14 February 2014

Commitment helped India win the anti-polio war

Bill Gates, Hindustan Times
February 11, 2014

India’s success in eradicating polio is the single greatest global health achievement I have ever witnessed. Less than a decade ago, if you’d asked the experts to guess which country would be the last to wipe out the virus, almost all of them would have answered ‘India’. But today, India can take pride in being officially polio-free. While a lot of credit goes to the partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the lion’s share belongs to the Government of India and the people. The country financed and staffed its own massive polio programme, making this victory uniquely India’s.

It is hard to overstate the enormity of this task. To get rid of polio, it was necessary to vaccinate almost every child. If the programme hadn’t reached children in every corner of the country, it would have failed.

And India may be the hardest place on the planet to vaccinate every child. The country has some of the most densely populated urban areas in the world, making it a challenge to track children polio workers have immunised. It has some of the most remote villages, including ones that are impossible to reach for months on end during the rainy season. And that isn’t taking into account the families who don’t live anywhere in particular, because they are constantly on the move.

In 1988, when there were approximately 3,50,000 new polio cases a year and the disease was crippling children in 125 countries, the World Health Assembly set the ambitious goal of eliminating polio world-wide. At first, progress came quickly. By 1994, the Americas were polio-free. Soon we saw the last case in China, the last case in the Pacific, the last case in Europe. By 2000, the number of polio cases had dropped by 99%. But the task of ending polio was not 99% achieved because the final countries were also the most challenging ones.

India was up to the challenge, with two million vaccinators reaching more than 170 million children with the vaccine, and the unfailing support of members from organisations like Rotary International. Now, other programmes are using the polio microplans to reach the most vulnerable children with the health services they need most, including other life-saving vaccines.

Polio is still circulating in three countries. There is a plan to finish the job and eradicate the disease completely by 2018. It can be done, but it will require commitment. India showed what that commitment looks like.

Bill Gates is co-chair and trustee, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The views expressed by the author are personal

UK & Bluestar: Nothing unusual about it

Britain's cooperation with India is not unusual and neither is Operation Bluestar unprecedented. What is needed is a lessons learnt exercise to ensure there is no repeat of the politics that led to such a situation so as to put a closure to the unfortunate incident and to move on. 
Dinesh Kumar

RECENT revelations that an officer of the Special Air Services (SAS), a British Special Force, reconnoitred the Golden Temple Complex in February 1984 and gave advice to the Indian government on the latter's request on how to flush out the armed militia led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale from inside the premises of the holy shrine has evoked considerable dismay and outrage among sections of the Sikh community both in India and overseas, especially among those residing in the United Kingdom. 'How could have the British Government rendered advice to the Indian government to attack the holiest shrine of the Sikhs? is their angry question.

Notwithstanding, the fact remains that at the operational level it appears that whatever was the rendered advice, it was either not passed on to the Army or, even in case it was, it was not followed by the formation commanders during Operation Bluestar which had taken place less than four months after the visit of the SAS officer. The content of that advice is yet to be publicly revealed. As Lieutenant General Kuldip Singh Brar, who as General Officer Commanding of 9 Division in the rank of Major General had led Operation Bluestar, has repeatedly stated, the Army action was planned over barely five days (June 1 to 5) prior to Operation Bluestar and executed over a single night (June 5/6).

Saudi-French military action in Mecca

The short answer is that it is not unusual for countries to seek advice from each other. Neither was Operation Bluestar unprecedented. For, just four-and-a-half-years earlier, the world witnessed a similar operation inside the holiest shrine of the Muslims, the Grand Mosque in Mecca. The operation that lasted two weeks witnessed the active involvement of the French Special Forces, essentially Christian and non-Muslim and therefore 'infidel'.

The incident dates to 20th November 1979, the first day of the year 1400 according to the Islamic calendar, when Juhayman al-Utaybi along with 400 to 500 followers seized Islam's holiest shrine and proclaimed Mohammed Abdullah-al-Qahtani as the Mahdi or messiah. The gunmen smuggled their weapons into the mosque in coffins, declared the Saudi family illegitimate and held hostage hundreds of worshippers who were on a pilgrimage.

As was faced by the Indian Army in the Golden Temple complex, the Saudi Army had little intelligence of the number of gunmen or hostages taken, faced heavy casualties during a frontal assault, found themselves at the receiving end of ambushes and sniper fire and ended up using heavy weaponry including tanks while making no headway with announcements for surrender over the public address system. The gunmen eventually took refuge in the basement and finally the Saudi Arabian government turned to the Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale, the Special Forces unit of the French armed forces, which ended up commanding the Saudi forces but did not actually participate in the attack since non-Muslims are not allowed inside the holy city. The 14 day operation, which ended on 4th December 1979, resulted in the death of 255 persons including 127 Saudi soldiers and injuries to 560 including 451 soldiers. The unofficial figures are much higher. The one major difference, however, was that the Saudi's got the ulema to issue a fatwa permitting the use of deadly force to re-take the Grand Mosque from the terrorists. But even this fatwa came after three long days of persuasion. Unlike Bhindranwale who was killed in the Army operation, Juhayaman and 67 of his followers were captured, secretly tried, convicted and then publicly beheaded in different cities of Saudi Arabia.

When the ISI cooperated with RAW

The revelation of British assistance to India has also evoked similar surprise among a section of non-Sikh politicians in the country. 'How could have the Indian government compromised on their sovereignty and sought advice from the very country that until only 27 years earlier had colonised and ravaged India for over 200 years?' is their indignant question.

