13 March 2014

Tensions mount in Ukraine

NATO expansion fuels Russian nationalism
G Parthasarathy

IN January 1954 the seemingly whimsical Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who was born on Russia's border with Ukraine and married to a Ukrainian, transferred Russia's Crimean region located along the Russian-Ukrainian border to the then Ukrainian Soviet Republic. This was ostensibly to mark the occasion of 300th anniversary of its unification with Russia. Having been Party Secretary in Ukraine for a long time, Khrushchev felt that the Crimean region would benefit economically from the hydro-electric potential of the Dnieper river by becoming part of the Ukrainian Socialist Republic. Khrushchev obviously did not foresee the collapse of the "indestructible" Soviet Union, which had only two major Southern ports — Sevastopol and Odessa — for continuous access to the sea. When the Soviet Union did fall apart, the Supreme Council of the Russian Republic decided in 1992 that the Crimean region would be renamed as the autonomous Republic of Crimea. Both Sevastopol and Odessa became part of Ukraine.

People attend a pro-Ukrainian rally in Simferopol on March 11, 2014. The poster reads: "Crimea is Ukraine". Reuters

Not content with the breakup of the Soviet Union, the US and its NATO allies decided that Russian power had to be contained. The expectation was that Russia's far-flung Muslim-dominated Caucasian Republics would wear out the Russians with armed struggle, and that its western, southern and Baltic neighbours would be gradually weaned and integrated with the European Union and NATO. The ultimate aim was clearly to "contain" a resource-rich and militarily capable Russia. This plan was seemingly proceeding successfully during the rule of the occasionally sober Boris Yeltsin, who oddly chose to treat a Chechen leader like a Head of State. The Muslim separatist armed rebellion was liberally funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, its leaders like Shamil Basayev and Zelmikhan Yandarbiyev were regarded "Kosher" in western capitals and operated periodically from bases as far away as Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

*** Ukraine's Increasing Polarization and the Western Challenge

By Eugene Chausovsky

Just days before the Ukrainian crisis broke out, I took an overnight train to Kiev from Sevastopol in Crimea. Three mechanics in their 30s on their way to jobs in Estonia shared my compartment. All ethnic Russians born and raised in Sevastopol, they have made the trip to the Baltic states for the past eight years for seasonal work at Baltic Sea shipyards. Our ride together, accompanied by obligatory rounds of vodka, presented the opportunity for an in-depth discussion of Ukraine's political crisis. The ensuing conversation was perhaps more enlightening than talks of similar length with Ukrainian political, economic or security officials.

My fellow passengers viewed the events at Independence Square in an overwhelmingly negative light. They considered the protesters camped out in Kiev's central square terrorists, completely organized and financed by the United States and the European Union. They did not see the protesters as their fellow countrymen, and they supported then-President Viktor Yanukovich's use of the Berkut security forces to crack down on them. In fact, they were shocked by the Berkut's restraint, saying if it had been up to them, the protests would have been "cleaned up" from the outset. They added that while they usually looked forward to stopping over in Kiev during the long journey to the Baltics, this time they were ashamed of what was happening there and didn't even want to set foot in the city. They also predicted that the situation in Ukraine would worsen before it improved.

A few days later, the protests in Independence Square in fact reached a crescendo of violence. The Berkut closed in on the demonstrators, and subsequent clashes between protesters and security forces throughout the week left dozens dead and hundreds injured. This spawned a sequence of events that led tothe overthrow of Yanukovich, the formation of a new Ukrainian government not recognized by Moscow and the subsequent Russian military intervention in Crimea. While the speed of these events astonished many foreign (especially Western) observers, to the men I met on the train, it was all but expected.

After all, the crisis didn't emerge from a vacuum. Ukraine was a polarized country well before the EuroMaidan movement took shape. I have always been struck by how traveling to different parts of Ukraine feels like visiting different countries. Every country has its regional differences, to be sure. But Ukraine stands apart in this regard. 

Maoists Attack Indian Police in Chhattisgarh

A recent attack by Maoists in India raises anxiety ahead of the country’s general elections.
March 12, 2014

It was again a bloody day for the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. Maoist rebels, popularly known as Naxals, launched another deadly attack on the police that killed 16 paramilitary personnel in the dense forests of the state. According to reports the Naxals triggered bombs at the site where the security personnel were guarding the construction of a road. Around 200 rebels ambushed the patrolling team in the Tongmal area of Sukma district, around 450 km south of the state capital, Raipur. Among the victims are the personnel of the national paramilitary force, called Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), and some state security officials. Sources say that the extremists looted arms and ammunition before disappearing back into the jungle.

In the same area last May, the Maoists eliminated the top rung of the state Congress leadership when the politicians were returning from a political rally. Twenty seven people lost their lives in the first ever attack of its sort in India on members of a political party.

In 2010, the left-wing Naxals conducted its most audacious attack by ambushing a CRPF battalion, killing 76 personnel in the Dantewada district of the state.

Controlling the dense forest containing precious minerals and natural resources has been a huge challenge for the government for many years. In the absence of proper communication facilities, the jungles of Chhattisgarh have become a graveyard for Indian security forces.

