22 March 2014

National Interest: Who’s afraid of Neville Maxwell?

Shekhar Gupta | March 22, 2014
Antony gave to Parliament. It is to protect our carefully crafted and preserved mythologies of 1962.


Two generations of Indians, including yours faithfully, once brainwashed into believing propaganda and military mythologies. And an establishment that still chooses to hide the truth about the 1962 War from its own people. Let’s be grateful to that 88-year-old relentless journalist and scholar for the partial release of the Henderson-Brooks report — and hope the next government has the courage to do the rest.

Two generations of Indians, including yours faithfully, once brainwashed into believing propaganda and military mythologies. And an establishment that still chooses to hide the truth about the 1962 War from its own people. Let’s be grateful to that 88-year-old relentless journalist and scholar for the partial release of the Henderson-Brooks report — and hope the next government has the courage to do the rest.

I am of the vintage that grew up detesting Neville Maxwell as an utterly contemptible India-hater. Or worse. A pro-Chinese communist toadie, even an unreconstructed Trotskyist who should never have been allowed to set foot in India, least of all accredited as the New Delhi correspondent of The Times (London). And whose treacherous book, India’s China War, you heard, was banned by our government for good reason (these were pre-Shiv Sena years, so it wasn’t actually banned).

How dare a silly, ungrateful (for Indian hospitality) white man blame India for the Chinese “invasion” of 1962? How dare he insult Jawaharlal Nehru, even fellow communist Krishna Menon? What kind of man showed disrespect for Indian soldiers, who fought so bravely against humongous odds and neverending human waves? How dare he, most insulting of all, call it “India’s China War”? Just how could anybody, particularly a white man from a democracy, be so viciously nasty to democratic India as to question the very basis of its territorial claims, the McMahon Line — even to dismiss it as a colonial imposition on Tibet and China?

Remember, we were the children of the Sixties, fed on jingoistic propaganda and convenient military mythologies. We were the Ai mere watan ke logo generation that was easily persuaded to accept the “dus-dus ko ek ne maara (each Indian killed 10 Chinese before falling as he ran out of bullets)” understanding of that war.

Those who were suspected to have helped Maxwell were seen as traitors. Remember, Sam Manekshaw had, among the various “indiscretions” blamed on him, also the insinuation that he helped Maxwell access the Henderson Brooks committee report. Fortunately for India, he survived, thanks to one honourable fellow patriot, whom we know as Lt Gen J.F.R. Jacob and whom his friends, young and old, call Jake, who refused to give evidence against him, and the ever-maligned political class.

So that 1962 is history

Implementation of the ‘forward policy’ of Jawaharlal Nehru’s government resulted in a humiliating defeat to China in the 1962 war. (Reuters)
Hardeep S Puri | March 21, 2014 9:25 am


Let’s confront the civil-military trends Henderson Brooks report points to.

Following the country’s humiliation in 1962, the then chief of the army staff (COAS), General J.N. Chaudhury instituted an “operational review” to inquire into the reverses suffered by the army. Established on December 14, 1962, the two-man inquiry committee submitted its report, classified as “top secret”, in April 1963. The terms of reference given to Lieutenant General Henderson Brooks, assisted by Brigadier P.S. Bhagat, were to inquire into “what went wrong” with training, equipment, the system of command, the physical fitness of troops and the capacity of commanders at all levels to influence the men under their command. The inquiry committee was neither mandated to nor did it directly comment on the failures and lapses of the political leadership. And yet, the report provides interesting insights on political decision-making.

On September 2, 1963, the then defence minister, Y.B. Chavan, who had taken over from the disgraced V.K. Krishna Menon, told Parliament that Indian reverses were the result of poor military leadership and high-level “interference” in tactical operations. Other reasons listed for the Indian defeat: the Indian troops’ unpreparedness for mountain warfare and unfamiliarity with Chinese tactics, equipment shortages during training and combat, mountain communications difficulties, inadequate military intelligence, the unexpectedness of the Chinese assault, Chinese numerical superiority. Chavan also said only 24,000 Indian troops had been involved in the fighting.

R.D. Pradhan, who was Chavan’s private secretary between 1962 and 1965, provides some insights on the issue, “During the conduct of the inquiry, Chavan was apprehensive that the committee may cast aspersions on the role of the prime minister or the defence minister. Chavan’s main worry was to find ways to defend the government and at the same time to ensure that the morale of the armed forces was not further adversely affected.” He concluded that Chavan had “earned the gratitude of the prime minister”. The classification of the Henderson Brooks report was clearly politically motivated.

Bhopal journalist wins Digital Activism award

Published: March 21, 2014 
Staff Reporter

Shubhranshu Choudhary in his makeshift recording studio, lined with egg holders as soundproof, in Jatkhedi, Bhopal. 

Shubhranshu Choudhary’s brainchild CGNet Swara beat Snowden, Free Weibo, TAILS

Shubhranshu Choudhary, independent journalist and author of the controversial Let’s call him Vasu, has won the 2014 Digital Activism Award from the U.K.-based charity organisation Index on Censorship.

He defeated three other finalists, including former American Intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, Chinese social network Free Weibo and The Amnesic Incognito Live System (TAILS) which helps people encrypt their communication, in an online vote.

Mr. Choudhary won the award for his Central Gondwana Net Swara community radio, which he started in 2004 in Raipur. It now operates from HackerGram — a snake-infested former mushroom farm on the outskirts of Bhopal.

Citizen journalism

Anyone can call up the radio and listen to news or record a report in Hindi or Gondi (a south-central Dravidian language) — which is then available for all callers to listen to. Complaints on the radio are verified and augmented with the help of local activists trained by CGNet.

CGNet Swara has been gaining popularity in Madhya Pradesh with the involvement of women’s groups who paint the radio’s mobile numbers on mud huts and use music to promote the radio.

The station receives up to 170 calls a day with news of failing public infrastructure, in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections.