The fact is that truth is stranger than fiction and history is replete with examples of intelligence agencies, on occasions, cooperating with even their adversaries. The game of realpolitik, as any practitioner or theorist of statecraft ranging from Kautilya and Sun Tzu to Machiavelli will explain, is altogether different and, most will argue, is necessary.

Still a controversy

Operation Bluestar remains the subject of considerable controversy and continues to evoke strong negative emotion among large sections of the Sikh community. It is still perceived as an attack on the holy shrine rather than on a band of armed militia that had fortified the premises of the Golden Temple complex and buildings in the periphery after smuggling in weapons and explosives and from where they ran a virtual parallel government and spread terror across the state.

Incredible as it may sound, one such example of cooperation between two adversaries was between India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), the very agency which has executed some major terror attacks in India. Interestingly, this phase of cooperation occurred at the height of terrorist violence in Punjab which was being fuelled by the ISI. All this occurred during the tenure of the much hated President Zia-ul-Haq, a former Pakistani Army chief who as an India baiter aggressively pursued the building of the Islamic (nuclear) bomb, pandered to Islamist radicals and under who the syllabus of Pakistani history school books were further Islamised and made stridently more anti-India and anti-non Muslim.

The cooperation was facilitated by Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan who was a personal friend of Rajiv Gandhi when the latter was Prime Minister. Prince Hasan's wife is of Pakistani origin and he also personally knew General Zia-ul-Haq when as a middle-rung officer he had been earlier posted in Amman as a commanding officer of a Pakistani unit based in the Jordanian capital. Ironically, several years earlier during the 1971 India-Pakistan war, Amman had sided with Pakistan and provided them Jordanian Air Force fighter aircraft.

Prince Hassan had then separately contacted Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Zia-ul-Haq and suggested that the chiefs of the RAW and the ISI meet to discuss Pakistan's support to terrorists in Punjab along with other issues. The first meeting between the then RAW chief, AK Verma, and the then ISI chief, Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, was held in Amman with Prince Hassan personally present during the initial moments before leaving the venue of the meeting in order to allow the two Intelligence chiefs to continue their discussion. This was followed by a second meeting between the two in Geneva.

The two countries came close to resolving the Siachen issue as a result of these meetings and the ISI secretly handed over four Sikh soldiers who had earlier crossed over to Pakistan after deserting the Indian Army while posted in Jammu and Kashmir. Dialogue and cooperation between the RAW and the ISI had continued even after Benazir Bhutto came into power in elections held soon after General Zia-ul-Haq's death in August 1988 but came to a halt after Nawaz Sharif succeeded Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister in the early 1990s. It was during Benazir Bhutto's tenure that the ISI's support to terrorists in Punjab had begun to decline although it correspondingly intensified in Jammu and Kashmir.

There is also the interesting example of the Mossad, Israel's external intelligence agency, training a contingent each of the Indian special forces, the Sri Lankan special forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at the same time and at the same place in Israel during the 1980s long before New Delhi established diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv as is brought out by former Mossad agent Viktor Ostrovsky in his book By Way of Deception: The Making and Unmaking of a Mossad Officer. Then again, there is the incident of Indo-US intelligence cooperation during the height of the Cold War when in the late 1960s the two sides cooperated to install a US-supplied plutonium powered transceiver in the Himalayas to detect and report data on future Chinese nuclear tests following Beijing's first nuclear test in October 1964.

Key issues need to be addressed

The decision to order Army troops into the Golden Temple and the hastiness with which the operation was planned raises a question on the quality of governance and decision making. There is first and foremost a need for a serious debate on why and how the political executive and its advisors at that time allowed such a situation to build up in the first place that subsequently necessitated them to order a military action.

Secondly, although the Army can say it was following orders given by the government, the question remains on whether it made sense for the Army to plan and execute a close quarter battle (CQB) operation of such intensity and sensitivity on such a short notice and with abysmally minimal intelligence in one of the country's holiest shrine.

Thirty years on, Operation Bluestar remains the subject of considerable controversy and continues to evoke strong negative emotion among large sections of the Sikh community. It has since cost the country the life of a Prime Minister that in turn led to Congress party-inspired brutal killings of Sikhs in Delhi and other parts of the country and revived terrorism in Punjab that lasted a decade and which cost several thousand lives. For, the operation is still perceived as an attack on the holy shrine rather than on a band of armed militia that had fortified the premises of the Golden Temple complex and buildings in the periphery after smuggling in weapons and explosives and from where they ran a virtual parallel government and spread terror across the state.

Among defence analysts, there remains the question of whether the Army could have executed Operation Bluestar in a better way so as to have inflicted minimal damage and casualties inside the complex. The debate is endless but what is disconcerting is that the Army never conducted a post-Operation Bluestar lessons learnt exercise. One other critical question remains, which in fact did arise at a later date in May 1993 with respect to the holy Charar-e-Sharief sufi shrine in the Kashmir valley with disastrous consequences: What would the Army have done if some of Bhindranwale's armed militia had taken armed positions inside the sanctum sanctorum, the Harminder Sahib? Unlike with the Akal Takht, the temporal seat, on which the Army fired about 20 tank shells to neutralise the heavily fortified positions, the Army would have been constrained to launch an assault on the sanctum sanctorum had the latter been similarly fortified. A retreat would not only have resulted in a loss of face to the Army but would still not have served the purpose of vacating the shrine premises of the armed militia.