Similar to the way Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and northwestern areas remain beyond the government control, these jungles in Chhattisgarh elude complete state control.

The periodic Naxal attacks across the country reinforces the fact that out of 626 odd districts in India, one third are dominated by the Maoists.

A few years ago, Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had termed the Maoists as India’s biggest internal security threat.

Understanding Tribal Affinities: Key to Resolving Insurgency in Northeast India


A crude cycle bomb exploded on 26 December 2013 in Jalpaiguri town in North West Bengal, killing five persons and wounding seven bystanders . The blast was attributed to an almost defunct insurgent group called Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), as it had used cycle bombs in the past to create disturbances in the state. KLO traces its origins to All Kamtapur Students Union. It began as an overground organisation to address the issues of unemployment, land alienation, economic deprivationamongst the locals and a perceived neglect of Kamtapuri language. KLO commenced armed struggle in December 1995 for creation of a separate state of Kamtapur comprising four districts of Assam, namely, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Golparaand six districts of North Bengalviz Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, North and South Dinajpur and Malda with active assistance from ULFA and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). KLO is also thought to be the armed wing of Kamtapur Peoples Party (KPP), a political entity fighting for the rights of the indigenous local population known as Koch Rajbanshis.

Historical Links

A comprehensive study of Koch Rajbanshi people indicates their linkage with other ethnic groups in Northeast and explains the rationale for cooperation of other insurgent groups with KLO. Kamtapur was an ancient Koch kingdom, which rose into prominence in 16th Century. Later, the princely state of Cooch Behar was the last remnant of the kingdom before it merged with India in 1949.The Koch are of Mongoloid race and believed to be the oldest inhabitants of Northeast having migrated to the region and settled along the various river plains. Depending upon their area of settlement and their evolving religious and cultural distinctiveness, the Koch tribe embraced different identities. The Koch is known as Bodos in BrahmaputraValley, as Dimasa in North Cachar Hills and as Rabhasin Jalpaiguri district. Today, the Koch Rajbanshi community can be found in Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya, Nepal and Bangladesh. The community has been granted Scheduled Tribe status in Meghalaya. Despite issue of an ordinance by the President of India in 1996, a similar status has not yet been accorded to them in Assam. The population of Koch Rajbanshis in Assam is around three million, almost ten percent of the total population. Though Koch tribe forms only 1.2 percent of Meghalaya’s population, the Rajbhanshi dialect bears a close similarity with Garo and Bodo languages.

Managing the nation's defence, somehow

IssueCourtesy: MidDay Mumbai| Date : 11 Mar , 2014

The Navy, with its aging fleet, was increasingly deployed on coast guard anti-terror duties and not for its primary role, preparing for the defence of the nation in times of war

Nine officers and men dead in the last six months in two submarine accidents with one submarine written off and another grounded.

Who is responsible for the death of these persons and the loss of expensive vital equipment? What did we tell their families? That someone somewhere kept tossing files while the political masters showed little concern?

Who else is responsible for the state of affairs of our security apparatus? We have shortages of fighter aircraft, artillery guns, naval vessels. We have shortages of manpower in the armed forces, paramilitaries and intelligence services.

Presumably we will pay off the families and clear our sarkari conscience. Apart from the human loss and recurring tragedy which is born of an attitude of a government that refuses to take its responsibilities seriously, there are other serious questions and worries.

True Admiral Joshi did the honourable thing by resigning and accepting moral responsibility. But what about the government? It accepted the resignation with an alacrity which makes one suspicious that it did so to avoid taking responsibility for its continued neglect and cavalier indifference in handling vital issues of defence and security of the nation.

Who else is responsible for the state of affairs of our security apparatus? We have shortages of fighter aircraft, artillery guns, naval vessels. We have shortages of manpower in the armed forces, paramilitaries and intelligence services.

How Antony's incompetence has left India's defences in a mess

IssueCourtesy: Rediff.com| Date : 12 Mar , 2014

In the past seven years Defence Minister A K Antony’s incompetence has ensured that India’s military capability rapidly shrinks.

Primarily, the tax-payer spends money on appointing the defence minister to make certain that India’s armed forces receive incremental modernisation and sufficient military capabilities to safeguard the territorial integrity of the Union as well as to defend increasing strategic interests.

Antony, the most ‘honest’ defence minister will probably be remembered for the unprecedented number of scams that happened during his tenure and nothing more.

In addition, he is solely responsible for the upkeep of the well-being and morale of the forces.

However, Antony, possibly the longest serving defence minister, belied expectations and instead created a huge obstacle course in modernisation of the armed forces and permitted maligning of the Indian Army by his defence secretary at various stages.

Antony, the most ‘honest’ defence minister will probably be remembered for the unprecedented number of scams that happened during his tenure and nothing more.

For all the professed honesty that Antony touted on taking over, should have made him clean up the rampant existing corruption in defence public sector units and ministry of defence.

Under his leadership it appears that the primary national objective is not to add military capabilities to ensure the nation’s security but to find ways to guarantee maximum kickbacks.

