24 March 2014

Closer scrutiny on Service Chiefs’ selection

Kanwar Sandhu

Adhering to the seniority principle ensures a smooth change-over. However, in the wake of numerous controversies involving the Service Chiefs, either when in service or after retirement, many security analysts suggest that an element of merit should be considered along with the principle of seniority. Many countries, including the USA, follow a system of deep selection.

THE appointment of the new Chief of Army Staff, a process that draws a lot of interest, is still some months away. However, the resignation of Admiral DK Joshi as Chief of Naval Staff at least 18 months before his term was to end has put the government in a quandary: should it follow the seniority principle or dig deeper to select the next Navy Chief? Either way, there is bound to be a debate yet again on the manner of selecting Service Chiefs. 

For the appointment of the Army Chief (and likewise for the equivalent in the Navy and Air Force), all seven Army commanders, besides the Vice Chief are considered 

The immediate Naval appointment apart, the present system of appointment is based broadly on the principle of seniority among the top-ranking officers, though there is no written ruling to that effect. However, governments have deviated from this practice a few times and, in some cases, supersession and sidestepping of officers invited criticism. This includes the sidestepping of Lt Gen PS Bhagat by giving Gen GG Bewoor one year’s extension. Later, in 1983 when Lt Gen SK Sinha was overlooked to make Gen AS Vaidya the Chief, the move drew wide criticism. However, there have been times when the government invited criticism for ignoring certain officers who clearly stood out professionally. In 1961, for example, many thought that Lt Gen SPP Thorat – and not his senior, Gen PN Thapar – should have been appointed to the coveted post. One wonders, though, if this would have changed the course of the 1962 war with China.

In the Navy and Air Force too, seniority has generally been upheld. However, there have been some supersessions, including that of Air Vice Marshal Shiv Dev Singh by Air Marshal OP Mehra in 1972, of Air Vice Marshal MM Singh by Air Marshal SK Mehra in 1988 and of Vice Admiral Tony Jain by Admiral L Ramdas in 1990. The government of course had an explanation in each case.

In India, while making top-level appointments, two major bodies come into play in India – the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) of which the Prime Minister is the chairman, and the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). In the case of the appointment of Service Chiefs, the file is moved by the Defence Secretary to the Government wherein the service dossiers of the officers being considered are enclosed. The Home Minister and Defence Minister must necessarily be members of the ACC. In the CCS, besides the PM, who is obviously the chairman, its members are ministers of Defence, Finance, Home and External Affairs. Thus for appointment of Service Chiefs, between the two bodies, the Minister of External Affairs is the only addition in the CCS.

Unlike other senior posts, the appointments of the Service Chiefs are the only ones which require prior approval of the President, who is also the Commander-in-Chief, before they are announced.

Adhering to the seniority principle ensures a smooth change-over. However, in the wake of numerous controversies involving the Service Chiefs, either when in service or after retirement, many security analysts suggest that an element of merit should be considered along with the principle of seniority. Many countries, including the USA, follow a system of deep selection.

The missing debate

T.P. Sreenivasan | March 23, 2014 

The BJP and the Left were one with the government on the Devyani Khobragade episode, at least in the initial stages. PTI

On election eve, the opposition has not challenged UPA on its foreign policy.

India is divided on many issues on the eve of the elections, but foreign policy is not among them. Neither the government nor the opposition is anxious to bring international issues to centrestage. The government has nothing spectacular to show in our external relations, but it has nothing to be ashamed of either. We sailed along pretty steadily in the turbulent international waters. We avoided forging alliances but reacted with a mix of firmness and flexibility as problems arose in our neighbourhood and further afield. Strategic autonomy is alive and well.

The trophy that the government held up in 2009 was the Indo-US nuclear deal, signifying a spirit of accommodation as far as the US was concerned. The medal it claims this time is for the uncompromising stand it took on the humiliation meted out to an Indian diplomat, even at the risk of vitiating bilateral relations. While the BJP and the Left opposed the nuclear deal, they were one with the government on the Devyani Khobragade episode, at least in the initial stages. Their only criticism was that the government’s uncharacteristic show of defiance was designed to win votes.

The public mood of sympathy for Khobragade has given way to suspicion, in the wake of reports about wealth beyond her known sources of income, her taking advantage of the preferential treatment she received in the service and her violating the rules on dual citizenship. Many feel, now that she has come back home and the New York court has ruled in favour of our position, that she did enjoy diplomatic immunity at the time she was indicted — the government should close the case and move on.

In the case of China, the complaint is that India has not been responding adequately to Chinese moves to encircle us and dominate the region. There was consternation that the numerous interactions, including those at the highest level, did not deter the Chinese from venturing deep into Indian territory in the western sector. When it comes to border issues, the strategy of building cooperation with China on matters of mutual interest does not seem to work. Border negotiations have reached the second stage, but no one knows how long they will take. Meanwhile, China continues to expand its sphere of influence and build partnerships across the globe, undermining our security and interests. But the government claims that there is no likelihood of conflict. The opposition has nothing to prescribe with regard to China, except to be more tough with it.

A million missing patients

Published: March 24, 2014

Nalini Krishnan

Until activists and patients question approaches to prevention, diagnosis and treatment, TB will continue to plague us

Tuberculosis in India is big: 2.3 million cases, 30,000 deaths, a million missing patients. These terrifying numbers remind us of a continuing crisis — when every TB death is preventable. Behind these numbers are innumerable unheard stories of human suffering — of misdiagnosis, inappropriate treatment and lack of access to care resulting in chronic illness and death. Why are these stories not heard? Because TB patients remain silent, disenfranchised, and find no platform to voice their issues. And they don’t have champions for their cause.A complex interplay

Tuberculosis is not just a clinical issue. Its management requires the interplay of clinical medicine, social sciences, factors of equity and right to health. Ironically, this complex interplay is what prevents patients from accessing care early, which is vital to preventing deaths.