There is need for both the Congress and the Akalis to introspect on the politics they played in the 1980s that had culminated in an Army action aimed at vacating Bhindranwale and his gunmen from the holy shrine. Similarly, the Army should also have carried out a lessons learnt exercise following Operation Bluestar (and the Charar-e-Sharief episode) on how they could have handled the operation better. This would be necessary in order to once and for all put a closure to Operation Bluestar. For how long can a country, society and a community hold on to the past?

NSA's snooping: India should assume leading role in cyber law forums

February 13, 2014

Protection of sensitive classified information and privileged communications between senior government functionaries is an imperative of national security.

Most recent disclosures by Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States was keeping a close tab on conversations within other governments in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate conference and during the conference itself in December 2009 only confirm what was widely known.

Most certainly, the close consultations between India and China and coordinations with other BRICS countries Brazil, Russia and South Africa were monitored.

The then minister of environment has expressed anger at the disclosures and at the fact that India was being spied upon during the Copenhagen meeting, our strategic partnership with the US notwithstanding.

States employ various tactics to persuade others to their points of view, inducements, in varying degrees, intimidation, threats, isolating the more recalcitrant ones, dividing the opposition, baits of financial assistance and so on. The more powerful also try and approach leaders of the other side directly to bypass officials and subject-specialists involved in negotiations. The history of climate change negotiations over the past two decades is replete with hundreds of such instances. 

Without compromising obligations under the Official Secrets Act, this writer can state that he requested the government to strengthen our communication systems and take the required counter-measures during India’s tenure on the United Nations Security Council in 2011-12. Communications among our senior leaders and top officials in the government are constantly monitored by outside agencies. Are we to believe that our counter-intelligence measures are so strong that such contingencies should be dismissed out of hand? The answer to our being snooped on cannot be that we have initiated action for snooping on our citizen ourselves.

US Reach Out to Modi: Political Insult Should Not be Overlooked

US diplomacy is a cynical mixture of principle and expediency. The world’s foremost power needs to project internationally that its policies are based on certain high principles so that its global hegemony is not seen as resting on raw power alone but has a moral basis. Hence its crusade for democracy, rule of law, human rights and individual enterprise, on which rests its “soft power”. Juggling moral posturing and hard-headed pursuit of national interest often lands the US into contradictions from which opportunism is the only way out.

An immediate illustration of this is the US decision to reach out to BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Since 2005, Modi is not eligible for a US visa under its domestic law for “severe violation of religious freedom”. For the US to unilaterally hold Modi guilty of violating religious freedom, without the Indian legal system concluding that smacks of the usual US imperiousness. The Europeans ended their boycott of Modi months ago, but the US has stubbornly refused to do so until now. If the UK with its respect for rule of law, its large population of Indian origin and conflicting pressures from diverse India-connected lobbies could see the absurdity of ostracising Modi despite the latter being wrung through domestic political and legal processes without proof of guilt, the US has obviously believed their superior legal and moral bench-marks precluded equally sane thinking.

Now that Modi appears to be coasting towards political success in the coming elections, the US ambassador has received the green light to engage him. If the US believes in the democratic process legitimising a political leader, why has it disregarded the fact that Modi has won two legislative elections after 2002? If despite sustained enquiries, police investigations and court proceedings Modi has not been found guilty of the acts of commission and omission imputed to him in the 2002 riots, why has the US treated him as a political pariah for the last eight years? So much for US championship of democracy and the rule of law internationally.

The US obstinacy on Modi has also constituted an interference in India’s internal political affairs, as it took, in effect, sides in the bitter internal debate in India about his conduct during the Gujarat riots. Sections of our own political class have tried to exploit the visa denial as a moral indictment, if nothing else, of the Gujarat Chief Minister. That this class should judge a foreign government’s position on an internal matter more worthy than the political judgment rendered in elections in Gujarat and the legal outcome of our own investigative and judicial instances is unworthy in itself.

Dimensions of Cyber Security in India


This is the information age and therefore like all lucrative assets of the past ages, information assets must be an object of competition and conflict – and in extreme cases, warfare. This conflict is being played out in a new domain: the cyber-space. With increasing dependency on the cyber domain for every aspect of human endeavours, it is obvious that like all national assets, India’s cyber-space has to be secured against all forms of espionage, subversion, sabotage and attack.

In this article, it is proposed to discuss the theology of cyber security and the fundamental considerations that might lead to its effective implementation in the Indian context.

Civil and Military Functions of Cyber Security

There are five domains in which the civil as well as military functions of national security have to be performed, viz, land, sea, air, space and cyber- space. In reference to the last named, it is a common supposition that there is singular convergence of civil and military functions. The misconception is reflected in the use of undefined terminologies and loose semantics which lead to confusing juxtaposition of concepts that govern the issue of cyber security. Factually though, the said convergence is no more prominent than it is in the context of civil-military interplay in all of the other domains of inter-state competition and conflict. In order to make the best use of our resources in achieving a fair degree of cyber security therefore, it is important to promote clarity and consistency in ruling definitions and concepts in the Indian context.

We understand that every nation nurtures its own set of specific aspirations in consonance with a given set of geo-political, social and natural assets. These aspirations go to define the path for national prosperity which are then sought to be protected by the triumvirate of national power, viz, socio-political, economic and military security. The first two of these aspects of security are civil functions whereas the third takes recourse to warfare to perform its role. The distinction to note here is that the civil functions of socio-political and economic security of a nation is bound by inter-state ideological differences, geo-political adversities, competition for resources and business rivalries - all aimed at extracting more and more self-advantages. This is a continuous process. Military security, on the other hand, is an extreme step that is performed as a last resort to force the adversary to desist from his unbearable animosity either by threatening to, or by actually inflicting physical punishment on him. For the intervening periods of no-war, the purpose of the military institution is to prepare for that extreme eventuality called ‘war’. This distinction between the civil and military functions of national security influences the domain of the cyber-space just as it does in others domains of competition and conflict; it has universal applicability.