Frankly, nobody involved in the decision-making process is really concerned about the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft being inducted on time to shore up the rapidly declining firepower of the Indian Air Force; or about the Indian Navy receiving submarines in time; or with the tremendous collateral damage the nation suffers on its borders with Pakistan because the infantry is ill-equipped.

Despite similar levels of corruption, China never overlooks the primary objective of building military muscle. Frankly, no other country does except India.

Stealth Technology and its Effect on Aerial Warfare

IDSA Monograph Series No. 33

In aerial warfare technology has progressed rapidly from the frail and flimsy machines seen in the air in the first half of the twentieth century. In the jet age that started soon after World War-II military aviation initially expanded into higher speeds and multirole capabilities. In the early 1970s the concept of making military aircraft more difficult to detect gained the attention of design and development teams. Since then the world has seen the F-117 “Nighthawk”, the world's first stealth or “low observable” fighter. This was followed shortly by the F-22 “Raptor” and F-35 “Lightning-II”. The performance of the F-117 in the Gulf War of 1991 and in Kosovo made it clear that stealth was a revolutionary technology. Programmes to make stealth aircraft thereafter commenced in other parts of the world as well with the Russians developing the PAK FA and PAK DA, China working on the J-20, J-31, and “sharp sword” Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV), and India working on the Advanced Medium Combat aircraft (AMCA), Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and Autonomous Unmanned Research aircraft (AURA). Stealth has been seen as practically invincible by the lay public. However, an understanding of how stealth technology works and an examination of the possible means of countering stealth aircraft help come to a more balanced understanding of this important technology. This monograph attempts to commence this task of explaining stealth technology, looking at possible counters to stealth and discussing the ways in which stealth technology changes the conduct of aerial warfare.

About the Author

Group Captain Vivek Kapur is a serving Indian Air Force fighter pilot. He has extensive experience in fighter flying, operational command, as well as in training appointments. He has worked as a Research Fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) in the past and was a Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) during 2012 and 2013. He is currently a Senior Fellow at CAPS. Gp. Capt. Kapur holds a M.Sc. degree in Defence and strategic Studies from Madras University as well as an MBA from Delhi University, and is pursuing a Doctoral degree at the school of International Studies (SIS) at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi.

The Frontman vs. al Qaeda

Meet Jamal Maarouf, the West's best fighting chance against Syria's Islamist armies.
MARCH 11, 2014

ANTAKYA, Turkey — In this Turkish town, just miles from the Syrian border, Jamal Maarouf has traded his military fatigues for simple civilian dress. He sits in a narrow apartment in the town's old city; a tangle of charging smartphones rests in the middle of the room. The leader of the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF), a moderate rebel alliance, is surrounded by his commanders and advisors, who are perched on overstuffed couches and thin foam mattresses.

Maarouf is only here for the day, and plans to return to the battlefield later that night. "I am a fighter," he says. "I eat and sleep with my men, and during the battles I'm always with them on the front line. I feel their pain." 

Maarouf has been the big winner of the recent push by rebel groups to oust the extremist al Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), from northern Syria. His alliance was one of the first to launch the fight against ISIS, winning a series of quick, decisive victories in early January that shot it to prominence both inside Syria and out. Islamist rebels have also gradually joined his cause: The Islamic Front, the country's largest rebel alliance, has repeatedly clashed with ISIS, while Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria, issued an ultimatum last week calling on ISIS to submit to mediation or be exterminated.

The SRF is a collection of moderate rebel groups, about 25,000 fighters in all, bound more by their common cause to roll back Islamist influence in Syria than a specific ideology. The group was formed in early December by uniting 14 factions with particularly strong representation in the northern Idlib province, including Maarouf's Syrian Martyrs' Brigade, Ahrar al-Shamal, and the Idlib Military Council.

Al-Qaida launches terrorism magazine, Resurgence

March. 10, 2014 

LONDON, March 10 (UPI) -- An English-language magazine from al-Qaida seeks to exploit a sense of depravity from Muslims living in Western society, a terrorism analyst said.Al-Qaida posted a video on You Tube announcing a new magazine dubbed Resurgence. It uses a speech from Malcolm X to appeal to an English-speaking audience.

"You can't ever reach a man if you don't speak his language," the narration says. "If a man speaks the language of brute force, you can't come to him with peace."

Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at Swedish National Defense College, told the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph the tone of the You Tube video is aimed at exploiting social tensions in Western cultures.

"Its simplicity appeals in many ways," he said in an interview published Monday. "It focuses on the raw emotions of victim-hood in the Muslim world which reinforces the al-Qaida narrative that the West is aggressively at war with Islam."

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni branch of the terrorist group, publishes an English-language pamphlet dubbed Inspire. ABC News reported Sunday the AQAP magazine was used by Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev to build the explosive devices used in last April's attack on the Boston Marathon, which left three dead and more than 250 people injured.

Early Trends in Afghan Elections: Abdullah Leads the Show


March 12, 2014

There have been three major surveys held recently predicting the future leader of Afghanistan, which indicate that the Presidential race is almost certain to enter the second round as none of the candidates may be able to poll more than 50 per cent of the votes.