The patient-centred approach is supposed to be the hallmark of the DOTS system of delivery under the Revised National TB Control Programme, RNTCP, where the caregiver becomes entirely responsible for ensuring that the patient takes drugs regularly and completes the treatment. However, the programme has not factored in and adequately addressed a critical issue — a patient’s right to choose the provider. Closely linked to this is the issue of confidentiality, given the stigmatisation of TB patients in the community and by health providers themselves. In addition, the public health system has not taken into account the need for social and nutritional support. There are structural issues of delivery as well. TB control services are delivered through a vertical mechanism that is not integrated into primary health care delivery, which is the first point of care in public health services. This is why despite the RNTCP offering free diagnosis and treatment everywhere, patients prefer private providers.

Xinjiang’s cycle of violence

Published: March 24, 2014
Ananth Krishnan 

The Kunmíng violence underscores the need for a more sensitive approach to the Uighur question in China

The expansive square in front of the Id Kah Mosque, a 1,000-year-old place of worship in the heart of Kashgar, usually buzzes with activity as the sun sets on the Taklamakan desert. Worshippers, young and old, gather outside its distinctive yellow walls. The street nearby doubles as a bustling market, selling naan bread, dried fruit and lamb. The mosque is located not far from the edge of Kashgar’s old city, a sprawling maze of narrow alleyways and mud-brick houses that gives the famous Silk Road town its unique identity. For centuries, this town served as the gateway between West and East. As I walked through Kashgar’s distinctive by-lanes, I heard of the thriving links between the old kingdoms of Kashgar and India, Tibet, Central Asia and China — interactions that helped shape the rich local Uighur culture. At one point in its history, the old kingdom of Kashgar stretched its rule into parts of Ladakh, I was told. Today, there are places in Ladakh like Daulat Beg Oldi, named after a noble who once resided in Yarkand and Kashgar, still bearing signs of their old connected Silk Road histories.Spate of attacks

When I visited the city a little less than three years ago towards the end of the holy month of Ramadan — my third visit — celebrations in the bustling old town appeared muted. Weeks earlier, the city had been rocked by two explosions, set off in minivans in a crowded pedestrian street in the new city, where most Chinese residents live. Unlike many cities in China’s far western Muslim-majority Xinjiang region, Kashgar is still overwhelmingly Uighur — although the number of Han Chinese migrants is fast increasing. Chinese — now a majority in the provincial capital Ürümqi, make up around half of Xinjiang’s population, up from only six per cent when the People’s Republic brought Xinjiang — its “new frontier” — under its control.

The explosions appeared to target Chinese residents. After one crude bomb was detonated, two men hijacked a van and drove it into a crowd of shoppers. Eight people were killed. The next day, another group of men, armed with knives, stormed into a restaurant frequented by Chinese tourists, stabbing to death its owner and four others. Four attackers were shot and killed by police. The result, a few weeks later, was a heavy security presence outside the Id Kah: around two dozen heavily armed People’s Armed Police, or paramilitary personnel, with riot gear, assault rifles and shields watched over the square — a presence, I am told, that is now permanent.

Henderson Brooks Report, Part IV

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Mar 14

The truncated version of the Lieutenant General Henderson Brooks report (HBR) that was recently posted on the internet by Australian author and journalist, Neville Maxwell, constitutes the Indian Army’s sweeping enquiry into its only major military debacle, at the hands of China in 1962.

Since it was submitted to army chief, General JN Chaudhuri, in 1963, the report has been buried, still retaining its “top secret” classification. It is a tale of skewed civil-military relations and bumbling strategic direction, and of inconceivable military incompetence at higher levels of command. 

Even so, the most telling account in the 144 pages of the HBR blogpost is that of the Namka Chu, the mountain torrent west of Tawang where the war began, and where India’s 7 Infantry Brigade was wiped out in hours, triggering a rout that ended a month later with the Chinese Army poised at the threshold of Assam.

7 Infantry Brigade was rushed to the Namka Chu as a consequence of the “Forward Policy”, which moved 56 Assam Rifles platoons to the McMahon Line to demonstrate Indian presence on the disputed border. Eastern Command issued instructions for the move on January 10, 1962.

One of these new posts was Dhola Post, which eventually triggered the war. In one of the HBR’s revelations, it emerges that Dhola was accidentally established on China’s side of the McMahon Line. For 52 years, India has held that by attacking Dhola Post, China committed aggression and started the war.

Before New Delhi ordered the “Forward Policy” in December 1961, the army moved carefully along the Sino-Indian border. According to the patrolling policy, “NO patrolling except defensive patrolling is to be permitted within two to three miles of the McMAHON Line (capitals in all quotes in original).”

This changed on February 24, 1962, when Tezpur-based XXXIII Corps, commanded by the respected Lt Gen Umrao Singh, ordered nine new border posts, included one between Tawang and Bhutan, at the Tri-Junction of Tibet, Bhutan and India. This post became famous as Dhola.

Discrepancies in the maps available then depicted an arbitrary border running due west from the border outpost of Khinzemane to Tri-Junction, rather than the watershed boundary that constituted the McMahon Line. Operating with those faulty maps, Captain Mahabir Prasad of 1 SIKH established Dhola Post on June 4, 1962, on what Henderson Brooks reveals was China’s side of the McMahon Line.

The HBR blogpost says that, in August 1962, XXXIII Corps admitted to Eastern Command that its post was wrongly sited, but not that it was on Chinese territory. Aware of the consequences, XXXIII Corps suggested that the army plays innocent. It wrote, “…to avoid alarm and queries from all concerned, it is proposed to continue using the present grid reference.” 