Kashmir – Dilution Is No Answer

It is time for the army to consolidate
Its gains, rather than thin out

The motivation for this piece comes from Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta’s recent article in Indian Express, ‘Disarming Kashmir’ of December 7. In his inimitable style, he has built up a case that with peace and normalcy returning on the ground, there is scope for a partial thinning out of the Army presence in the Valley and some symbolic dilution of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). In the process, he has also made certain observations; like presence of half a million Indian soldiers with most illiberal of laws fighting in the Valley; a new factor having originated in the Indian policy making by way of a veto power for the Army. All these merit serious analysis to reach right conclusions.

The issue of Kashmir provides a wicket, which in cricketers’ parlance, is called a spinner’s delight. It is so very easy to give twists and turns to these issues, however fickle the supporting facts. To get the right answers it is essential to get the basic facts right. The myth about the presence of half a million Army boots in the State is woefully off the mark. The Army has for quite some time now adopted a posture of more emphasis towards maintaining the sanctity of the Line of Control and Counter Infiltration grid and is already very thin in the hinterland. Only reserve brigades of the three Corps in J&K are deployed in the hinterland on the counter-insurgency grid with a strength of 10,000 and operational availability of 5000-6000 troops. The main counter-insurgency force in the hinterland are 62 Battalions of the Rashtriya Rifles; with approximately 50-60,000 troops available for operations. Thus, optimally only 55,000 - 60,000 army troops are operating in the in the hinterland at the very maximum, which is a far cry from the often quoted figure of half a million plus force, a difference of nearly 1 to 10. CRPF and J&K police provide the additional effort. By quoting erroneous figures, we only end up providing a handle to our adversaries.

Solar storm hits India-U.S. relations

February 12, 2014

Consultations opened with New Delhi over WTO dispute on solar mission

Wounds from the Khobragade affair had scarcely begun to heal when the India-U.S. relationship again witnessed a spike in tension this week, as U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has announced that Washington is initiating consultations with New Delhi over a World Trade Organisation dispute pertaining to India’s National Solar Mission (NSM).

Addressing journalists here on Monday, he said: “These domestic content requirements [in NSM Phase II] discriminate against U.S. exports by requiring solar power developers to use Indian-manufactured equipment instead of U.S. equipment,” and the U.S. informed Indian officials in New Delhi, Geneva and Washington that it was challenging this requirement.

He said such “unfair” requirements militated against WTO rules and the Obama administration was “standing up today for the rights of American workers and businesses,” and in particular disputing India’s proposed rules under both Article II: 4 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and trade (GATT) and Article 2 of the Agreement on Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIM).

Mr. Froman characterised the request for WTO consultations as a “serious” step, underscoring that under WTO rules if the matter was not resolved through consultations within 60 days of the request, the U.S. might ask the WTO to establish a dispute settlement panel.

He also focussed on the question of costs linked to this clean energy source, arguing: “These types of ‘localisation’ measures are not only an unfair barrier to U.S. exports but also raise the cost of solar energy, hindering deployment of energy around the world, including in India.”

According to attorneys for the USTR, close to 10,000 American jobs may be at stake in the solar industry if India carries through with the local content, and U.S. exports, which stood at nearly $119 million before these criteria kicked in, have “fallen off precipitously since then.”

The attorneys particularly drew attention to the vast size of India’s solar energy market, which under the NSM is estimated to increase 20-fold in the coming decade. India was thus a “very important… [and] second largest market for U.S. solar exporters, [which was the reason behind] “the substantial concern,” at the local content rules.

The latest objections by the USTR follow from a previous round of dispute consultations initiated here in February 2013 regarding Phase I of the NSM.

On the broader course of bilateral ties, the USTR attorneys ruled out any link to the arrest on December 12 last of Devyani Khobragade, India’s former Deputy Consul-General in New York, following which New Delhi took retaliatory measures against U.S. diplomats. The relationship went into a tailspin.

Disarrayed Dialogue: Moderate Taliban reach out to Real Taliban in Pakistan

After months of to-ing and fro-ing on a clear, cogent and coherent policy and strategy to combat the ‘Mother of all Problems” in Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pulled yet another surprise on his countrymen by announcing a last ditch attempt to hold a dialogue with the Taliban. Two earlier behind-the-scene attempts by the Nawaz Sharif government to bring the Taliban to the talks table – the first through Major Amir and Harkatul Mujahideen chief Fazlur Rehman Khalil and the second through some clerics – had never really got off the ground. Meanwhile, a sudden spike in Taliban attacks seemed to stiffen the back of the Pakistan army which carried out retaliatory attacks against suspected ‘bad’ Taliban targets in North Waziristan (NWA) using helicopter gunships and jet fighter aircraft. The general impression that was gaining ground was that the Pakistani state, especially the Army, was gearing up to take the fight to the Taliban and perhaps even launch either a full scale or a targeted operation in ‘Terror Central’ i.e. North Waziristan.