The poll survey conducted by Glevum Associates1, in which 2148 prospective voters from 34 provinces of the country gave their views on the candidates and overall election scenario in Afghanistan. The trends emerging from the survey are: 90 per cent of the respondents said that they would not vote for a candidate against whom there are allegations of corruption. 61 per cent said they would vote for someone who could open talks with Taliban, 51 per cent supported candidates willing to maintain good relations with Pakistan, and 71 per cent for those who advocated good relations with the USA.

Coming to their view on the candidates, 29 per cent supported the candidacy of Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank expert, who is one among the three probable candidates President Karzai is supposed to favour.2 Abdullah Abdullah, runner up in 2009 Presidential poll and former Foreign Minister, came second with 25 per cent. The rest of the candidates, including Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayaaf, polled under 10 per cent and have little hope of success in the upcoming elections, unless some dramatic event alters the equations drastically.

The two other polls put Ashraf Ghani in the second place. The first among them was done by Democracy International3, based in United States. It found in its survey, out of the three planned, in January 2014, that 25 per cent of the 2500 people it surveyed would vote for Ashraf Ghani, while 31 per cent of them supported Abdullah’s candidature. The third poll by Tolo News and ATR Consulting4, both based in Kabul, placed the candidates roughly in the same order as Democracy International, with Abdullah leading the race. Though the methodology of this poll is far less exhaustive, the last poll is regarded by observers in Afghanistan as more credible. It is believed that Tolo News has extensive reach in Afghanistan as the most-watched television channel in Afghanistan and thus its pre-poll survey may have more impact on the people than the other two provided above.

In all these opinion surveys, there is a clear preference for two candidates— Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani. Among the two, Abdullah, despite his father being a Pashtun, is regarded as Tajik among the people. Claiming to represent the legacy of legendary Tajik leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, he has Muhammad Khan, a Hizb-i-Islami leader, and well-known Hajara leader Muhammad Mohaqiq as his vice presidential nominees. The fact that Massoud’s brother is in the fray as a vice presidential candidate with Zalmai Rassoul may divide his votes among the Tajiks and pose a critical challenge for him in the election. Nevertheless, his continuing efforts to reach out to the people at the grassroots may work in his favour, as massive turnouts in his campaign trail indicate.

Nepal: Nepali Congress and UML Should Shed their Mutual distrust: Update No.293

Note No: 712 Dated 12-Mar-2014
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan

It does not need a rocket scientist to assess that a working and a sincere alliance between the two major parties- the Nepali Congress and the UML is a must for the promulgation of a new constitution and for ensuring suitable atmosphere for constitution writing. The primary task of the government is to get the new draft ready and get it promulgated withing one year as was promised.

Call it a marriage of compulsion or convenience-in the present situation, the parties will have to get on with each other to see the constitution through. This is the mandate they got from the people who chose them in the hope that they will deliver the goods. Instead, they are seen to be quarreling over petty issues as to who should finally approve the new constitution or whether the incumbent President should continue or not.

The blame lies squarely with the new leader of the Nepali Congress Sushil Koirala who is seen to be very indecisive. When he entered into a seven point agreement with the UML, he did agree to hand over the portfolio of Home to the UML. It should not have mattered as to who is nominated from the UML for that post.

But soon Koirala backtracked on the advice of some of his leaders and it took him some time to meekly accept later Bom Dev Gautam of UML as Deputy Prime Minister with Home Portfolio. It took two weeks of intense wrangling before both parties could agree on the cabinet expansion on Feb 25, 2014.

It is learnt that Sushil Koirala promised in his personal meeting with Sher Bahadur Deuba that the latter would get four slots for his group. Later he reneged and offered only two seats. He had to eat his words and provide four berths for the Deuba group in the expanded cabinet.

Historically, except during the periods of agitation ( Jana Andolan I and II) the two sides the UML and the NepaliCongress have seen each other as competing against one another. They perhaps occupy the same political space and their competition is understandable. But what is surprising is that their mutual suspicion and distrust have continued when there is an urgent need for both to get on well and take the initiative to get the new constitution within the stipulated period.

Unarmed Guards, Bogus Terror Drills, and 96 Tons of Plutonium

Three years after Fukushima, Japanese officials insist their nuclear facilities are safe. They're not. 
MARCH 11, 2014 

ROKKASHO, Japan — Sporting turquoise-striped walls and massive steel cooling towers, the new industrial complex rising from bluffs astride the Pacific Ocean here looks like it might produce consumer electronics or bath salts.

But in reality it is one of the world's newest, largest, and most controversial production plants for nuclear explosives.

After more than two decades of construction, the Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility will be ready to open in October 2014, as part of a government-supported effort to create special fuel for the country's future nuclear power plants.

Once completed, it will be capable of churning out 96 tons of plutonium metal in the next dozen years, an amount greater than all the stocks that remain in the United States as a legacy of the Cold War's nuclear arms race. Rokkasho will become the fifth largest such facility in the world, but the only one in a country without nuclear weapons.