Originally a Chhattisgarh-based radio, it has now spread to Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha too. “We are training Bhili and Santhali speakers to use the radio and we've started AdivasiSwara.org, which is the only website in Gondi script. Last November, we started SwasthyaSwara to discuss traditional health knowledge. We’re also trying to broadcast on the international Citizen Band 26.9 MHz to 27.2 MHz. Currently, receivers don’t read this frequency so we’re developing a way to tweak radios to receive the band,” Mr. Choudhary told The Hindu.

China's rising defence budget

A 12.2 per cent increase in China's military budget is a matter of concern for India
Harsh V. Pant

Defence Ministry Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong (L) shakes hands with Defence Minister AK Antony during the 6th India-China Annual Defence and Security Dialogue in New Delhi. — AFP

CHINA has announced that it plans to increase its military budget for 2014 to almost $132 billion, a 12.2 per cent rise over last year. This was expected as Beijing has made no bones about its desire to emerge as a dominant military power in the Asia-Pacific. It has been systematically working towards that goal, increasing its military budget consistently for the past several years with a special focus on the navy, allowing it to project power across the region.

“We will comprehensively enhance the revolutionary nature of the Chinese armed forces, further modernise them and upgrade their performance, and continue to raise their deterrence and combat capabilities in the information age,” Prime Minister Li Keqiang said at the opening session of the National People's Congress, which will formally approve policy already made by Communist Party leaders.

China's military spending is the second largest in the world, behind that of only the USA. The rate of growth in spending is greater than that of recent years. Though last year, China's defence budget increased by 10.7 per cent over the previous year, this year's rate of growth is higher than recent years. This exorbitant increase in China's military budget over the past several years has sparked concerns among the major powers and China's neighbours. As a growing economic power, China is concentrating on the accretion of military might to secure and enhance its own strategic interests.

China, which has the largest standing army in the world at 2.3 million-strong, continues to make the most dramatic improvements in its nuclear force among the five nuclear powers. Improvements in its conventional military capabilities are even more impressive. What has caused concern in Asia and beyond is the opacity of China's military build-up. A consensus has emerged that Beijing's real military spending is at least double the announced figure. The official figures of the Chinese government do not include the cost of new weapons purchases, research or other big-ticket items for China's highly secretive military. The real figures are thought to be much higher. According to some estimates, China will be spending close to $148 billion on defence as opposed to the officially announced figure of $132 billion.

No winners in a war of sanctions

 March 22, 2014

Vladimir RadyuhinParvathi Menon

It would be a nightmarish scenario for the United States, if western sanctions push Russia closer to China

Beneath their tough political rhetoric, European leaders are still wrestling uneasily over the ambit of punitive economic measures to be used against Russia for its role in the Ukrainian and Crimean developments.

Following the announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama of an expanded list of 21 individuals who will face bank asset freezes and travel bans, European Union (EU) leaders who met in Brussels increased their own list by 12, but postponed releasing the names till March 21 [when this went to print].

The sanctions are, at least for the present, seen as a political reproach of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s facilitation of Crimea’s integration into Russia. Even though the pressure was turned up a notch on March 20 to include several senior Russian officials into the sanctions net, the measures do not match the threatening oratory that has emerged from western capitals against Russia.

The next step — of broad-based economic sanctions including trade embargoes and business asset freezes — is likely to see much less of a consensus between the trans-Atlantic allies, and within the countries of Europe.

Indeed, at the EU Summit in Brussels on March 20, the 28-nation body said that it would go to the next level of punitive measures if Russia were to intervene in eastern Ukraine — an implicit recognition of Crimea’s integration into Russia as a fait accompli.

Understanding Karzai Building NATO’s strategy bridge in Afghanistan

This post was provided by Robert Mihara, a US Army strategist and unapologetic Aggie. The views expressed in this piece are his alone and do not represent the US Army or the Department of Defense.

President Hamid Karzai’s release of 65 prisoners in mid-February from a prison facility north of Kabul drew harsh words from leaders throughout the NATO alliance. His behavior over the past decade has been a source of confusion and frequent frustration for Afghanistan’s foreign benefactors. Critics have attacked Karzai as being mercurial and vain, jeopardizing Afghan national interests for his own petty purposes. The ongoing policy standoff over a bi-lateral security agreement (BSA) has only deepened bitterness toward the Afghan president among his many detractors, but the outrage over Karzai’s actions misses the point. The furor in Washington over Karzai’s intransigence has diverted the discussion from a necessary reflection on what must be accomplished, and for what purposes, to a fixation on determining the means to applied (i.e., troop levels).[i]

Max Boot, in a Commentary Magazine op-ed, argued that setting the US troop level below 10,000 would doom NATO’s prospects for success in Afghanistan, but he wrongly assumes that military power is the requisite capacity for overcoming the weight of history. If anything, the past twelve years have confirmed the inadequacy of counterinsurgency practices for places as long troubled as Afghanistan has been. NATO policymakers and planners must escape such tactical myopia by understanding the political-social context confronting President Karzai before rushing to judgment over the significance of the BSA and troop levels because it is the same Afghan context that will determine whether foreign advisors matter at all in the end.[ii]

President Hamid Karzai, left, meets local leaders in Lashkar Gah, in Helmand province (Photo: AP)

Karzai’s decisions are symptomatic of the political milieu and geopolitical situation of Afghanistan that limit politics in that country. As much as has changed in Afghanistan, much remains the same. Kabul extends its control over the many districts of Afghanistan through its security forces and bureaucracies, but, more importantly, it holds them in line through the mechanisms of patronage. There is little reason to doubt that Karzai, and several of those running to replace him, dream of grander visions where common bonds of nation and economy allow for the exchange of favor, position, and accommodation to be replaced by rule of law and impartiality in the distribution of public goods. At the same time, the requisite foundation for such an Afghanistan has not existed over the past decade nor is it likely to manifest in the near future.