The Taliban sympathisers in Pakistan had been put on the back-foot by the growing public opinion in favour of a military operation against Taliban safe havens in NWA. The elusive political consensus for launching such an operation seemed finally at hand with even Taliban sympathisers like Imran Khan declaring that his party would stand with the army if an operation was launched. Even the Taliban were convinced about an impending military assault and in order to forestall it they suddenly started sending signals that they were open to holding talks with the government. In the days leading up to Nawaz Sharif’s much anticipated policy statement in Parliament on tackling Taliban terrorism, a series of statements were issued by the Taliban spokesmen expressing their willingness to hold ‘meaningful talks’ with the government.

But with ministers engaging in tough talk in public, it was expected that Nawaz Sharif would end his government’s dithering and go on the offensive against the Taliban. Alas, that wasn’t to be. Making a sharp about-turn, Nawaz Sharif once again opted for the talks tack and announced a four man committee to hold negotiations with the Taliban. With Nawaz Sharif having played into their hands, the Taliban were quick to grab the opportunity offered to them on a platter. They let a couple of days pass just so as to not betray their delight at the turn of events and then magnanimously announced their own five-man negotiating team and also a 10 man committee to oversee, supervise, guide and monitor the dialogue with the government.

The decision to give talks another chance has come as a shot in the arm for the Taliban supporters who have capitalised on this opportunity to push their sinister agenda and grotesquely morph the public discourse and debate from one centred on countering terrorism to one focussed on enforcing Shariah (Islamic law) in the country. Suddenly, those demanding action against the Taliban have been put on the defensive. With the depredations of the Taliban being explained away as the struggle for transforming Pakistan into an Islamic utopia with Shariah as supreme law, those opposing the Taliban can mount only a muted opposition to the Taliban tactics, not to their objectives. Whether or not they agree with Shariah, everybody has to pay lip service to it because not doing so is like giving an open invitation to murder.

Reorienting U.S. Pakistan Strategy

Author: Daniel S. Markey, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia

PublisherCouncil on Foreign Relations Press

Release DateJanuary 2014

Price$12.00 paper

50 pages
ISBN 978-0-87609-579-9
Council Special Report No. 68


As U.S. and coalition forces prepare to draw down troops in Afghanistan, this new report urges Washington to view Pakistan not solely or even principally in the context of U.S.-Afghanistan policy, but rather to reorient the relationship toward Asia. "A U.S. strategy for Asia that does not contemplate Pakistan's role is incomplete, and a U.S. strategy for Pakistan that primarily considers its role in the context of Afghanistan is shortsighted," writes the report's author, Daniel S. Markey, CFR senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia.

The report, Reorienting U.S. Pakistan Strategy: From Af-Pak to Asia, outlines a two-pronged approach to future U.S. policy for Pakistan: defend against security threats, and support Pakistan's economic growth and normalized relations with its neighbors. Markey recommends that the United States:
launch a new diplomatic dialogue with China, India, and Pakistan to reduce prospects for regional tension and violence;
sign a trade deal that also encourages trade between India and Pakistan;
reallocate assistance in Pakistan to improve trade and transit infrastructure; and
integrate Pakistan into East and South Asia policymaking across the State Department, National Security Council, and Department of Defense, and deemphasize the Af-Pak connection.

Markey is the author of No Exit from Pakistan: America's Tortured Relationship with Islamabad, which explains how Washington can prepare for the worst, aim for the best, and avoid past mistakes in U.S.-Pakistan relations.

Balochistan: Deepening Catastrophe

Anurag Tripathi
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

On January 17-18, 2014, at least 13 highly decomposed bodies were found buried in the Tootak area of Khuzdar District in Balochistan Province. On February 4, 2014, the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Khuzdar, Syed Abdul Hameed Shah, submitted a report to the Supreme Court, stating that 13 dead bodies had been recovered from a mass grave on the indication of a local shepherd who informed the DC's office. Balochistan Home Secretary Asad Jillani informed the Court that a one-man inquiry commission had been constituted and would complete its inquiry within one month. The Apex Court has now directed the Balochistan Government to submit DNA and inquiry commission reports on March 7, 2014.

On February 1, 2014, the Supreme Court had taken notice of the issue following a statement by the Chairman of the Voice for Balochistan Missing Persons (VFBMP) Nasrullah Baloch, who had claimed on January 31, 2014, that around 100 bodies had been recovered from mass graves in Khuzdar, and among them three had been identified as missing persons. This is the continuation of an entrenched trend. On December 31, 2013, Nasrullah Baloch had alleged that 161 Baloch political workers had been subjected to extra-judicial killings in different parts of Balochistan through 2013, and that “Secret services picked up 510 Baloch political workers.”

Significantly, the Supreme Court has been hearing the Balochistan missing people case since 2012 and has already reprimanded the Government for its failure to comply with its order on several occasions. At times, the Government has pleaded helplessness in the matter. Crucially, on January 30, 2014, the Balochistan Provincial Government conceded before the Supreme Court that it was handicapped in recovering missing Baloch persons, because it had no effective control over the Frontier Corps (FC), which was accused of 'detaining' these persons. In March 2013, the Commission on the Inquiry of Enforced Disappearances, a government-sponsored judicial commission, admitted that total number of missing person cases stood at 621 at that time. However, Nasrullah Baloch, dismissed the figure: “Absolutely wrong figures. 621? Not at all. 23,000 is the number of registered cases. From this, a whole 14,000 came during the current Government’s tenure.”