Henderson Brookes is frank in his assessment: “This, in effect, meant that the post was actually NORTH of the McMAHON Line.” 

The consequences were not long in coming. On September 8, Dhola Post was surrounded by some 600 Chinese soldiers. Instead of wriggling out from this uncomfortable position, the army chose an aggressive response. The HBR blogpost recounts that, on September 12, four days after Dhola was surrounded, the Eastern Command chief, Lt Gen LP Sen, told Lt Gen Umrao Singh, and GOC 4 Division, Maj Gen Niranjan Prasad that the “Government would not accept any intrusion of the Chinese into our territory. If they come in, they must be thrown out by force.”

Sen “clarified that the Government had always maintained that McMAHON Line was based on the watershed principle and, therefore, it ran along the THAGLA Ridge. Thus DHOLA was well inside the McMAHON Line.”

The countdown to war had begun. The day after Dhola Post was surrounded, the ill-fated 7 Infantry Brigade was ordered to the Namka Chu, while the Chinese too intensified their force build up. The HBR blogpost notes, “In fact, their build up behind the THAGLA Ridge was far greater than ours.” On September 20, the first exchanges of firing began in the Namka Chu valley.

On September 22, the government ordered army chief, General PN Thapar, in writing: “The Army should prepare and throw the Chinese out as soon as possible. The Chief of Army Staff was accordingly directed to take action for the eviction of the Chinese in Kameng Frontier Division of NEFA as soon as he is ready.”

Meanwhile, laughably given that India knew about China’s build up in the area, XXXIII Corps formulated a plan to evict the Chinese from the area of Dhola Post, using three infantry battalions to attack across the Namka Chu. This was to begin earliest by October 10.

On October 4, Army HQ announced the formation of IV Corps, bringing Lt Gen BM Kaul in direct command of the operations. The HBR blogpost recounts how Kaul personally moved from headquarters to posts, railroading 7 Brigade to the tactically and logistically unviable Namka Chu positions, with just 50 rounds of ammunition per man, one blanket, no winter clothing, and without even minor medical supplies. 

Says Henderson Brooks evocatively, “The retribution was to come.” He quotes Sir Alfred Tennyson’s immortal lines from Charge of the Light Brigade, “Their’s not to reason why; Their’s not to make reply; Their’s but to do and die.”

Astonishingly, Kaul seemed oblivious of the possibility that the Chinese would actually attack. The HBR blogpost says, “On 14 and 15 October, the Corps Commander had discussions with the Divisional Commander. The theme of the discussions was how and when and with what more preparation could we attack THAGLA Ridge (across the Namka Chu). Curiously, in these discussions the possibility of the Chinese attacking us SOUTH of the NAMKA CHU was never considered.”

This surreal form of command continued till October 17, when Kaul took ill and a special plane from New Delhi, with medical specialist on board, flew him back to the capital. 

The commander of 7 Infantry Brigade, Brigadier John Dalvi, who recounted events in his seminal “Himalayan Blunder”, found Kaul commanding IV Corps from a sickbed in Delhi. On October 19, the evening before the Chinese attacked across the Namka Chu and swept away his brigade, Dalvi is recounted as telling his divisional commander, “I am NOT prepared to stand by and watch my troops massacred. It is time someone took a firm stand. If the higher authorities want a scapegoat, I am prepared to offer myself and put in my papers on this issue.”

Henderson Brooks writes, “The Brigade Commander had represented almost daily before this, but, by 19 October, he had reached the end of his tether. It is apparent so had the Chinese. They struck the next morning.” 

India’s Growth Story Needs a New Actor

The country needs to go beyond its current IT sector in developing knowledge workers. 
By Narain D. Batra
March 22, 2014

India is facing the challenge of a new industrial age, a software-powered intelligent-machine world that needs highly skilled workers. The nature of work is being transformed because smart machines can do more than repetitive tasks. A dozen highly trained workers, for example, can run an entire garment factory in India, Bangladesh or China. Intelligent machines have very high productivity but they do need intelligent workers, albeit fewer and fewer, who can operate complex hi-tech devices.

A young country like India clearly has plenty of workers, but without high-quality education the so-called demographic dividend could become a demographic nightmare. Indian graduates without information technology skills will be competing with skilled labor in other countries for wages under constant downward pressure. India needs to raise its bar very high. As President Pranab Mukherjee said recently at a Himachal Pradesh university campus, “Our universities have to be the breeding ground for creative pursuits. They have to be the source of cutting edge technological developments.” These ideas should be implemented not only at the university level; they should be pushed down to the lower rungs of school education.

A decade ago India announced the establishment of the National Knowledge Commission, “on matters relating to institutions of knowledge production, knowledge use and knowledge dissemination.” It was recognition of the fact that – like the United States, Germany, Japan, and other developed countries – India was moving towards an information technology and knowledge-based economy. Much has changed since then.

Today, knowledge means the ability to work with ever increasing computer intelligence and smart software systems that operate and control everything from hospital diagnostics to railroad systems. A knowledge worker today is a highly creative person who feels comfortable working with and manipulating intelligent software and smart machines. As economist Tyler Cowen says, average is over. If you cannot get to the top, there’s plenty of space at the bottom of the pyramid.

The technologically advanced economy of today is a triangulation of cutting-edge technical knowledge, a highly skilled labor force and venture capital. But the driving force is the knowledge software produced by information technology workers who develop innovations that make labor and capital more efficient – the kind of knowledge that is being generated in India’s technology parks. Unfortunately this very knowledge will reduce if not totally eliminate the need for low-skilled workers. The demographic dividend will become an illusion unless India undergoes an education revolution at the grassroots level.


India, and countries like China and Vietnam, face enormous vocational education and training (VET) challenges. What are the issues and possible solutions?