Absent Without Leave The American People and the War in Afghanistan

Americans would make great suicide bombers. Just like young madrassa-educated men who chant Koran verses in a language they don’t even speak, the American public has blindly “supported the troops” without ever thinking critically about the necessity of continued military presence — and casualties — in Afghanistan.

The American people are largely absent without leave in the discussion of what we are trying to do in Afghanistan and the continuing use of troops in support of those objectives. It was not always so. Early on there was no doubt about why troops were going to Afghanistan. Later, one could generally be forgiven for concentrating on Iraq, the larger, more costly war. However, the last referendum on Afghanistan in American conversation was then-Senator Obama’s first Presidential campaign, in which he called Afghanistan the good war. Lone Survivor, the number one movie in the country last week, had the potential to restart the conversation and one responsible journalist attempted to do just that. Unfortunately, like the blindly indoctrinated suicide bombers we’ve become, we strapped on our vests, shouted the slogans of our respective camps and blew up in an orgy of mindless smears that destroyed any chance for a critical discussion.

The American Discourse

Immediately following September 11, 2001 such a discussion was unnecessary. After a terrorist attack on American soil that killed a total of 2,977 people in New York City, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania, Americans across the country were conscious of the reasons to use military force. Our representatives were similarly united, passing the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) with but a single nay in the House and unanimously in the Senate. Our vengeance was to be swift and sure and American troops were to be placed in harms way to punish those responsible for this terrible attack.

Since that day over 12 years ago, the public discourse of the United States has largely ignored Afghanistan except for mindless “support the troops” platitudes. Barely a year later another AUMF was signed and in March of 2003 the U.S. invaded Iraq. This was a much larger and costlier war against a more easily defined enemy (at first) and one can easily see how it occupied the minds of Americans much more than Afghanistan. Years later, during the Presidential campaigns of 2007-2008, America had another chance to talk about why we were still in Afghanistan. Indeed, Senator Obama used the war in Afghanistan to silence critics that he was soft on terrorism, proposing a surge in Afghanistan and blaming the war in Iraq for drawing resources away from the “right battlefield.” Once again, the Iraq War dominated its smaller cousin but neither war was foremost on Americans minds as they went to the polls. The economy was the overwhelming factor on which President Obama was elected in 2008. Five years and another Presidential election later (in which the war in Afghanistan was barely a blip) a movie has finally started another conversation about troops in Afghanistan. As is characteristic of the current state of consumer intellectual capital (or lack thereof) in America, the conversation quickly turned from the actual war to whether or not journalists could ask questions, as if their job is to do something else.

***** NY Times: Former Pakistani Intelligence Chief Knew Osama bin Laden Was Hiding in Abbottabad

March 19, 2014
What Pakistan Knew About Bin Laden
Carlotta Gall
New York Times Magazine

Taliban recruits in 2008 in Quetta, Pakistan, where leading organizers of the Afghan insurgency are based. Credit Alex Majoli/Magnum, for The New York Times

Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, I went to live and report for The New York Times in Afghanistan. I would spend most of the next 12 years there, following the overthrow of the Taliban, feeling the excitement of the freedom and prosperity that was promised in its wake and then watching the gradual dissolution of that hope. A new Constitution and two rounds of elections did not improve the lives of ordinary Afghans; the Taliban regrouped and found increasing numbers of supporters for their guerrilla actions; by 2006, as they mounted an ambitious offensive to retake southern Afghanistan and unleashed more than a hundred suicide bombers, it was clear that a deadly and determined opponent was growing in strength, not losing it. As I toured the bomb sites and battlegrounds of the Taliban resurgence, Afghans kept telling me the same thing: The organizers of the insurgency were in Pakistan, specifically in the western district of Quetta. Police investigators were finding that many of the bombers, too, were coming from Pakistan.

One of many madrasas in Quetta in 2008. Credit Alex Majoli/Magnum, for The New York Times

In December 2006, I flew to Quetta, where I met with several Pakistani reporters and a photographer. Together we found families who were grappling with the realization that their sons had blown themselves up in Afghanistan. Some were not even sure whether to believe the news, relayed in anonymous phone calls or secondhand through someone in the community. All of them were scared to say how their sons died and who recruited them, fearing trouble from members of the ISI, Pakistan’s main intelligence service.

After our first day of reporting in Quetta, we noticed that an intelligence agent on a motorbike was following us, and everyone we interviewed was visited afterward by ISI agents. We visited a neighborhood called Pashtunabad, “town of the Pashtuns,” a close-knit community of narrow alleys inhabited largely by Afghan refugees who over the years spread up the hillside, building one-story houses from mud and straw. The people are working class: laborers, bus drivers and shopkeepers. The neighborhood is also home to several members of the Taliban, who live in larger houses behind high walls, often next to the mosques and madrasas they run.

India-Pakistan: Petty Little Liars

March 20, 2014

Pakistan continues to hold off on sending in the army in to deal with the Pakistani Taliban threat. The remains the case even though government has recently experienced another Taliban ceasefire that failed. Pakistan continues to ignore the fact that the Taliban have always broken ceasefires and peace agreements. In the seven years of Taliban insurrection the Islamic terrorists have only agreed to ceasefires or peace deals when faced with major military operations. There are currently nearly 200,000 troops in the Pakistani tribal territories, and over 40,000 surrounding North Waziristan. This is an area of 4,700 square kilometers, with 365,000 people that is the only sanctuary Islamic terrorist groups like the Taliban and Haqqani Network have in the tribal territories. 