Indeed, extra-judicial killings have become the order of the day in the restive Province. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the Province has recorded at least 3,073 civilian fatalities since 2004. 276 civilian killings (174 in the South and 102 in the North) have been claimed by Baloch separatist formations such as the Baloch Republican Army (BRA), Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Balochistan Liberation Tigers (BLT) and United Baloch Army (UBA). The Islamist and sectarian extremist formations, primarily Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the killing of another 489 civilians, all in North, mostly in and around Quetta. The remaining 2,308 civilian fatalities - 1426 in South and 882 in North - remain ‘unattributed’. As SAIR has noted, a large proportion of the ‘unattributed’ fatalities, particularly in the Southern region, are believed to be the result of enforced disappearances carried out by state agencies, or by their proxies, prominently including the Tehrik-e-Nafaz-e-Aman Balochistan (TNAB, Movement for the Restoration of Peace, Balochistan).

The Perception War in Afghanistan: Pessimism is No Policy

During a visit to Afghanistan a couple of months ago, many top Afghan officials and politicians insisted that while the security situation was precarious and the political situation was fragile, the real cause for alarm was not so much the danger of the Taliban sweeping through the country as it was the plummeting confidence among Afghans and foreigners in the ability of the Afghan state to resist, much less defeat, a Taliban onslaught. Despite the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Police vindicating themselves against the Islamist insurgents on a number of occasions, doubts continued to be cast about their fighting prowess and their capacity to provide security and stability to Afghanistan. According to Afghan officials, one of the primary tasks for the next government in Afghanistan will be restoring the confidence of the people in the ANSF. They felt that if this can be achieved, the tide of despondency can be turned around and half the war would have been won.

The job of dispelling the dismal scenarios that seem to have started dominating the public discourse and narrative about the future of Afghanistan is however becoming more and more difficult. Instead of using public confidence as a force multiplier, the US-led international forces in Afghanistan seem to be hell bent on undermining it and ensuring that the crisis of confidence deepens. Erring on side of transparency (in fact taking it to ridiculous extremes), the foreign powers have ignored the importance of psychological warfare in degrading the morale of the enemy and enhancing the morale of your own side. If anything, the Americans are doing precisely the opposite by launching what appears to be a psy-war on their own side. In the process, not only are the Americans degrading the morale of their own troops and allies but also reinforcing the perception of impending and inevitable victory of the enemy.

Apart from a spate of doomsday predictions by some Western journalists turned academics (many of them toeing the Rawalpindi line), the recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has also dealt a body-blow to the already shaky confidence within and outside Afghanistan on the prospects of the Afghan state to survive post the 2014 withdrawal. According to the NIE, all the security, social, political and economic gains and accomplishments of the last decade would be “significantly eroded by 2017 even if Washington left behind a few thousand troops and continued to bankroll” the Afghan government. In the event that the military and monetary support dries up post withdrawal, the NIE predicts a rapid deterioration in the situation in Afghanistan. In other words, if the West pulls the plug on the Afghan state, it will not even be able to survive until 2017. While there is no gainsaying that Afghanistan will remain critically dependent on Western aid and assistance for another decade and perhaps even longer, the underlying pessimism in the NIE – spooks tend to call it ‘uncomfortable realism’ – has served as a shot in the arm for the Taliban/Al Qaeda combine and their patrons and supporters.

Reorienting U.S. Pakistan Strategy

Author: Daniel S. Markey, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia

Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press

Release DateJanuary 2014

Price$12.00 paper

50 pages
ISBN 978-0-87609-579-9
Council Special Report No. 68


As U.S. and coalition forces prepare to draw down troops in Afghanistan, this new report urges Washington to view Pakistan not solely or even principally in the context of U.S.-Afghanistan policy, but rather to reorient the relationship toward Asia. "A U.S. strategy for Asia that does not contemplate Pakistan's role is incomplete, and a U.S. strategy for Pakistan that primarily considers its role in the context of Afghanistan is shortsighted," writes the report's author, Daniel S. Markey, CFR senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia.

The report, Reorienting U.S. Pakistan Strategy: From Af-Pak to Asia, outlines a two-pronged approach to future U.S. policy for Pakistan: defend against security threats, and support Pakistan's economic growth and normalized relations with its neighbors. Markey recommends that the United States:

launch a new diplomatic dialogue with China, India, and Pakistan to reduce prospects for regional tension and violence;

sign a trade deal that also encourages trade between India and Pakistan;

Pakistan Kneels to the Taliban

February 12, 2014 

Pakistan has been in a state of perpetual crisis for so long that it can be easy to miss the periodic lurches that bring it closer to state collapse. One such step-change is underway now, triggered by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision to hold talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Even for a country that has history of pulling itself back from the brink, this particular lurch downwards is one of the more alarming in years.

At issue is not the talks per se, but the form they are taking, which is legitimising and emboldening the TTP. It is also the context. Sharif’s approach to the talks has raised suspicions that he is interested only in protecting Punjab, Pakistan’s biggest province and his political heartland. That in turn has exacerbated ethnic divisions, undermining further the authority and the integrity of the state. The TTP and their allies – who are demanding the imposition of their form of sharia across Pakistan – are positioning themselves to fill the vacuum.

Talks Gamble

At first glance, Sharif’s announcement last month that he would give talks with the TTP one last chance looked relatively sensible. Although Pakistan’s attitude to the anti-state militant factions that operate under the TTP umbrella has been hardening after a string of bomb attacks, there is still no consensus on how to tackle them. By offering talks, Sharif would in theory be able to drum up public support for tough action against the TTP in the event of the near-inevitable failure of those negotiations. He would buy time to prepare for the backlash of bombings in Pakistani cities most expect will occur if and when a military operation against the TTP in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) commenced. And he would neutralize his political rivals – notably Imran Khan, the pro-talks leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which runs Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. The United States seems to be going along with this logic, at least judging by reports that it is holding off on drone strikes in FATA while the talks are underway to avoid providing an excuse for their failure.