India, and countries like China and Vietnam, face enormous vocational education and training (VET) challenges. They are looking for lessons and inspiration from VET systems in Germany and elsewhere. What are the issues and possible solutions?

India's VET challenge

India's potential for rapid economic catchup is being held back by a large skills deficit. Its jobs market suffers from shortages of skilled labor, while unemployment and underemployment are also widespread. The problem is that barely 2 per cent of the Indian workforce has formally acquired skills and only another 2.4 per cent of workers have some technical education.

Over the next ten years half a billion young Indians will enter the labor force. At that time, one-quarter of the world's working-age population will live in India. 

India has the potential to reap a large demographic dividend thanks to this large, youthful and energetic labor force. But without training, this could turn into a demographic time bomb. Social unrest in Arab countries and elsewhere shows the social and political risks of large populations unemployed and frustrated youth.

The next Indian government must create an effective VET system. This will be the decisive factor determining whether the country experiences a demographic dividend or a demographic time bomb. 

To what extent can the German "dual system" of VET be adapted for use in India?
Lessons from Germany's "dual system" of VET

A key ingredient in Germany's successful economic model has been its "dual system" of VET. VET is provided both in the company and in a vocational training institution. In the company, a corporate instructor teaches practical skills that apprentices need to be work-ready after their graduation. At the vocational training institution, apprentices learn theoretical skills that are relevant in the respective profession.


25 February 2014

Arun Maira, from India's Planning Commission, made a strong case for India optimism at a recent Bertelsmann Stiftung/Infosys conference in Bangalore.

Many analysts are down-beat on India. But, against the grain, Arun Maira from India's Planning Commission, made a strong case for India optimism at a recent Bertelsmann Stiftung/Infosys conference in Bangalore.

For the past five years, Maira has been sitting in the cockpit of India's economy, at the National Planning Commission. And from this vantage point, he has gained a good perspective of the changes sweeping through India, the signals beneath "the deep rumbling of Indian democracy".

What are these changes? And what are the signals?

"The people are yearning for reforms of the country’s institutions — government, political parties, and business institutions too. Citizens and businesses want institutions to be more responsive. They want them to deliver results more effectively. They want institutions cleaned up of the rust of corruption that is corroding them."

Maira and his team have distilled three plausible scenarios for India's future, based on this work. What are they?

The first scenario is called "muddling along". While the system is crying out for reform, and some reforms are initiated in this scenario, they are only piecemeal, and do not address core governance issues. Centralized government systems struggle with demands for decentralization. The agenda of big business dominates to the detriment of SMEs. The policy conflict between subsidies and financial stability of the economy remains unresolved. 

The economy grows but does not achieve its full potential. Insufficient social and political cohesion remains a threatening source of instability. This increases lack of trust in institutions, resulting in continuing protests and political logjam.

The second scenario is called “falling apart". Here, India remains stuck in a centralized governance system, despite demands for devolution. The centralized system tries to exert control through mega schemes and projects, and by redistribution of wealth through handouts and subsidies. The impatience and political logjam that result put India under severe stress. 

In a system where hardly any institutional reforms are made, a vicious cycle emerges. Political logjam becomes so severe that government can barely function. Extremism infects more areas of the country. Stand-offs between central government institutions, and also between the center and the States become rigid. Civil society protest movements take up non-negotiable stances. The political logjam becomes worse.

Governments try to win popularity with increasing hand-outs. Hand-outs strain governments’ finances. Investments slacken. Employment creation does not grow as rapidly as the workforce. India’s demographic changes become a ticking time bomb. Handouts do not incentivize innovation and entrepreneurship, but instead create dependency. A cash-strapped government is unable to achieve its goal of poverty alleviation through subsidies.

1962 tragedy: How Nehru's proteges messed it up

March 18, 2014

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This article is dedicated to all those who died during the 1962 Sino-Indian war; to those who suffered for months in the PoW camps in Tibet; to those who were humiliated for no fault of theirs; to their families.

Let us hope that what happened in 1962 will never happened again, prays Claude Arpi

Two years ago, I wrote an article on the Henderson Brooks Report for The Indian Defence Review (External Link: “Why the Henderson-Brooks report has never been released!)

My conclusion was that one of the reasons for the famous report, written by the Anglo-Indian General Henderson Brooks, not to be released by the Government of India, was that in the early months of 1962, the Army Headquarters had some doubts about where the frontier with Tibet was.

Under political pressure, they nevertheless foolishly went ahead and established a post at Dhola near the disputed Thagla ridge. It was the perfect excuse for the People’s Liberation Army to go to war against an unprepared India.

I then quoted from The Fall of Towang [Tawang], by Major General Niranjan Prasad, the Commander of 4 Infantry Division, who thus described the setting of the operations:

“The McMahon Line from just north of Khinzemane, as drawn by Sir Henry McMahon in 1914 with a thick blue pencil on an unsurveyed map, was not an accurate projection of the Himalayan watershed line. Much of the territory in those days had not been explored and McMahon was only guessing at geography when he drew a thick blue [red] line from Khinzemane to the Bhutan-Tibet-India tri-junction to its east. In this process the position of Thagla Ridge was, to say the least, left ambiguous.

The story goes that the officer surveying the area had completed an admirable task of delineating the watershed up to this point when a pretty Monpa girl claimed his attention and the work was left uncompleted. Whatever the reason, the survey authorities, ignoring physical features on the ground, joined Point MM 7914 to the India-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction by a straight line. 

Stranger still, the Government of India had not corrected this obvious mistake even in 1962. Clearly someone in External Affairs had not done his home work. This lapse cannot be easily excused or explained away. It was largely responsible for the critical dispute which later developed and eventually led to war.”