Publicly, the United States has said little about Japan's plans to enlarge its already substantial hoard of plutonium. Washington formally granted Japan the unlimited right to use U.S. technology and nuclear feedstock for the plant during Ronald Reagan's administration. Now some of that materiel is to be returned, under a deal to be announced later this month at a U.S.-led international summit in the Netherlands promoting the security of nuclear materials that can be used as explosives.

It all sounds calm and cordial. But since President Barack Obama was first elected, Washington has been lobbying furiously behind the scenes, trying to convince Japan that terrorists might regard Rokkasho's new stockpile of plutonium as an irresistible target -- and to persuade Japanese officials they should better protect this dangerous raw material.


March 12, 2014 ·
While upcoming elections and sustained Taliban attacksare keeping many Afghans on edge, the greatest long-term threat to Afghanistan right now is the slow, insidious rot of uncertainty that is permeating nearly every facet of Afghan society. This situation is adversely affecting the efforts of the international communitythat has invested and sacrificed so much to bring stability to the country. And while President Hamid Karzai stands as the greatest impediment to providing some relief, there is more that the Obama administration could do to curtail ambiguity.

After a 2013 that saw much hand-wringing over setting the conditions for Afghanistan’s future, we have thus far muddled through this year, the last for NATO combat operations, without a clear picture of what post-2014 Afghanistan will look like. The main culprit has been the continued lack of a signed Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), depriving Afghan society of a crucial confidence-building mechanism that is having detrimental effects. Arecent report by the United States Institute of Peace notes, among other things, that the Afghan economy is seeing heightened short-termism and hedging behavior while major decisions are being put on hold. It also found that the street price of weapons has risen significantly, and the return of long-term Afghan refugees in Pakistan has slowed. In recent weeks, both the Afghanistan Banks Association and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry has warned that the government’s failure to sign the BSA has sparked increased capital flight from Afghanistan. The deeper we get into 2014 without an agreement, the greater the risk that this crippling doubt about the future will metastasize more significantly into the governing and security structures, which could cause irreversible damage to Afghanistan’s still-developing and fragile institutions.

Recently, there has been much speculation as to the reasoning for Karzai’s persistent intransigence despite near universal support for the BSA among his fellow countrymen. Regardless of the hypothesis one adopts, all signs point to Karzai acting solely in his own interest, not Afghanistan’s. Ironically, the deleterious effects of the uncertainty he is fostering are not completely lost on Karzai. In a recent interview, he stated that, as “an Afghan citizen, I would accept to live in poverty rather than living in uncertainty,” in the course of a somewhat rambling and imprecise explanation of the necessity for the BSA with the United States to guarantee a safe, certain future for the Afghan people. He then went on to declare that “the driving factor behind or the desire for the BSA is to bringclarity to the conflict.” Here the Obama administration has an opportunity to address this seemingly insurmountable issue in a way that would bemutually beneficial to both countries.

Hard Landing, USA

China is rebalancing its economy. Why isn't America?
MARCH 11, 2014

For those looking for problems with China's economy, there have been plenty of recent data points to choose from. The economy is slowing, foreign trade data have weakened, the latest price trendspoint more toward deflation than inflation, and there have been several recent squeezes in short-term bank funding markets. Then, on March 7, Chinese solar equipment maker Chaori defaulted on its bond payment. While hardly shocking for a normal economy, a default of this magnitude is a first for modern China and possibly a hint of what many fear is more corporate distress to come. Against the backdrop of still frothy housing markets -- despite an easing of home prices in February -- and a rapidly expanding shadow banking sector, these latest signs can hardly be dismissed as aberrations.

Are these early warnings of the dreaded Chinese hard landing, which would bring the country's development miracle to a sudden end, or indications of a transition to a more normal economy? Long wanting to believe the worst when it comes to China, the preponderance of opinion in the West is in the hard landing camp. It was only a matter of time, argue the China doubters, before the state-directed, non-market economy would meet its demise. 

Fortunately, the alternative view is probably closer to the mark. China's slowdown appears to be a well-orchestrated manifestation of the emergence of an increasingly services-based, consumer-led rebalancing of its economy. In 2013, the services share of gross domestic product (GDP) hit 46 percent -- the first time in modern China's history that this sector exceeded the combined portion going to manufacturing and construction. The old growth model, driven by a boom in industrial activity, is now giving way to a new and more balanced model supported by the trappings of a modern consumer society.

Services-led economies almost always grow more slowly than manufacturing-led ones. Consequently, drawing on services allows China to temper many of the pressures that stemmed from decades of double-digit growth -- excess resource consumption, environmental degradation and pollution, income inequality, and saving and trade surpluses. At the same time, a shift to services fosters more labor-intensive growth, which allows a more slowly growing China to continue to absorb surplus labor through increased employment and poverty reduction -- key to maintaining social stability. In this vein, a services-led transition of what former Premier Wen Jiabao famouslycalled an "unbalanced, unstable, uncoordinated, and ultimately unsustainable" Chinese economy is a welcome development. 