North Waziristan has been surrounded since late 2009, but until recently Pakistani generals refused to go in and shut down this terrorist refuge. It is believed that the generals are not confident they can win, that many of their troops will quickly lose any enthusiasm for fighting if they suffer heavy casualties fighting the Taliban. This assessment is based on reports from units that have taken heavy losses from terrorist attacks. While some of the troops responded with calls for payback, many appeared discouraged and unenthusiastic about facing the Islamic terrorists again. Naturally the Taliban are confident of their ability to win because they are on a Mission From God. That has not prevented the Taliban from taking heavy casualties, especially from Pakistani and American air strikes. The Pakistanis are using F-16s and smart bombs since 2010 but, until this year, sparingly. The Taliban have come to fear the smart bombs because the Pakistani pilots have targeting pods and have learned how to find and hit targets with great accuracy. The American UAV missile attacks get more publicity and these have actually done more damage to the Islamic terrorists in Pakistan because the U.S. is not restrained by decades old agreements with the Pakistani military to support some terrorist groups in Pakistan. However there have been no American UAV missile attacks in Pakistan for three months (since late December). 

Pakistani politicians have been under growing pressure from the West, especially the United States to do something about the continued terror attacks by what the Pakistanis call "bad Taliban". These are mostly Pakistani Taliban who wants to establish a religious dictatorship in Pakistan and some of them have been increasingly active attacking other Pakistanis. This has caused a shift in public opinion against the Taliban, although there is still a lot of support for Islamic terrorists who only attack India, Afghanistan or Western nations. That support is strongest within the military, even though Pakistan admits that the Islamic terrorists have killed over 5,000 Pakistani soldiers and police since September 11, 2001, along with over 50,000 Pakistani civilians. 

The Afghan Taliban, who wants to establish a similar religious dictatorship in Afghanistan are considered "good Taliban" along with the minority of Pakistani Taliban who don't want to overthrow their government. In the last four years, the Pakistani Taliban have also caused over a thousand of casualties among pro-government tribesmen throughout the tribal territories. It's no secret that the army hires tribesmen and puts them in dangerous situations to minimize army casualties. The army cannot afford to lose the support of the loyal tribes up there. All this has put pressure on the army to eliminate the refuge the killers can flee to in North Waziristan. Several times, because of the demands of Pakistani and American politicians, the Pakistani generals have said they would consider advancing into North Waziristan. But it hasn't happened yet. Despite that the generals have, for weeks now, openly talked about actually going in on the ground and eliminating the North Waziristan Islamic terrorist sanctuary. The Pakistani military has explicitly declared that it would not attack its longtime and loyal terrorist allies (especially Haqqani Network) in North Waziristan or anywhere else in the tribal territories or any other terrorists who do not attack targets inside Pakistan. The air force has only been bombing Islamic terrorists groups that are responsible for openly making terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. But the fact remains that the army does not appear ready to actually invade North Waziristan. The basic problem here is that the Taliban is a coalition where the factions cooperate when each feels like it and the more extreme groups oppose any talks or peace deals with the government. In short, the head of the Pakistani Taliban does not control an entire organization in the same way the commander of an army does. 

Sharing Power With China

MARCH 19, 2014 

CANBERRA, Australia — For 40 years American leadership has kept Asia stable and fostered economic growth, especially in China. But today China’s growing power is undermining that old order and posing big questions about America’s future role in the region.

Those questions loom in the ongoing dispute between China and Japan over a chain of tiny uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that could easily spark an armed clash between the two rivals. Such a conflict would escalate fast, and the United States would have to quickly take action to support Japan militarily against China — or not.

Washington remains neutral on who owns the islands, while criticizing China for using displays of force to challenge Japan’s de facto control of them. As Secretary of State John Kerry has said: “The United States, as everybody knows, does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the islands. But we do recognize that they are under the administration of Japan.”

American officials have also affirmed support for Japan as an ally under the United States-Japan defense treaty. But it’s clear that Beijing doesn’t buy that. Instead, China has concluded America would stand back in an armed conflict, which is why it increasingly courts confrontation with Japan so brazenly. China’s ships and aircraft regularly patrol in areas claimed by Japan. Beijing’s declaration late last year of an air defense zone covering the islands took the confrontation to a new level.

Only a formal and explicit statement from President Obama laying out a new American policy will reduce the risk of a crisis in the East China Sea. What should Mr. Obama say?

If America makes it clear it would not support Japan in a fight with China, Tokyo’s confidence in the alliance will be shattered. Japan would then face its own choice: Rearm to defend itself against China without American help or submit to Chinese pre-eminence in Asia. Other American allies would also reconsider their options. American leadership in Asia would never be the same again. This is what China hopes will happen.

But a statement of unconditional support for Japan would commit America to a potential war that it could not control and probably would not win. We cannot assume China would simply back down: It has too much at stake. China does not want a war with America, but Beijing probably believes it could force a favorable draw. Ultimately, China is just as willing to fight to change the Asian order as America is to preserve it, and perhaps more willing.


By Artyom Lukin

There is one international player that stands to gain from the recent turn of events in Ukraine, regardless of its outcome. This player apparently has nothing to do with the crisis, which has engulfed Russia, the EU and the United States, and makes a point of staying on the sidelines. The country in question, of course, is China.

The leadership in Beijing must be secretly delighted watching the struggle between Russia and the West. The Ukraine mess can seriously poison Moscow’s relations with Washington and Brussels for a long time to come, thus reducing their mutual ability to coordinate policies on the major issues in world politics. One such issue, perhaps the most important, concerns geopolitical risks associated with China’s rise and its impact on the global economic and military balance.

Up to the present, Russia has pursued a relatively balanced and circumspect policy toward its giant Asian neighbor. Although the Chinese side recently has signaled that it would welcome closer strategic ties with Russia, even a security alliance perhaps, Moscow so far has been reluctant to transform their current “strategic partnership” into a full-blown geopolitical entente. In particular, Russia has not been ready to back Beijing’s assertive stance on the various territorial disputes in East Asia.