Though the Thagla Ridge was the logical border if one followed the watershed principle as well as the ownership of customary pastures’ rights, the fact remains that the old map which was the reference for India’s position on the ‘genuine’ location of the border, showed the Thagla Ridge and the Namkha Chu, North of the 1914 McMahon Line.


24 February 2014

India will face an unprecedented water crisis around 2030, if it continues with present policies, argue Asit K Biswas and Cecilia Tortajada.

Any rational and objective analyst of India’s water and development policies has to conclude that if the country continues with its past and present practices, the country will face an unprecedented water crisis around 2030, the magnitude and extent of which no other earlier generation had to face, argue Asit K Biswas and Cecilia Tortajada.

In recent years, the litany of water-related problems facing the country has been like the universe: constantly expanding. Compared to India’s economic and technological developments, especially in the private sector, its water management practices are at least 25 years behind time.

Economic damages and social costs due to delays in onsets of monsoons, regular floods and droughts have been increasing steadily with time. In addition, water bodies nearly all major urban centres are already heavily polluted, and getting more polluted by the year. Irrigation management is at best mediocre and certainly way below what the country should be able to accomplish or need. Each Indian budget is a gamble on the monsoon.

Even though food, energy, water, environment and poverty alleviation policies are closely interlinked, India has never developed a water policy which explicitly considers its impacts on other sectoral policies and vice versa.

In addition, even though water affects the quality of life of hundreds of millions of Indians, the country never had a minister who has been capable enough to understand and appreciate the complexities of water management practices and processes, or stayed long enough to formulate a decent plan and see its implementation since the time of Dr. K. L. Rao in the early 1970s. Successive governments have only given lip service to the importance of water to the country’s social and economic development but their accomplishments have left much to be desired.

What the planners and policy-makers have failed to realize is that for a country like India water plays an important part in the lives of all its citizens. If monsoon is late and/or monsoon rains are not enough, food production suffers as does the economic and health conditions of millions of small farmers all over the country. Poor harvests also mean that the buying capacities of the farmers for goods and services are reduced. This is reflected by problems like food price escalation and reduced in GDP growth rates, both of which are likely to happen every year when the monsoon fails.

Equally, the country has already faced a power failure which is unprecedented in human history. Nearly 20% of its electricity generation is accounted by hydropower. Reduced water storage in the dams due to poor rainfall often means that hydropower generation is reduced significantly. Equally, the close interlinkages between water, food and energy securities and their direct impacts on the country’s development are neither appreciated nor understood by its planners, bureaucrats or politicians.


The withdrawal of International Security Forces from Afghanistan in 2014 has become the source of infinite uncertainties in Afghanistan as well as in regional countries. In New Delhi, there are concerns about an unstable Afghanistan yet again turning into a springboard of destabilisation and terrorism, with direct impact on India’s security. There are worries that India’s developmental assistance and aid commitment of more than US$ 2 billion, which has generated tremendous popular goodwill for the country, may not be sufficient enough to sustain the country’s engagement, its reconstruction and development activities in post 2014 Afghanistan. As the discourse on the ‘draw down’ and ‘the future of Afghanistan’ gains momentum, whether India’s security, political, security interests can be sustained or even expanded, is a subject of growing importance in the strategic and policy making circles in New Delhi.

India’s Role and Interests

India’s primary interests in Afghanistan after the terror strikes of 11 September 2001 on the American homeland need to be viewed in the context of its concerns over extremist takeover, terrorism and violence emanating from the extremely volatile Pakistan-Afghanistan border and the consequent conflict spill over into India. A strong, stable, and democratic Afghanistan would reduce the probability of such dangers impinging on India’s security and destabilising the region. New Delhi’s worries are intrinsically linked to its view that Pakistan’s objective in Afghanistan is to regain ‘strategic depth’ by reinstalling a pliant Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Following the ouster of the Taliban in 2001, India renewed its diplomatic ties with Kabul and adopted ‘soft power approach’ in the reconstruction process of Afghanistan. Steering clear of a military role, India has concentrated on developmental aid, civilian, political and administrative capacity building, the re-establishment of cultural and historical links, and, for the longer term, trying to position its relationship with Afghanistan in the context of its energy and trade interests in Central Asia. India has emerged as the ‘fifth largest’ bilateral donor country, having pledged US$ 2 billion and invested in diverse areas including healthcare, education, infrastructure, social welfare, training of politicians, diplomats, and police, and institution and capacity building.


It was in 1992 that the Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP) discovered huge deposits of coal – the second largest in the world – in Tharparkar District, Sindh. Thar coal field is estimated to have reserves of 175 billion tons, 68 times higher than Pakistan’s total gas reserves.

Thar coal has been declared as lignite type, and spreads nearly 10,600 square kilometers, with power generation potential of 100,000 MW consuming 536 million tons a year. Experts often say that development of the Thar Coal is the only viable long-term solution for meeting energy demands of the country.

Tharparkar District, Sindh, Pakistan

Since the price of crude oil is likely to hover around US$100/barrel, the only way out for energy starved Pakistan is to convert the existing power generation units from furnace oil to coal. On a fast track basis — in three to five years — Pakistan’s entire power generation of steam-based power plants can be switched over to coal, saving the country over $10 billion annually at current oil prices.

A visionary approach can wipe out Pakistan’s entire debt in 10 years. However, if we do not move fast, a $200 a barrel of oil price will bankrupt Pakistan and huge civil unrest will prevail. The CWS technology has reached a level where a plasma gasifier can convert the coal to high BTU brown gas for use in gas turbines and soon in large stationary engines.

Pakistan’s leading scientist, Dr Mubarakmand has said that coal reserves are also available in powder form under water and Pakistan could produce 50,000 megawatt electricity and 100 million barrel diesel just through the gasification of these reserves.