In Malaysia Airlines Disappearance, Terrorism Fears Fly in China

The country's netizens speculate about the missing plane, while its state media stays muzzled.
MARCH 10, 2014

Anguish, grief, and frustration have gripped China after the still-unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) en route from Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur to the Chinese capital of Beijing. There were 153 Chinese nationals among the 239 passengers and crew on board the plane when it vanished from radar screens in the early hours of March 8. At least two passengers on MH370 traveled on stolen passports, raising the possibility of foul play. Chatter and speculation about the flight have gripped Chinese social media -- as of this article's publication, seven of the 10 most-searched terms on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter, relate to the flight -- even as the country's state media remains relatively quiet.

The news of the plane's disappearance has struck a China already on high alert for terrorism.
The news of the plane's disappearance has struck a China already on high alert for terrorism. Only a week earlier on March 1, a gruesome knife attack in the train station of provincial capital Kunming in southern Yunnan province left at least 29 dead and more than 140 injured. Chinese authorities have deemed the carnage in Kunming a terrorist attack carried out by separatists from Xinjiang, a region in northwest China heavily populated by Uighur Muslims. On Chinese social media, a particularly anxious place after the Kunming horror, some speculation about the cause of MH370's disappearance has linked it to terrorism or sabotage. On March 10, well-known television host Yang Lan wrote to her 34 million followers on Weibo that "more and more signs are pointing to a terrorist attack." Huang Sheng, a professional investor and author, compared MH370's disappearance to the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed 270 in 1988. Ran Xiongfei, a sports commentator, also wrote, "Everything is unknown, but signs of terrorism are becoming more noticeable."

By contrast, Chinese state-owned media have been very cautious not to draw conclusions about MH370's disappearance. While some state-owned media have translated international reports about possible probes into terrorism, People's Daily and China Central Television (CCTV), two of the Communist Party's flagship media outlets, have not explicitly associated the plane's disappearance with terrorism. Although many readers would likely prefer those outlets to engage the question directly, state media's hands are tied. According to the U.S.-based China Digital Times, China's Central Propaganda Department hasissued instructions prohibiting "independent analysis or commentary" of the incident. (The department frequently issues directives instructing Chinese media on what to say, or what not to.)

In response to conflicting demands from readers and the party, some media have resorted to back-channel measures to satisfy both, resulting in an echo chamber in which information seems to come simultaneously from everywhere and nowhere. The current digital front page of People's Daily links to a Weibo post being passed around by other media outlets that purports to "inventory" from other sources some "eight possible reasons" for the disappearance and ask a Chinese aviation expert for his "conjecture" -- the first topic discussed is terrorism. The popular list -- also circulated by state-run news service Xinhua -- allegedly hails from liberal outlet Beijing News, but a search of the latter's website fails to call it up.

How the US has bungled its diplomacy in Ukraine

PUBLISHED:   10 March 2014 |  
Developments in Ukraine should be understood as part of US/EU's project of stretching the frontiers of "Europe" eastwards as far as possible in order either to eventually topple the present Russian political and economic order from within and make Russia a "European" country, or isolate it as a political and economic backwater beyond a "European" buffer extending into the former Soviet Union's heartland. 
"Europe" for the protagonists of this strategy is a geography of shared values of democracy, market economy, freedom of expression, rule of law and respect for human rights. 

The first attempt nine years ago through the Orange Revolution to incorporate Ukraine into "Europe" proved abortive. 
But the objective was not abandoned and has been pursued by leveraging internal Ukrainian divisions, especially the strong pro-western sentiments of the catholic, non-Russian speaking population of western Ukraine to draw the country towards "Europe". 

The US has provided political encouragement to internal Ukrainian forces to split with Russia by frequently affirming that as an independent country Ukraine had the right to choose its partners; in other words join the EU and Nato irrespective of Russian concerns. 
Its democracy-promoting NGOs have been active on the ground for years. Interference Ukraine's leadership has proved unequal to the task of governing a fractured country, and faced with competing pulls has played politics with both sides - the West and Russia. 

The Russians actually view Yanukovich as a bungling and corrupt politician; politically docketing him as "pro-Russian" is an analytical short-hand that distorts reality. 

The rejection of the Association Agreement with the EU at the last minute provided "pro-democracy" elements as well as Ukrainian ultra-nationalists just the pretext they needed to stage violent protests leading eventually to the overthrow of Yanukovich's legitimately elected government. 

The West's support for this unconstitutional act in a territory of great sensitivity for Russia, without weighing the likely repercussions on Russia-Western ties, shows either acute diplomatic clumsiness or misplaced self-confidence in handling any challenge from a weakened Russia. 
The US abetment of this political coup in Ukraine has been exposed by the conduct of its politicians and diplomats. Apart from making expletives the currency of diplomacy, the US Assistant Secretary in charge of the region has been filmed handing over food packets to anti-government street demonstrators in Kiev. 
No self-respecting country would normally allow such blatant interference in its internal affairs. That this was tolerated reveals the insecure foundations of the Ukrainian state, the disarray of country's political class and the penetration of foreign interests into its political system. 
The West's attitude towards Russia puzzles. Russia's "great power" status, on the one hand, is no longer recognised and dire predictions are made about its future because of its demographic decline, obsolete industrial infrastructure, over-dependence on raw material exports, heavily state controlled economy that stifles enterprise, a weak justice system etc. 
Europe, in fact, wants Russia to accept its diminished status and instead of seeking equality with Europe as a whole, it is called to see itself simply as another major European power. 