Political and economic sanctions, now threatened against Russia by the West, will inevitably push Moscow toward Beijing, increasing the likelihood that the sides will align their policies toward the West. This, in turn, will reinforce the Middle Kingdom’s strategic positions in Asia. Having acquired Russia as a safe strategic rear area, as well as privileged access to its vast energy and minerals base and advanced military technologies, China would feel far more confident in its rivalry with the United States for primacy in the Asia-Pacific. For one, just watch Putin’s visit to China in May. The Ukraine events are likely to finally clinch a Russia-China gas pipeline deal long delayed by haggling over the fuel price. Western sanctions will certainly make Moscow more compliant with Beijing, landing China a bargain which will provide it with a stream of cheap Siberian gas.

China’s response to the recent developments around Ukraine is telling. Ever since the crisis began to develop last fall, the Chinese media have tended to blame the Western meddling for what was happening there. After Russia took over Crimea and declared its readiness to use military force, the PRC’s Foreign Ministry blandly urged “the relevant parties in Ukraine to resolve their internal disputes peacefully within the legal framework so as to safeguard the lawful rights and interests of all ethnic communities in Ukraine.”[1] Discussing the crisis with Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping remarked, somewhat enigmatically, that “the situation in Ukraine, which seems to be accidental, has the elements of the inevitable.”[2] So far there has been no sign whatsoever of Beijing’s condemnation of the Kremlin’s moves in Crimea and the rest of Ukraine. China’s official press commentary is sympathetic with Moscow, stressing that Putin’s determination to protect the interests of Russia and Russian-speaking citizens is “quite understandable.”[3] Many of China’s netizens blogging on the websites like Weibo have displayed admiration for Putin’s defiance of the West.

China at your doorstep: Looking east from India’s northeast

March 18, 2014

Myanmar is an important neighbour country of India. It has a 1, 643 land border with India and is emerging as the gateway for India to other Southeast Asian countries. This land linkage will prove instrumental in opening up space for India’s under-developed Northeastern region. In the sidelines of the third Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) summit held at Nay Pyi Taw from March 1 to March 4, Myanmar’s President, U. Thein Sein reassured India that Myanmar will not let its territory be used by insurgent groups from the Northeast against India. While Myanmar and India have followed their separate political paths since independence, ties between the two countries are fast converging in recent times. In the meantime, Myanmar’s other neighbour China has had a large footprint in the country. India has to calibrate its engagement with Myanmar to not just effectively implement its Look East policy but also manage the contiguous border regions of Northeast India given the ground realities. Especially the large region of North Myanmar flanked by Indian and Chinese borders, calls for close co-operation amongst stakeholders for peace, progress and prosperity of the trans-border region in a secure environment.

China’s footprint

There are two broad assets that Myanmar has, which are of interest to the Chinese – access to the Indian Ocean and rich natural resources.1 Myanmar and China share over 2000 km of mountainous border and a complex earlier history of conflict. Both countries refer to their relationship as “fraternal kinsfolk’ or Pauk Phaw in Burmese. Since 1988, China has made huge investments in Myanmar with more than half of it in hydropower dam projects especially for export to the Chinese province of Yunnan across the border.2

In North Myanmar’s Kachin State, there are two big Chinese investments: the Myitsone confluence hydroelectric power plant project and the 2800 km pipeline project owned by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). 3 Both these deals were struck with the earlier military government, which received China’s political support and economic aid during International sanctions against Myanmar.4

Figure I - Chinese Projects Overview
Source: Namrata Goswami

Since a civilian government took over Myanmar in 2011, China’s investment projects have come under criticism.5 Public opinion in Myanmar objected to the construction of the Myitsone dam because of which the project was suspended by the government along with other projects such as the Letpadaung Copper Mine in Sagaing Division.6 In the period of 2012-13 there was a sharp drop in the flow of Chinese money into Myanmar as per the data from China’s Ministry of Commerce.7 Also China countered with harsh criticism of Myanmar’s escalating conflicts in Kachin state related to border security issues.8 There were no visits from Chinese leaders during the civilian government’s reform period.

With bearish Chinese investment in Myanmar other countries have picked up the pieces. Japan is renewing its investments in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) like Dawei, South Koreans are constructing airports, and Qatar and Norway are developing the telecom sector. 9

Afghanistan: as China forges new alliances, a new Great Game has begun

A common interest in central Asia over Uighur and Taliban militancy is bringing together Beijing and the United States

18 March 2014 

A Chinese security officer scrutinises pedestrians in Urumqi, the capital of the Uighur autonomous region of Xinjiang. Photograph: Rooney Chen/Reuters

As the disappearance of flight MH370 dominated the headlines across China, a party of senior US officials and AfPak experts arrived in Beijing last week for discreet talks with their Chinese counterparts. They were there as part of a little reported but crucial new Sino-American dialogue on Afghanistan, discussing the role China could play there after the US withdrawal. It is an important development in the new Great Game that is already realigning the delicate geopolitical balance of the region.

The public standoff between the world's two greatest military powers in the South China Sea over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands has disguised a growing detente between them both over central Asia. "The Chinese are very much aware that we are now on the same page in Afghanistan," I was told by a senior state department official with the delegation. "Our interests are now in almost complete alignment there."

The fledgling dialogue received a huge boost earlier this month when China suffered what one newspaper affiliated with the party described as "China's 9/11". A knife attack by a group of eight militants at Kunming station in Yunan province left 29 dead and 140 injured. The authorities stated that the assailants were Uighurs, the Turkic-speaking Muslim minority, many of whom want independence for the northwest region of Xinjiang – or East Turkestan, as Uighurs call it.

Tensions between Uighurs and Han Chinese have been simmering for years. The Chinese have bulldozed great swaths of Kashgar, the historic Uighur capital, and drafted hundreds of thousands of Han Chinese into the sensitive border region. Like the Tibetans, the Uighurs now find themselves a minority in their own homeland.