Large reserves of coal in Thar can help generate energy to save billions of dollars spent on import of oil. Thar Coal Project which has the potential to change the energy landscape of Pakistan continues to move slowly, thanks to country’s economic managers. There is a perception vested interests are out to ensure it does not happen.

This Is the Ultimate MiG-21 Pakistani JF-17 builds on classic warplane

David Axe in War is Boring

In 1989, the Chinese Chengdu Aerospace Corporation unveiled a major upgrade for its locally-made F-7 jet fighter, a licensed copy of the classic Soviet MiG-21. The new F-7 variant moved the engine air intake from the nose tip to the sides of the fuselage, making room in the nose for a more powerful radar.

Twenty-one years later, this upgrade—now named JF-17 Thunder—is flying combat missions with the Pakistani air force, so far its sole user. Further enhanced with a new wing, a cutting-edge intake design and a new, more powerful engine, the JF-17 is Pakistan’s most important front-line fighter—and a remarkable extension of a basic plane design dating back to the 1950s.

In essence, the JF-17 is the ultimate MiG-21. In a sector increasingly dominated by American-made stealth fighters, European “canard” planes and variants of the Russian Su-27, the JF-17 is an outlier—a highlyevolutionary plane that doesn’t try to be revolutionary.

After all, revolutionary is expensive.

MiG-21. Photo via Wikipedia

Classic delta

The Soviet MiG corporation began work on the MiG-21 Fishbed in the early 1950s, an era during which most air forces wanted very fast jet fighters, regardless of the design compromises necessary to achieve high speeds. With a theoretical top speed of Mach 2, the MiG-21 meets that expectation—and also boasts a simple, single-engine layout, good climb performance and decent maneuverability.

But the basic MiG-21 has its drawbacks. It’s difficult to control and its canopy provides poor visibility. It carries enough gas for barely an hour of combat flying. And its nose intake precludes the carriage of a large radar.

Still, MiG made thousands of Fishbeds for the USSR and client states. Several countries including China acquired licenses to build their own copies. Sixty years later, hundreds of MiG-21s remain in front-line use across Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia.

We are in denial, but Bangladeshis are still flooding India's northeast

March 21, 2014

The local labour force is streaming out of the region looking for jobs in peninsular India, creating a vacuum that makes it easier for the Bangladeshis to fill in, says R N Ravi.

Contrary to the state government’s lore -- that the unregulated influx of Bangladeshis in Assam is a thing of the past -- a recent field research by the writer shows that it is a live and kicking phenomenon. More and more Bangladeshis are filling the expanding labour and low-end services sectors in Assam and its neighbouring states in the northeast.

Mutation of once visceral existential fears over the unregulated migration of Bangladeshi nationals into an inexorable fatalism has been one of the striking characteristics of contemporary socio-political landscape of Assam.

The issue that has seismic implications for national security, the future of Assam and its neighbours and which had once erupted into the historic Assam agitation (between 1979 and 1985) seems to be mourning at the margin today.

The Congress has consistently rubbished the noise over illegal Bangladeshi migration as a mere bogey raised by its political rivals.

Meanwhile, the census of 2011 has tilted the argument against migration.

Unlike the previous decadal censuses since the beginning of the 20th century that showed unusually high population growth in Assam, attributed to migration from Bangladesh and its earlier reincarnations, the census of 2011 showed a decline to 16.93, below the national average of 17.64.

The Congress government flaunts it to bolster its long-held position denying the Bangladeshi migration and rebuffing those who feel otherwise.

The decline in the decadal growth rate of Assam’s population from a significantly high figure to merely the national average and then to one below the national average in the latest census gives an impression that Bangladeshi migration to the state is a phenomenon of the past.

However, emerging new settlements of Bengali Muslims at the outskirts of cities and towns of Assam and the absence of an effective border control regime make such a conclusion counter-intuitive.

The World Needs China’s Leadership

A more stable and prosperous world necessitates a China that’s more active and assertive in global affairs. 
By Dingding Chen
March 21, 2014

For more than two decades China has abided by former leader Deng Xiaoping’s “keep a low profile” strategy in foreign affairs. But things are changing — China is ready to take on a leadership role in international affairs, and the world will benefit from it.

In a recent speech on the country’s regional diplomacy, China’s President Xi Jinping emphasized “being more active,” “adjusting to new times,” providing “more leadership,” and “contributing to the world.” The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, also said recently that China is ready to take on more international responsibilities, ranging from foreign aid, peacekeeping, nuclear non-proliferation, and regional security mechanisms.

This is already happening in several areas. China’s Premier Li Keqiang recently spoke of building a new security framework in East Asia, and the country’s senior leaders are making efforts to manage nuclear dilemmas in Iran and North Korea. The country is working with other BRICS countries to establish their own development bank that could rival the World Bank and the IMF. China has also shaped the development of the responsibility to protect norm in international security and human rights, and continues to reform it along with other developing countries.

As these developments have gradually changed the face of international relations, the U.S. has been hampered by problems ranging from its fiscal deficit and domestic political stagnation to international withdrawal, sending a discouraging signal to the world. Gone are the days when the U.S. could singlehandedly provide a stable order for the international community. Now more than ever, the U.S. needs help from other countries to provide global leadership. But Europe has been plagued by its own debt crisis and Japan is struggling to come back from two decades of economic stagnation. China, on the other hand, has recovered quickly from the 2008 global financial crisis and now is the second largest economy in the world.

Not all scholars would agree that China is ready for a leadership role, and several misconceptions should be addressed.

First, leadership is not hegemony. Chinese leadership in global affairs will not mean regional or global domination. China should not impose its own will on other states, and it will not do so. It knows the perils of this approach very well from its own painful experiences since 1840 at the hands of the West and Japan. Moreover, China has sided with the developing countries over many issues for a long time. Indeed, part of China’s identity is still as a developing country, and this ensures that China will continue to restrain itself from bullying other developing or smaller countries.

