relationship to draw Myanmar away from China. Well publicised is the cancellation of major Chinese projects thereby loosening major Myanmar linkages with Chia.

Myanmar’s assumption of ASEAN Chairmanship in 2014 would be a striking opportunity for Myanmar to demonstrate its credentials to be fully integrated into regional and international discourse and management of prestigious international events. All this would add to Myanmar’s political image.

In strategic terms also Myanmar would be able carve a niche for itself especially when the East Asia Summit to be held in Myanmar is to be attended by the world’s major powers. Myanmar figures in the strategic calculus of each of the major powers for different reasons.

Sunnis against Shias: a strategic absurdity

Iran and Saudi Arabia are both bent on unrealistic plans for dominance in the Middle East or, at the very least, on denying the dominance of the other

The Middle East is in the grip of a war neither side can win. The conflict in the region between Sunnis and Shias, from Lebanon to Iraq, is a strategic absurdity, which makes the death toll even more tragic than it would otherwise be.

If anything can be said for certain about those who died in the recent explosions in Beirut, in last week's fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi, or in the latest bombing raids on Aleppo, it is that their deaths will serve no rational purpose.

The minds of the men on the ground, intimately involved in this carnage, are muddled by fear, prejudice, passion, and the desire for revenge – excuses of sorts. But what of those who preside over this bloodshed from distant capitals?

No reference here to Washington: while America bears much responsibility for triggering Sunni-Shia rivalry by its invasion of Iraq, and continues to try to influence the contest, it is not the driver of it.

That distinction belongs to Iran and Saudi Arabia, both bent on unrealistic plans for dominance in the region or, at the very least, on denying the dominance of the other.

For its part, Iran must know, or should know, that the Sunni Arab world cannot be transformed into a series of satrapies subservient to Tehran.

Democracy in Peril in Asia

JAN. 6, 2014

Street protests in three Asian countries — Cambodia, Bangladesh and Thailand — are a vivid reminder of the fragile state of democracy in many developing countries, particularly those that do not have independent judiciaries and professional police forces and militaries.

While the immediate causes for the turmoil are different in each country, they share several shortcomings. The lack of sufficient democratic checks and balances in all three countries has undermined faith in elections and helped to create the conditions for civil unrest. Autocratic and corrupt political leaders have used government agencies, in some cases over decades, to serve themselves and their cronies.

In Cambodia, in recent days, military police officers have opened fire on protesters, killing several people. The protests started after Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia through intimidation and violence for nearly three decades, was declared the winner of an election in July that international monitoring organizations say was riddled with irregularities. Workers in the country’s clothing factories also joined the protests to demand that the government set the minimum wage for the industry at $160 a month; the government has offered to raise the minimum to $100 a month, up from $80 now. While the economy has grown fast in recent years, lifting up living standards, about one-fifth of the country’s population lives below the country’s poverty line.

In Bangladesh, the current prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, and her party won an election held on Sunday because the main opposition party boycotted it. In the weeks leading up to the vote, more than 100 people were killed in political violence as the opposition Bangladesh National Party protested Ms. Hasina’s refusal to appoint a neutral caretaker government to oversee the vote. Ms. Hasina and the opposition leader Khaleda Zia have taken turns running the country since 1991. While Bangladesh has made significant progress in reducing poverty and improving public health, Ms. Hasina and Ms. Zia have often sacrificed the country’s stability to settle scores with each other and have done little to strengthen institutions like the judiciary and the police.

In Thailand, the country’s Election Commission said on Friday that elections scheduled for next month would go ahead despite efforts by protesters to sabotage them. Led by opposition politicians, the protesters want to replace the country’s elected government with an appointed council of technocrats because they have been unable to win elections against the party of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

There are no easy or quick solutions to the crisis in these three nations. While elections are vital, they are not sufficient to create stable democracies. Until these countries build institutions capable of serving as a check on political leaders, they will remain vulnerable to civil unrest.

Maid in Manhattan

Why isn't anyone focusing on the domestic help in the Indian diplomatic scandal?
JANUARY 5, 2014

On Dec. 12, Devyani Khopragade, India's deputy consul-general in New York, was arrested and jailed, accused of misrepresenting on a visa application the wages she paid a member of her household staff. The circumstances of her imprisonment -- which reportedly included a strip search and a cavity search, and being held in a cell with drug addicts, before being released on $250,000 bail -- have inflamed public opinion and ignited a furor in Indian government circles. Indian National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon described her treatment as "barbaric," while India's mild-mannered Prime Minister Manmohan Singh referred to it as "deplorable." Prominent former Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha even suggested that India apply a colonial-era law prohibiting same-sex relationships against U.S. diplomatic personnel as retaliation.

But nearly two weeks later, one critical matter has been almost entirely overlooked: the plight of the maid, Sangeeta Richard. According to a statement from her lawyer, Richard worked "far more than 40 hours a week" and was paid roughly $3.30 an hour -- about a third of New York City's legal minimum wage. Practically none of the thousands of articles, blog posts, and tweets written about the arrest in India focused on Richard's plight.

It is hardly surprising that Indian commentators are ignoring her. The upper-middle-class background and social status of journalists and pundits in the country's deeply hierarchical society leads them to empathize with one of their own over the working conditions of domestic help. The treatment of the diplomat is a "national outrage," according to Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, but the treatment of Richard -- whose husband has reportedly been interrogated by police in India -- is ignored.

In a society fraught with deep social inequities thanks to the "mind-forged manacle" of caste, to borrow poet William Blake's evocative phrase, the colonial legacy of sharp class differences, and the recent emergence of a nouveau riche, most middle- and upper-class Indians treat their domestic help as little better than chattel. Few employers actually recognize that their domestic help have clear-cut rights and are deserving of fair treatment.