In 2009 riots between Uighurs and Han in the regional capital of Urumqi left more than 100 dead. In October 2013, a vehicle carrying three Uighurs ploughed into pedestrians near Tiananmen Square, killing two and wounding 40. The Chinese authorities said the attack was the work of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (Etim), a militant Uighur group they say has links to the Taliban and Pakistani jihadi networks. Last week there were was much gossip in China of a possible Etim hijacking in the case of flight MH370.

China’s War on Buddhism – Tibetan’s strategic depth

Issue Net Edition | Date : 19 Mar , 2014 

The release of the Hollywood movie ‘The Monument Men’ has been a huge hit. Not merely because of its celebrated cast but more because of the singular effort made by these men to recover and preserve their cultural relics whose total destruction was part of the genocide by Nazi Germany. What found no mention was the contribution of the Indian Army battalion (1/5 Maratha Light Infantry – then part of 8th Indian Division of 8th British Army) that discovered and rescued over 261 exquisite pieces of Florentine art at the height of World War II in Italy. Among the many other priceless paintings saved by the Marathas were the great Madonnas of Duccio, Giotto and Cimabue (works by Uccello, Lippi, Massacio and Andreas del Sarto), and Botticelli’s Coronation of the Virgin.

Historically until the early 13th Century, China had no claims on Tibet.

Trust the British, of Jalianwala Bagh massacre fame, to wipe out records of the Indian contribution, so no wonder the Hollywood movie made no mention either. So David Cameron, the serving British Prime Minister, regretted the “shameful” massacre in February 2013 (94 years after the ghastly event), describing it as a “deeply shameful event in British history, hopefully at some future date the British conscience will awaken to give due credit to 1/5 Maratha Light Infantry as well for the abovementioned contribution. But talking of preservation of ancient art and culture, where do the hapless Tibetans go from the sustained cultural genocide that the Chinese have unleashed on them for decades, scores of Buddhist monks perforce having immolated themselves (an astounding 125 from 27 February 2009) in a bid to save their culture and religion, and Chinese security forces shooting peaceful Tibetan protesters in cold blood. In July 2013, human rights advocates had reported that Chinese police officers even opened fire on crowd of Tibetans celebrating Dalai Lama’s birthday in Sichuan Province, injuring nine people, two of them critically. While self-immolation protests have occurred in India and Nepal too, outside world perhaps thinks that these self immolations in China are confined to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) but that is hardly the case. Tibetan self-immolators in China include teenagers, nuns and monks, majority in China’s Sichuan province, especially around the Kirti Monastery in Ngawa City, Ngawa County, Sichuan, Labran Monastry in Xiahe, and some in Gnasu and Qinghai provinces, besides TAR.

Saudi Arabia vs. Muslim Brotherhood

March 20, 2014
Islamist Outlaws
Saudi Arabia Takes on the Muslim Brotherhood
William McCants
Foreign Affairs

On March 7, Saudi Arabia took the extraordinary step of declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, on par with Hezbollah and al Qaeda. The move came just two days after the kingdom, together with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, withdrew its ambassador from Qatar because of Qatar’s alleged support of Brotherhood interference in internal politics. Although Saudi Arabia’s dislike of Brotherhood political activities abroad is well known, for decades the kingdom has tolerated (and sometimes even worked with) the local Saudi branch of the Brotherhood. Its sudden reversal is an expression of solidarity with its politically vulnerable allies in the region and a warning to Sunni Islamists within its borders to tread carefully.

This story goes back to the Arab Spring, when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saudi Arabia’s longtime ally, was ousted, and Egypt elected Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood­–linked politician, to fill his shoes. Riyadh feared that the group, now empowered, would try to export the Egyptian revolution regionwide, calling for action against the House of Saud and displacing Saudi’s friends and allies such as the UAE. Those fears were not entirely unfounded.

In Saudi Arabia, members of the Muslim Brotherhood had been at the forefront of the Awakening movement, a push in the early 1990s for political change in response to alleged Saudi government corruption and the basing of U.S. troops in the country. But, as the political science professor Stéphane Lacroix documents in his book Awakening Islam, most members of the Saudi Muslim Brotherhood had quickly fallen into line once the regime began to arrest or sanction its leaders. The Saudi Brotherhood simply had too much to lose: its members helped build the Saudi state and occupied important positions in the religious and educational establishment.

That détente ended with the Arab Spring, when a number of prominent Islamists added their names to a 2011 petition calling for political reforms in the kingdom. They also obliquely criticized the lack of political freedom in Saudi Arabia by lavishing praise on fellow travelers in Tunisia and Egypt. Even Nasir al-Umar, a hard-line Sururi (a blend of Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafism), was singing the praises of democratic change. Then Crown Prince Nayef and future Crown Prince Salman pressed them into silence. According to one person I spoke to on a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, some were forced to sign a pledge to cease criticizing the lack of political freedom in the kingdom. But the renewed détente was fragile, hinging on events in tumultuous Egypt.

There was some reason for Saudi Arabia to fear for its allies in the region as well. Under Mubarak, Egypt had been a dependable Saudi ally. But Morsi sought to chart a neutral course between Saudi Arabia and Iran, following an early fundraising visit to the kingdom with an attempted rapprochement with Iran. The United Arab Emirates was worried, too. The Brotherhood has had a small presence in UAE since the 1960s, but after 9/11 the government started to see the group as a national security threat. It didn’t help that when the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt some members of the UAE branch began agitating for political reforms, going so far as to sign a petition calling for elections and real authority for the UAE’s advisory council. The government responded by arresting group members across the country, including men belonging to an alleged terror cell with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

In response to what they saw as Egyptian meddling, Saudi Arabia tried to economically isolate Morsi and hasten his departure. In May 2013, just two months before the military overthrow of Morsi, the Egyptian finance ministercomplained to the Saudis that Egypt had only received $1 billion of the $3.5 billion in aid promised after Mubarak’s downfall. When the Egyptian military overthrew Morsi just a year into his rule, Saudi Arabia applauded and quickly promised Egypt a new aid package of $5 billion, together with one from the UAE for $3 billion and from Kuwait for $4 billion. When the new regime massacred Brotherhood protestors in August, the taciturn King Abdullah uncharacteristically voiced his public support for the slaughter as a blow against terrorism. When the new Egyptian government declared the group a terrorist organization in lateDecember 2013, Saudi Arabia followed suit. When UAE decided not to replace its departing ambassador in Qatar — partly to punish Qatar for its refusal to discipline an influential Qatar-based Brotherhood spiritual leader who preachedthat the UAE is against Islamic rule — Saudi Arabia recalled its own ambassador in solidarity.