Second, China cannot lead in all issue areas. Its power and resources are still limited and will remain so for a long time. Yet the country can start taking on more leadership in areas such as poverty reduction, environmental protection, community building in East Asia, foreign aid to developing countries, and international human rights protection.

Third, some worry that China’s pursuit of leadership will generate conflict. This would only happen if the U.S. chose to contain or undermine China’s efforts. More Chinese leadership will lead to more regional and global public goods, a more stable order in Asia, and a more confident and secure China. That, in turn, will help to keep rising domestic nationalism at bay.

Fourth, some within China worry that taking on too much international responsibilities will weaken China’s own social and economic development. This worry is unwarranted. With power comes greater responsibility. China’s power has increased significantly over the last decades and China has been the biggest beneficiary of globalization and economic openness; now is the right time for China to make some contributions to the international community.

To play an effective leadership role in global affairs, China must also adopt meaningful economic, political, and social reforms at home. Just like the U.S., China’s global leadership must come from internal accomplishments. This means that the Chinese government should rebuild its domestic legitimacy through redefining state-society relations and shifting emphasis from GDP growth to morality. The good news is that the current Chinese leadership, led by President Xi Jinping, is keenly aware of this problem and is determined to tackle legitimacy issues through more major reforms.

All this talk about China’s leadership might make some countries uneasy. But they need not worry. The international community must acknowledge that today’s fast-rising China has earned the right to play an important role in shaping a new international order. A more stable and prosperous world will need China to be more active and assertive in global affairs.

Xi Jinping and Social Media: Harnessing the People’s Voice

China’s president uses social media to attract public support, while cracking down on social media users.

By Su-Mei Ooi and Brittanie Redd
March 20, 2014

Last year, an article published in The Diplomat described Xi Jinping as China’s first social media president. At the time, Xi appeared to be using the internet as a means of social mobilization for his anti-corruption campaign by encouraging the public to continue exposing corrupt officials via the popular Chinese micro-blogging site, Sina Weibo. However, the power of Chinese censors was simultaneously increased while foreign media outlets were punished for critical stories about the wealth of Chinese officials. This paradox prompted David Cohen, the author, to exclaim that he was “honestly not entirely sure how to reconcile these two trends.”

The puzzle that Cohen described is explicable through the following lens: Xi’s support for social media is but one component of a larger media strategy to ensure that the CCP stays in power while at the same time shoring up his own political position within the party. This has become particularly important as China’s economy is slowing, corruption remains a problem and Xi needs to deliver on his ambitious promise to eradicate it at all levels. The manipulation of the masses for political ends is not unprecedented, and is in fact reminiscent of what Chinese leaders have done in the past whenever their policies required broad-based public support or their own position within the party had been tenuous. What’s newsworthy is the clever use of modern media technologies to achieve these goals.

Indeed, riding the wave of public sentiment against official corruption through social media platforms like Weibo has the advantage of defusing resentment toward the CPC at such a delicate moment. This may explain why Xi has framed the anti-corruption drive in much more appealing, colorful rhetoric than his predecessors, calling it a fight against “tigers and flies.” From the very start, it was apparent that repairing the party’s public image was an important goal of the anti-corruption drive. In admonishing local officials, Xi has said, “The style in which you work is no small matter.” Harnessing the power of public sentiment to discipline local officials, whose lavish lifestyles most visibly mock the rule of law, makes sound sense.

Can ASEAN Respond to the Chinese Challenge?

Carlyle A. Thayer
YaleGlobal, 18 March 2014

China has twice as much territory and population than the combined 10 member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – not to mention three times the GDP and four times the military spending. China increasingly pushes its weight in the region, most recently by criticizing Malaysian leadership in the search for missing flight MH307. Control of the South China Sea is another area of contention. With ASEAN nations set to resume consultations on the sea, Carlyle A. Thayer of the Australian Defence Force Academy, analyzes the challenges: China continues to alter the status quo through unilateral actions, while ASEAN claimant nations fail to unify on process for pressing claims. The third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea established exclusive economic zones stretching 200 nautical miles out from shore for nations to control resources. Self-restraint should be the axiom for negotiations, including this week's meeting in Singapore, but progress toward agreement has been slow. Failure by ASEAN states to speak out as one could erode their sovereignty, respect and security. – YaleGlobal

ASEAN and China tussle over how to resolve dispute over the South China Sea

Code of conduct, anyone? The Philippines raises flag on a rock in the Scarborough shoal (top); China’s fleet patrol South China Sea 

CANBERRA: China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, resume consultations on the South China Sea in Singapore today. 

In theory, active work on a declaration and code on conduct for the South China Sea – the arena of conflicting territorial claims - should ease tensions, but the opposite may be true. 

On March 9 China took the unilateral step of blocking Philippines ships attempting to resupply marines on Second Thomas Shoal. Also, growing tension between China and Malaysia over the fruitless search for missing Malaysian flight MH307, carrying 239 people, including 154 Chinese – could further sour the meeting.

The first round of consultations, in China in September, was under the umbrella of the Joint Working Group to Implement the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, or DOC, and the first time that the group held preliminary discussions on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, or COC.

Although consultations on the DOC and COC are proceeding in parallel, China insists that priority should be given to implementing the DOC. ASEAN would prefer separate consultations on the DOC and COC, with the latter raised from working group to senior-official level. ASEAN also advocates an “early harvest” approach on the COC – as soon as agreement is reached on one issue it should be implemented immediately, not waiting for agreement on the entire COC. ASEAN also would like the COC to be legally binding.