Violence: Uneasy diplomatic relationships with Western Europe have given Ukrainian ultra-nationalists just the pretext they needed to stage violent protests leading eventually to the overthrow of a legitimately elected government

Beyond that, for Europe's Russophobia to end, Russia must accept European political, economic and social values, becoming, in fact, a clone of western European powers. 

On the other hand, Russia is still treated as the West's principal geo-political rival and cold war rooted efforts to contain it have not been abandoned, with employment of military, economic and ideological tools to that end, represented by the eastward expansion of NATO, EU and western values. 
China, despite its 1.3 billion population, its emergence as the world's second largest economy as well as its largest exporter, its expanding military power and strategic ambitions of challenging US hegemony in the western Pacific, is treated as less menacing. 

Perceived threat

The persistent Euro-centric view that the West has of the world, the belief that Russia has the potential to threaten the centre of gravity of western power represented by NATO, might explain this in part. 

US interests are of course served if the Russian threat is not allowed to fade away in public mind, as that then enables the US to continue dominating European defence and security policies through NATO. 

Germany, as Russia's strongest European partner, could have played a bridging role between US/EU and Russia, but it is constrained to work within the limits imposed on its foreign policy by its EU/Nato membership. 

Germany was at the centre of the Cold War; it should be at the centre of burying it permanently. It is best positioned to scotch the resurfacing Cold War type tensions with Russia that US and select EU countries on the immediate periphery of Russia cultivate. 


America's domineering instincts, the language of threats, intimidation, and sanctions by its leadership, the assumption that it speaks for the "international community" as a whole, have once again manifested themselves during the Ukrainian crisis.

Historic rivalry: Russia is still treated as the West's principal geo-political rival and cold war rooted efforts to contain it have not been abandoned.
This time it is not small and relatively defenceless countries like Iraq, Libya, Iran or Syria, but a permanent UN Security Council member that is being hectored by the US. 
US has threatened to expel Russia from the G-8, has imposed visa restrictions on some category of officials and is examining economic sanctions, ignoring that the reasons being given to punish Russia could have amply justified similar penalisation of the US for forcing regime changes in several countries in violation of international law. 
Such US conduct has international repercussions, diminishing support for the existing international system and reinforcing the need for re-balancing global power equations still skewed heavily in favour of the West.

Ironically, the US is undermining the very international system that it wants others to assume their share of the burden to support. 

The writer is a former Foreign Secretary

A Ten-Point Plan for Ukraine

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)

March 12, 2014

President Obama’s inbox is doubtless packed with proposals for stopping the standoff between Ukraine and Russia.

Well, here’s another plan. But before I offer the details, some background to provide context:

Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s fall (and subsequent flight to Russia) on February 22 led to the formation of a government run by the opposition, about which Moscow had harbored deep suspicions.

What the West hailed as a democratic triumph, President Vladimir Putin denounced as an “extra-constitutional coup” against an elected leader and as another example of a Western (particularly American) plot to undermine Russia in its historic spheres of influence.

Putin’s recourse to legality is rich. Revolutions by their nature bypass constitutions. And if Yanukovych’s ouster is illegal, the referendum that Crimea’s new pro-Russian leadership—which itself seized power from the local authorities—plans for March 16 to determine whether the province should join the Russian Federation is no less so.

Ukraine’s constitution [3] (Chapter III, Articles 72 and 73) stipulates that referendums must be: i) called by solely by the president or the parliament (Verkhovna Rada); ii) held pursuant to a petition that garners 3 million signatures with a minimum of 100,000 per province from at least two-thirds of the country’s provinces; iii) national in scope on territorial questions. The proposed Crimean referendum meets none of these requirements.

But this crisis is not about constitutional law. It’s about power, prestige, security, and fear—the stuff that has pitted polities against one another for millennia.

With the Sochi Winter Olympics behind him, Putin turned immediately to Ukraine. And he took off the gloves, launching a military takeover of the Crimea that cashed in one three advantages. First, thousands of Russian troops were already stationed there—Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based in Sevastopol under a lease that runs to 2040—and more were dispatched, permitting a rapid occupation of key government buildings and military installations. Second, ethnic Russians constitute the majority (58 percent) of Crimea’s population and offered a hospitable political environment. Third, Crimea is on Russia’s doorstep, and that put the West at a strategic disadvantage.

The Streets Ain't What They Used to Be

Back in the days of the Arab Spring, optimists predicted a bright future for democratic upheavals around the world. But the reality in places like Ukraine, Venezuela, Turkey, and Thailand is far messier. 
MARCH 9, 2014 

Ukraine isn’t the only country where protesters have been busy battling governments lately. In Venezuela, 18 people have been killed during weeks of big demonstrations against the administration of President Nicolás Maduro. In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, having survived months of intense popular discontent, is fighting for his political life. And although the leader of the street protests in Thailand recently decided to end his supporters’ blockade of downtown Bangkok, the showdown there (which has taken the lives of at least 16 people) is far from over.