The TTP, however, have turned the tables on the government. They are using the negotiations as their biggest opportunity for self-aggrandizement since their faction in Swat, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, signed a peace agreement with Pakistan in 2009. (The Pakistan Army later cleared out the so-called Swat Taliban after they terrorized the local population and began encroaching further into the country’s heartland.)

Need for a new regional arrangement in South Asia to tap water

07 February 2014

There is a need for a new regional arrangement in South Asia to tap water as it is a regional common issue that should be handled collectively rather than dividing it. This was the consensus view among panellists and participants of a panel discussion on "Transboundary Water Governance in South Asia" organised by Observer Research Foundation and The Asia Foundation at the ORF campus in Delhi. 

There was also a consensus that there is a certain level of dichotomy involved in issues related to water. The populist sentiment on the treaties is that they are flawed. However, it can be argued that they are fundamentally and intrinsically strong, according to the panellists. 

Noting that South Asia is more of a believer of form rather than substance, former Nepal Minister of Water Resources Dipak Gyawali suggested that treaties need to move beyond just making governments look good and should focus more on feasibility. 

Mr. Gyawali, now with the Nepal Water Conservation Foundation, pointed out an extremely significant fact that issues within countries override issues between countries in South Asia. He said the real problem lies in the proclivities of civil society and business leaders. 

He suggested that discussions on water go one step further into the realm of marginalised rivers as they hold more importance for the people and it is easier to move up from there in negotiations. 

Mr. Uttam Kumar Sinha of the Institute of Defence and Security Analysis furthered Mr. Gyawali’s points by focusing more on the need to understand the political, sociological and legal aspects of water in order to frame a cooperative environment in the future. 

Mr. Sinha said that there is a learning curve attached to the study of water that is showing an upward trend. He advanced the idea that South Asia is deeply hydrologically connected and there is a pressing need to bring in new knowledge and an inter-disciplinary approach. This would further fuel the learning curve and make it move upwards, he said. 

US Challenges China’s Nine-Dash Line Claim

February 12, 2014

In a clear policy shift, Washington is now challenging the basis of China’s claim to most of the South China Sea.

In recent weeks the Obama administration has done an about face on its position toward Asia’s sovereignty disputes, and is now actively challenging China on its nine-dash line claim to most of the South China Sea.

Until recently, the Obama administration had held steadfastly to the position that the U.S. does not take sides on any of the sovereignty disputes in Asia, but insists that parties to the dispute do not resort or threaten to resort to the use of force to settle them.

A series of comments by senior officials in the Obama administration in recent weeks mark a clear departure from that position. Instead of the previously neutral language the U.S. usually employs, Washington now is increasingly challenging the basis of China’s claims, particularly with regard to its nine-dashed line claim to nearly the entire South China Sea.

This was perhaps best exemplified by recent Congressional testimony from Danny Russel, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

“Any Chinese claim to maritime rights not based on claimed land features would be inconsistent with international law. China could highlight its respect for international law by clarifying or adjusting its claim to bring it into accordance with international law of the sea,” Russel told Congress last week.

He went on to take criticize specific Chinese actions.

“This includes continued restrictions on access to the Scarborough reef, pressure on the longstanding Philippine presence at the Second Thomas Shoal and the recent updating of fishing regulations covering disputed areas in the South China Sea. Our view is that these actions have raised tensions in the region and have exacerbated concerns about China’s long term strategic objectives.”

Similarly, while visiting the Philippines on Monday, Russel’s deputy, Scot Marciel, said: “What we’ve emphasized is the importance of all claimant states following international law, and kind of agreed-upon rules of behavior during the period when these disputes were under way…. So whenever you look at what we say publicly, it’s always about maintaining the peace, the stability that’s critical to prosperity in the region but also urging all the claimants, including China, to follow sort of rules and international law.”

The Maritime Silk Road Vs. The String of Pearls

February 13, 2014

China’s vision for a maritime silk road updates and clarifies its interest in the “string of pearls.”

Gamini Lakshman, Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs, is in China this week, where he met with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Vice President Li Yuanchao. According to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry, the leaders agreed to “fully expand maritime cooperation and jointly build the maritime silk road of the 21st century.”

The “maritime silk road” concept first emerged during President Xi Jinping’s first trip to Southeast Asia last October. The proposal, raised during a speech to the Indonesian parliament, called for increased maritime cooperation between China and the ASEAN countries. As such, the “maritime silk road” would have both diplomatic and economic components. Yang Baoyun, a professor of Southeast Asian studies at Peking University told China Daily that “the new maritime silk road will bring tangible benefits to neighbors along the route, and will be a new driving force for the prosperity of the entire East Asian region.”

In terms of concrete steps, the “maritime silk road” calls for China to work with partners to develop maritime infrastructure, especially ports. China already plans to spend nearly $2 billion upgrading the Malaysian port of Kuantan. Cambodian officials have also not been shy about pointing out their need for investment to develop port infrastructure.

Originally, the “maritime silk road” was proposed specifically in relation to ASEAN. However, the raising of this concept during meetings with the Sri Lankan Minister of External Affairs reveals a wider vision. It also links the new maritime silk road with the existing “string of pearls,” China’s network of maritime facilities in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The “string of pearls” includes Chinese investment in ports such as Colombo, in Sri Lanka,and Gwadar, in Pakistan. Now it’s clear that China has another name for these ports — the “maritime silk road.”