What Have We Learned About Putin and the Russian Military During the Crimea Crisis?

March 20, 2014
What we learned in Crimea
David Ignatius
Washington Post

From the photographs we’ve seen of the Russian special operations, or Spetsnaz, troops that intervened in Crimea, several things are obvious: They are secretive, moving without insignia and often covering their faces; they’re disciplined and they’re decisive.

The diplomatic response to the Russian intervention is continuing. But Pentagon officials are beginning to assess the military “lessons learned.” The bottom line is that Russia’s move into Crimea was a study in the speedy deployment of special operations forces to achieve a limited objective.

“What has been most striking to me so far has been the apparent levels of discipline, training and cooperation among the Russian forces,” noted Paul Saunders, executive director of the Center for the National Interest, in aninterview this week with the military blog War on the Rocks.

The Russians deployed quickly in the hours surrounding reports of their initial movement on Feb. 26. Two days later, when President Obama warned that there would be “costs” for invading Crimea, the Russian forces were already in place and the intervention was nearly a fait accompli.

The Russians are thought to have had roughly 15,000 troops in Crimea when the crisis began, and quickly added about another 5,000, mostly special operations troops. The Russians are allowed up to 25,000 military personnel in Crimea under their 30-year lease of the Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol.

Military analysts note some interesting characteristics of the Russian deployment: President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB lieutenant colonel, chose something closer to a paramilitary “covert action” than a normal military attack. Because the troops didn’t have Russian insignia, there was a thin veil of deniability, which the Russians exploited.

At a news conference March 4, Putin denied that Russian troops had invaded, despite photographic evidence to the contrary. “You can go to a store and buy a uniform,” insisted Putin. This “deniability” was maintained by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who said March 5 it was “complete nonsense” that Russian troops had invaded Crimea and that he had “no idea” how Russian military vehicles had gotten there.

These bland denials of reality were useful in several ways: They maintained a fig leaf of legitimacy for an illegal intervention; they allowed Russia a chance (not yet taken) to de-escalate an operation that hadn’t officially been acknowledged; and they distanced Putin in case things went badly and Ukrainians were killed.


March 20, 2014 ·

Much ink has been spilled in recent weeks as commentators weigh in on the range of policy options available to western governments in the wake of Russia’s de facto annexation of Crimea, and the considerable risk that it continues to pose to the stability of Ukraine’s post-Yanukovych government. A western military response has been ruled out for all intents and purposes and debate has focused on the political and economic measures available to try and coerce Russia to change its behavior. Initial responses were limited to suspending a number of bilateral and multilateral diplomatic contacts with Russia. However, earlier this week, the United States, Canada and the European Union all announced travel bans and asset freezes against a number of officials in both Russia and Ukraine.

Many have argued that sanctions will see Russian president Vladimir Putin reap an economic whirlwind that will cause him to regret his adventurism in Crimea. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for instance, said that Russia would face “catastrophe” unless it changed its behavior, and President Obama said that Russia faced measures that would only “exact a greater toll” on its economy. At the basis of this thinking lies the recognition that many prominent Russians have chosen to invest their assets in western countries and financial institutions. Cut off from their assets in the west—so the thinking goes—and targeted individuals will quickly feel the pinch. Make that pinch painful enough and they will pressure Putin to change his policies and to allow Ukraine to undertake necessary political and economic reforms free from Russian interference. The reality is, however, that enforcement of these kinds of sanctions can be both difficult and time consuming. On the other hand, Russia could resort to its own form of economic retaliation with methods that have a rapid and material impact on western financial interests.

With the first round of sanctions against Russian officials now in place, it is important to recognize that their enforcement will be a complicated process. In an era when billions of dollars can move between bank accounts at the touch of a button, transferring assets beyond the reach of sanctions is entirely feasible. Moreover, the time required to undertake such preventative measures is far less than the time taken by governments to debate the sanctions provisions themselves.

Russia appeared to recognize the inevitability of sanctions last week. TheWall Street Journal speculated that the Russian government was responsible for the withdrawal of $105 billion in Treasury securities held in custody accounts managed by the U.S. Federal Reserve. If true, those bonds could have been moved very quickly into offshore accounts that are currently beyond the reach of any financial sanctions imposed by the United States or the European Union, even if the Russian state itself was targeted, which it was not. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that individuals who suspected that they would appear on any sanctions list would have undertaken similar precautions with assets they held themselves.

Thinking the Unthinkable in Ukraine

March 20, 2014

As Russian forces begin exercises on Ukraine’s border and continue their hold on Crimea, I worry about military escalation—unintentional and intentional. What fuels my concern about unintentional escalation is a disconcerting interaction I had last year with a Russian general at a NATO conference in Europe. I was leading a breakout session with a dozen generals and admirals from the region. I was taken aback as many of the Western European NATO officers began lamenting their individual countries' declining defense budgets and their inability to keep up with American military capability. As complicated as things might be inside NATO, and as difficult as it is to rally collective action at times, NATO is still the premier military alliance in the world. No one is giving up on it, I assured them.