In some ways all of these rebellions look like extensions of the Arab Spring that started three years ago.

The same motives that drew protesters into Tahir Square and the streets of Tunis and Tripoli still loom large.

The same motives that drew protesters into Tahir Square and the streets of Tunis and Tripoli still loom large. Irate citizens are taking aim at corruption, economic mismanagement, and autocratic overreach -- the same factors that also prompted powerful mass protests last year in countries as diverse as Brazil, Cambodia, andBulgaria (all of which continue to this day in various forms). One might even include the remarkable opposition rallies in big cities around Russia in 2012 -- or perhaps the surprising people power movement that flared up in Bosnia last month. Are we witnessing, perhaps, an oft-predicted “contagion effect” -- the flowering of a new era of demands for democratic accountability?

That’s certainly possible. The mere fact that so many people in so many parts of the world have chosen to put their bodies (and in some cases their lives) on the line certainly suggests that citizens are far less content to unthinkingly accept whatever their leaders dish out. The speed with which information zooms around the world unquestionably plays an inspiring role: when you see big crowds of people on the evening news chanting slogans against their own governments, your first reaction is likely to be, “Why can’t we do that here?

What the Saudis Fear

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)

March 11, 2014

As the government of Saudi Arabia does strange things and pitches fits, such as at the beginning of this year declining to take up one of the usually-coveted rotational seats on the United Nations Security Council, we tend to view Saudi motivations and concerns through a lens that distorts confrontations in the Middle East into our own preferred way of looking at such conflicts. Thus we often view the Saudis as prominent members of a “moderate” bloc of regional states that are principally in confrontation with a different bloc led by Iran. This view was augmented by misinterpretation of a leaked diplomatic cable that was taken to mean that the Saudi leadership would welcome a U.S. military attack on Iran. Actually, the Saudis would view any such warfare in their neighborhood as a calamity. Riyadh certainly does have concerns about Iran, but its usual way of dealing with those concerns has been through rapprochement with Tehran. The Saudis are once again taking steps [4] to improve relations with the cross-Gulf neighbor.

American perceptions of Saudi apoplexy about the Syrian civil war also tend to to be viewed in the context of debate and discussion among Americans—in this case, in terms of charges that American unwillingness or inability to do anything significant about the civil war is a manifestation of U.S. “retreat” from the world. But the apoplexy isn't about American retreat, either real or imagined. Rather, the Saudi concern is different and it is simple; it is about sectarian conflict. It is seeing fellow Sunnis fight against Alawites and Shia, and it believes it has a strong stake in the Sunnis winning.

This stake in another country's sectarian conflict is related to the peculiar nature of the al-Saud family's claim to legitimacy and to political power. It is a claim based on religion, and not at all on popular sovereignty. It is not for nothing that the Saudi king calls himself the custodian of the two holy mosques. Protection of Sunni brethren is part of upholding the claim to legitimacy.

Russia’s Resurgence: Policy Options for United States

Paper No. 5663 Dated 12-Mar-2014
By Dr Subhash Kapila

Russia’s resurgence ever since the turn of the millennium was dismissively ignored by successive United States policy establishments presumably buoyed by delusionary strategic assessments of continued longevity of United States unipolarity.

Russia’s resurgence today stands fully manifested in its rolling-back United States power-play against Russia in the Ukraine and Crimea and the declaration of Russia’s strategic pivot to the Asia Pacific. Further, a resurgent Russia had to be factored-in by the United States as it attempted to salvage its strategic mess in Syria and to bring Iran on the negotiating table.

Russia by its robust moves in the Ukraine and in the Asia Pacific seems to have made clear its strategic intentions of operating as an independent power-centre and a notice to the United States that the time has come for Russia to be treated as a “Strategic Co-equal” of the United States. This fact along with Russia’s resurgence as a strategic reality stands constantly reflected in my Papers of the last decade.

United States successive policy establishments and US think-tanks feeding policy papers on Russia to US Administrations have seemingly lapsed into flawed assessments of Russia’s intentions and global impact of Russia’s strategic resurgence and more particularly on United States specifically.

Even where it may have been done marginally or tangentially, there is an air of dismissiveness or worse still condescension, that Russia has no power potential, that it has insurmountable vulnerabilities, and it has massive economic problems. My visit to Russia last year for an international conference did not give me these impressions.

United States condescension towards Russia and its indecisiveness in firmly ‘re-setting its Russia policy buttons’ arises mainly from the above perceptions and also a mistaken belief that in the global power rivalry and face-off, China could be counted as not standing by Russia in a global face-off.

Russia’s strategic resurgence is an established reality and so is the reality that China in the pursuit of its own aspiration to be an independent power centre, independent of both the United States and Russia, would hardly find it attractive to stand with or behind the United States.