Syrian endgame triggers realignments

When senior Pakistani editor Najam Sethi can’t figure out why Saudi Arabia deposited a princely amount of $1.5 billion in the State Bank of Pakistan recently, we are at a dead end. Sethi said in a TV interview, “money is money and if something is taken, something has to be given in return and that is being kept secret. Saudi Arabia had made a request [to Pakistan].” 

There have been reports about a Saudi-Pakistani understanding about Syria — Pakistani advisers to train a Syrian rebel army and for supplying weapons for equipping the rebel fighters. 

But the advisor to Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif in foreign and security policies Sartaj Aziz has flatly denied that. But then, Aziz merely says it is “gifted money.” So, Sethi’s tantalizing question remains: why such a generous gift? 

A clue is available with the arrival of the King of Bahrain Sheikh Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa in Islamabad on Wednesday on a 3-day visit. 

This is the first visit by a Bahrain ruler to Pakistan in four decades and it is taking place after the recent visits by the Saudi foreign minister and Crown Prince to Islamabad.

One of the agreements signed during Al-Khalifa’s visit relates to the interior ministries. Nawaz Sharif said he expects Bahraini (read Saudi) investments in “mega projects” in Pakistan. 

Slowly, but surely, the picture that is emerging is of Saudi Arabia (and Bahrain) subcontracting to Pakistan certain internal security duties in the Gulf region. Breaking protocol, Al-Khalifa visited the Joint Services Headquarters in Rawalpindi to meet the military leadership’.

With the intra-GCC rifts becoming acute, Saudi deployments in Bahrain to quell the upheaval for democratic reforms are becoming unsustainable, especially with the steadily worsening situation in the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia, which are Shi’ite-dominated. 

Besides, the Saudis are bracing for a confrontation with Qatar. The latter, on the other hand, has close ties with Turkey and Iran and, even more shockingly for Riyadh, it has reached out to the Syrian regime for a patch-up. In sum, Saudi Arabia faces isolation and has only the UAE, Bahrain and Jordan as its reliable allies. Iran’s Fars News Agency featured an insightful report on this complex realignment taking place in the Middle Eastern politics. 

Quite obviously, the endgame in Syria and the brightening prospects for an Iran nuclear deal have triggered realignments in regional politics. The Syrian regime has all but gained the upper hand on the ground and is fast reaching a position to dictate the national reconciliation, while Iran’s diplomatic options have multiplied. 

Against this backdrop, and with Egypt in disarray, Saudi Arabia feels an unprecedented regional isolation. No doubt, it is assiduously courting Pakistan. 

But it is unclear whether Pakistan will want to take sides in the intra-GCC rift involving Saudi Arabia and Qatar or in the popular Shi’ite uprising in Bahrain. 

From all accounts, a furious debate is going on within the Pakistani establishment. Pakistan always walked a fine line when it concerned ties with Iran, given the Tehran-Delhi equation. Having said that, Pakistan is also badly in need of the “gifted money”. Unsurprisingly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is scheduling a visit to Iran. 

By M K Bhadrakumar – March 20, 2014

Crisis in Ukraine: ‘The Window of Opportunity Is Very Short’

Mar 18, 2014 

Events in Ukraine are moving so swiftly these days that it is hard to keep up with the latest developments. On Sunday, Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia; on Monday, the U.S. and Europe imposed sanctions on several prominent Russians and Ukrainians; and on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to make Crimea a part of the Russian Federation. A diplomatic resolution to the protests that began last fall against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych seems ever more elusive. 

Against this backdrop, Knowledge@Wharton asked Sophia Opatska, CEO of Lviv Business School in Lviv, Ukraine, for her analysis of what led up to the current crisis and what lies ahead for a country now divided. 

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Knowledge@Wharton: We’re here today with Sophia Opatska, CEO of Lviv Business School, in Ukraine. Sophia, yesterday, 97% of the voters in Crimea decided they wanted to secede from Ukraine and be annexed by Russia. What do you make of this?

Opatska: I don’t think that people [around] the world believe that 97% [number]. Given the current conditions in Crimea and the pressure [surrounding] the vote on Sunday and the two weeks before it, I don’t think that this [election represents] the real world. I’m not sure that people in Crimea — even many of those who think that it’s going to be better with Russia – are aware of all the facts.

Knowledge@Wharton: What do you think Russian President Vladimir Putin has on his agenda? He’s going to talk to both houses of Parliament tomorrow. What is he going to tell them?

Opatska: There might be a difference between what he’s going to tell them and what’s on his agenda. I don’t know what he’s going [to say], but speaking about the agenda, I think that he did not really like what was happening in Ukraine over the last months. I think the plan was to have some kind of unity between [several] countries, like Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine, economically. But also, I think that [plan] was very much about political influence because it was related not to real democracy but to dictatorship, the absence of free media and human rights violations. So, the whole protest which took place in Ukraine was really against those things. But also, against corruption, which all of us know [occurs] not only in Ukraine, but in Russia. Maybe in a [slightly] different version, but it still happens there. So, I think Putin does not really like what happened in Ukraine, and this is his opportunity to take care that those processes do not happen in Russia.

Knowledge@Wharton: What do you think [last Sunday’s vote] will mean for Ukraine, going forward?

Opatska: I think Ukraine, no matter what happens with Crimea, needs to do very important economic reforms, and reforms overall — reforms in rule of law and administrative reforms. People were not really doing that for 23 years. One of the reasons why people in Crimea would like to go with Russia is because they did not find economic wealth in Ukraine. They are looking for different opportunities. If, economically, Ukraine were doing things differently, [secession] would not be an issue at all.

No matter what happens with Crimea, I think it’s very difficult for many people emotionally – you know, to keep working and focusing on reforms. But this is definitely what we need to do in the short term. Because the window of opportunity for Ukraine is very short right now. We have to take this moment.