When the Russian general spoke, he leaned into the table and said, "When I was a young soldier in the Soviet Army during the Cold War, I thought of NATO like this..." and he held his hand into a powerful fist. "But now that I am serving with NATO as a liaison, I am thinking, this..." and his hand went limp and wobbly with a whiny sounding sigh. If this small interaction reflects in any way a wider view of NATO by Russian civilian and military leaders, NATO has its work cut out for it in demonstrating to Vladimir Putin that continued military aggression in Ukraine will be challenged.

It is perfectly reasonable to want to avoid military confrontation with Russia. But deterrence requires a credible threat of military action. The various economic and diplomatic efforts to isolate Russia and compel Putin to pull back his troops are wise, and they are likely to have an effect. But soft and hard power are two sides of a coin. We need to recognize how military options fit into this strategy.

Putin has already provoked the region militarily by taking Crimea and now aggressively positioning more forces near the Ukraine border. The threat of further escalation against greater Ukraine is clear. However uncomfortable it may be to contemplate military action, not contemplating it and projecting that fact to one's adversary, would be the opposite of deterrence.

Militarily and politically, it would be unwise for Putin to push further into Ukraine. At a minimum, the farther west his troops go, the more Ukrainian resistance they will encounter. Assuming Russia is able to quickly defeat Ukraine's much smaller military, Putin must know that securing this victory and occupying greater Ukraine will require a complex counterinsurgency-like operation of uncertain duration that in the end may not be worth the cost. Still, the less resistance Putin perceives he might meet in that initial drive, the more likely he might risk it. The task for NATO, therefore, is to instill a healthy dose of uncertainty about what kind of military might he may encounter if he continues his march beyond Crimea and into Ukraine.

The Post-Russian World Order

MAR 19, 2014 6

Giles Merritt is Editor of Europe's World and heads the Brussels-based think tanks Friends of Europe and Security & Defense Agenda.

BRUSSELS – Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and the ensuing Crimea crisis is wrongly seen as the start of Cold War II. But, while the fallout from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s defiance of international law and public opinion will be very different from that of the Soviet Union’s long campaign to defeat capitalism, the geopolitical ripple effects are certain to be just as far-reaching, if not more so.

Russia is set to sideline itself from the global economy, and by doing so it will usher in a new era in international relations. International sanctions will be only the first consequence. Markets and banks penalize uncertainty, so the Russian economy will progressively be cut off from international trade and investment and consigned to a future of slow or no growth.

That is Russia’s own funeral, of course. The wider consequences will be a shake-up of international politics and of governments’ attempts to address common problems, ranging from global governance to climate change. The result may even be positive, with events in Ukraine unexpectedly opening the way to a significant realignment of fast-emerging countries whose twenty-first-century roles will be decisive.

The first result of the West’s standoff with Russia is that it spells the end of the BRICS. For a decade or more, the grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and recently South Africa has been a major feature of world politics, challenging the might and influence of industrialized Europe and America. But, with Russia set to become a pariah, either pushed out of or withdrawing from global markets and multilateral forums, the days of BRICS summits and institutions, such as the group’s embryonic development bank, appear to be numbered.

The BRICS may not be formally dissolved, but it is hard to imagine that the other four members would be willing to place their own positions in a globalized economy at risk by being drawn into Russia’s quarrel with the world. Bit by bit, the idea that the group represents a coherent voice in world affairs will be quietly buried.

A maverick Russia, bent on pursuing assertive foreign policies and creating a “Eurasian Union” trade bloc, poses obvious dangers. The more important outcome, though, will be how Russia’s former BRICS partners realign with other major emerging economies in the G-20.

Putin's Challenge to German Europe

March 20, 2014

Europe's "postmodern paradise," as historian Robert Kagan once described it, is seemingly under attack. Europeans suddenly find themselves confronted by devils from the past: a concept of power that is based on a narrow definition of national interests pursued at the expense of others.

To Europeans, the horrors of two world wars were to a large extent caused by precisely the kind of thinking they now see on display in the Kremlin: an aggressive, Hobbesian understanding of international politics; one in which might makes right and only the strongest survive.

Europeans built a system based on international law, economic cooperation, integration and shared sovereignty. Germany has been a driving force and proponent of this "postmodern" European order. The country is deeply invested in it not only out of conviction, but also by necessity. It has set itself, in response to the horrors of Nazi Germany, as a paradigmatic anti-power. For decades it pushed for the establishment and strengthening of European institutions designed to bind the continent together, making war in Europe seemingly impossible.

Moreover, in order to be powerful and safe, Germany needs the support of a strong international order that is respected by the major players and underwritten by the major powers. By defending the postmodern international order, Germany is also defending the foundations of its own power.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a clear breach of international law, is now challenging that order in Ukraine. Suddenly Europeans look into the abyss of a lawless world, and they are reminded of their continent's darkest days.

Russia hasn't always been on the opposing side. Until the conflict over Ukraine broke out, Russia itself had moved increasingly closer to the postmodern world of international institutions and agreements -- such as the G7 and the WTO -- often urged and invited by Europe.

But Moscow was never truly convinced of the merits of postmodern concepts of power and order. It has very often used its engagements in international organizations for very narrow national purposes, maximizing its power. What Europeans view as essential platforms for advancing common goals, Russians see as a game played by hypocrites -- and they have played accordingly.

Behind the facade of cooperation, Russia has never abandoned its traditional view of power as a struggle for superiority. Though it looked as if Russia would make some serious steps towards the postmodern world during the Medvedev years, Putin's return to the presidency has made clear that the harder edge of power would continue to shape Russian foreign policy.

Putin's rock solid support for Syria's dictator Bashar al-Assad was the first of many signals that Moscow was ready to challenge the West, thwarting U.S. and European hopes that Syria's ongoing civil war could be resolved multilaterally. By blocking the UN Security Council and arming a regime that wages war against large parts of its population, Putin demonstrated that Russia is back as a key player in the Middle East, ready and capable to keep a client in place -- even against the West.