The “maritime silk road” is an attempt at re-branding for China. Now that the concept has been officially extended as far west as Sri Lanka, its connection to the “string of pearls” is obvious. China has never officially used the term “string of pearls,” which originated in a 2005 U.S. study by defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Accordingly, China has somewhat lost control of the messaging. The “string of pearls” concept is often viewed a military initiative, with the aim of providing China’s navy access to a series of ports stretching from the South China Sea to the Arabian Sea. This has caused some consternation, particularly in India, which sees itself as being encircled.

The new terminology of a “maritime silk road” allows China to discuss its strategy of investing in maritime infrastructure in ASEAN and further west. Even more interesting, the extension of the “maritime silk road” admits the existence of such a strategy, and gives China a way of clarifying its strategic goals.

The Future of China's Expeditionary Operations

12. Februar 2014

China's maritime top priorities will remain in the East and South China Seas. Nevertheless, exdented expeditionary ambitions are real. However, more assertive Chinese behavior on blue-waters does not mean that great power conflict is inevitable. Coming East Asia Summits may be a forum for finding solutions. 

Back to the USSR? 

Global Soviet navel presence in the 1980s 

China does not seek an overseas presence as the Soviets did in the 1980s. They simply cannot do it, yet. The USSR needed decades to establish a global naval presence. For China, it would not be different. However, the world is watching how China is on the march to reach the status of a 'medium global force projection navy', comparable to the British and French. In terms of numbers, but not in terms of quality, Beijing's navy has already surpassed Paris' and London's and the naval armament goes on: 

"During 2013 alone, over fifty naval ships were laid down, launched, or commissioned, with a similar number expected in 2014. Major qualitative improvements are occurring within naval aviation and the submarine force, which are increasingly capable of striking targets hundreds of miles from the Chinese mainland." (Source: USNI)

Moreover, 'medium global force projection navy' does not necessarily mean, that there are warships in all oceans. It means that China could globally project power on one or two theaters simultaneously, if its' political masters so decide. Besides the question, whether a Chinese naval presence outside the Pacific really would have a serious impact, political prestige must be taken into account. Britain's Indian Ocean presence does not make a difference. However, London decides to go there, just because they can and to pretend that Britain is still a global power. Beijing's political and military elites might feel the same way. Often criticized is China's military bureaucracy and corruption. However, for naval power projection, it does not matter, whether Chinese officers in Xingjang or Tibet are corrupt Maoist bureaucrats. 

The PLAN's second aircraft carrier is under construction. Given a six years construction time, the new carrier will be commissioned in the early 2020s. Present reports say, moreover, that China aims to build in total at least four carriers. However, except a research program for nuclear-propulsion, there is yet no credible evidence that one of the carriers will be nuclear-powered. 

China’s Aid to Africa: Monster or Messiah?

By: Yun Sun
February 2014 

In recent years, China’s economic presence in Africa has led to a heated debate, some of it well-informed and some of it not, about the nature of Chinese involvement and its implications for the continent. The debate is partially motivated by the rapid growth of China’s economic presence in Africa: for example, Chinese investment in Africa grew from USD 210 million in 2000 to 3.17 billion in 2011.[1] Aid is an important policy instrument for China among its various engagements with Africa, and indeed Africa has been a top recipient of Chinese aid: by the end of 2009 it had received 45.7 percent of the RMB 256.29 billion cumulative foreign aid of China.[2] This aid to Africa has raised many questions, such as its composition, its goal and nature.

What constitutes China’s aid? 

Officially, China provides eight types of foreign aid: complete projects, goods and materials, technical cooperation, human resource development cooperation, medical assistance, emergency humanitarian aid, volunteer programs, and debt relief. [3] China’s aid to Africa covers a wide array of fields, such as agriculture, education, transportation, energy, communications, and health. According to Chinese scholars, since 1956, China has provided almost 900 aid projects to African countries, including assistance supporting textile factories, hydropower stations, stadiums, hospitals, and schools.

Official development assistance is defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as concessional funding given to developing countries and to multilateral institutions primarily for the purpose of promoting welfare and economic development in the recipient country. [4] China is not a member of OECD and does not follow its definition or practice on development aid. The bulk of Chinese financing in Africa falls under the category of development finance, but not aid. This fact is privately acknowledged by Chinese government analysts, although Chinese literature constantly blurs the distinction between the two categories.

The billions of dollars that China commits to Africa are repayable, long-term loans. From 2009 to 2012, China provided USD 10 billion in financing to Africa in the form of “concessional loans.”[5] During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first overseas trip to Africa in March 2013, he doubled this commitment to USD 20 billion from 2013 to 2015.[6] The head sovereign risk analyst of Export-Import Bank of China announced in November 2013 that by 2025, China will have provided Africa with USD 1 trillion in financing, including direct investment, soft loans and commercial loans. [7]

China’s own policy actively contributes to the confusion between development finance and aid. The Chinese government encourages its agencies and commercial entities to “closely mix and combine foreign aid, direct investment, service contracts, labor cooperation, foreign trade and export.”[8] The goal is to maximize feasibility and flexibility of Chinese projects to meet local realities in the recipient country, but it also makes it difficult to capture which portion of the financing is – or should be – categorized as aid. One rather convincing theory is that the Chinese government in effect pays for the difference between the interest rates of concessional loans provided to Africa and comparable commercial loans. Therefore, only the small difference in interest rates could qualify as Chinese aid.