4 April 2014

Russia Is Not Nazi Germany

April 2, 2014

Americans hate to see Russia win, but much to our chagrin, Russia has been winning quite a bit lately. From Russian leadership on Syria’s chemical-weapons negotiations, to the Sochi Olympics, to Russia’s expansion into Crimea, Vladimir Putin’s triumphs are piling up. Idealists and liberals are incensed that Putin thumbs his nose at international norms, while hawks would have you believe he threatens the entire American-led global security system. But as US policymakers squirm with discomfort over Russian aggression in Ukraine, perhaps we should question whether Moscow’s latest victory really threatens American interests at all.

In recent weeks, editorials have been full of “I-told-you-so” attitude and alarmism, citing American “weakness” and falling NATO budgets as a cause for Putin’s actions. Some have even gone so far as to make the comparison to the appeasement of Hitler at Munich. Of course the use of military coercion to redraw borders in Europe should give us pause. But there are few substantive parallels to draw between the expansionist Third Reich and Putin’s Russia. The conditions leading to these crises and the gravity of their consequences are completely different. The distinction is important, because the lens through which we view Crimea will greatly influence policy prescriptions.

In 1938, Germany was a rising yet frustrated great power, coveting Czechoslovakian industry to complete its rearmament. Great Britain and France negotiated from a position of weakness because they were insufficiently armed and motivated to fight another war against Germany—having prioritized social programs over defense. Meanwhile, the United States was an ocean away and in no mood for more Euro-drama. Facing the prospects of tremendous industrial gains and no credible threat of retribution, Hitler confidently invaded Czechoslovakia. Only when the balance of power was in Germany’s favor could he set his sights on the rest of Europe.

In contrast to interwar Germany, Russia is a stagnant middle power trying desperately to stay relevant, not a juggernaut on the rise. And though Hitler felt safe to expand with impunity, NATO severely constrains Russia’s options in 2014. Today, the United States fields the very best conventional and nuclear forces in Europe, while the UK and France each has its own nuclear deterrent. Putin is confident enough to threaten Ukraine, but he could only expand so far before risking war with three nuclear powers—a danger that Hitler never had to consider. The United States’ combination of forward-deployed forces in Central Europe, nuclear weapons, and record of defending its allies is a far cry from the impotent Anglo-French alliance of 1938.

India Ranks 102nd on Social Development Index



Mansi Thapliyal/ReutersIndia ranked 97th of 132 countries on nutrition and access to basic medical care.

NEW DELHI — As the world’s largest democracy heads to the polls in less than a week, and as politicians vying for a governing coalition tout their plans for economic and social development, a reportpublished by an American nonprofit shows that India performs poorly on a range of social development indicators, ranking 102nd among the 132 countries surveyed.

India fared worse in the overall rankings than all the countries in South and Central Asia studied by the Social Progress Imperative, except Pakistan, which ranked 124th.

Of the so-called BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — which are seen as having the greatest potential for economic dynamism, only India ranked lower than the 100th position. China was next lowest of the five, in the 90th position, and Brazil was the highest, at 46th.

The Social Progress Index focuses on development indicators beyond gross domestic product, including nutrition, water and sanitation, access to health care and education, and personal rights. The index was the idea of Michael E. Porter, the Harvard business professor who earlier helped develop the Global Competitiveness Report, and its methodology took two years to develop.

For both India and China, deaths linked to air pollution were flagged in the report as cause for concern. Though China outperformed India in almost all of the survey’s indicators, including the provision of basic needs, India was far ahead of China with regard to personal rights, the report says, including freedom of speech and assembly.

Courtesy of Social Progressive Imperative A tabular comparison of India and China’s ranks on various social indicators.

However, India’s performance on indicators measuring tolerance and inclusion was the second-weakest worldwide, trailed only by Iraq. The index partially bases rankings for these factors on Gallup World Poll results for questions about the respect for women and attitudes toward immigrants and homosexuals. Other data on violence against minorities and religious tolerance are also taken into account.

****The Geopolitics of Energy

April 3, 2014

By Robert Kaplan
Geopolitics is the battle for space and power played out in a geographical setting. Just as there are military geopolitics, diplomatic geopolitics and economic geopolitics, there is also energy geopolitics. For natural resources and the trade routes that bring those resources to consumers is central to the study of geography. Every international order in early modern and modern history is based on an energy resource. Whereas the Age of Coal and Steam was the backdrop for the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Age of Petroleum has been the backdrop for the American Empire from the end of the 19th to the early 21st centuries. And indeed, just after other countries and America's own elites were consigning the United States to a period of decline, news began to emerge of vast shale gas discoveries in a host of states, especially Texas. The Age of Natural Gas could make the United States the world's leading geopolitical power well into the new century.

Mohan Malik, a professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, has for years been studying the geopolitics of energy. He has drawn, in conceptual terms, a new world map dominated by a growing consumer market for energy in Asia and a growing market for production in the United States.

"Asia has become 'ground zero' for growth" as far as the consumption of energy is concerned, writes Malik. His research shows that over the next 20 years, 85 percent of the growth in energy consumption will come from the Indo-Pacific region. Already, at least a quarter of the world's liquid hydrocarbons are consumed by China, India, Japan and South Korea. According to the World Energy Outlook, published by the International Energy Agency, China will account for 40 percent of the growing consumption until 2025, after which India will emerge as "the biggest single source of increasing demand," in Malik's words. The rate of energy consumption growth for India will increase to 132 percent; in China and Brazil demand will grow by 71 percent, and in Russia by 21 percent. Malik explains that the increase in demand for gas will overtake that for oil and coal combined. Part of the story here is that the Indo-Pacific region will become increasingly reliant on the Middle East for its oil: By 2030, 80 percent of China's oil will come from the Middle East, and 90 percent in the case of India. (Japan and South Korea remain 100 percent dependent on oil imports.) China's reliance on the Middle East will be buttressed by its concomitant and growing dependence on former Soviet Central Asia for energy.

While the Indo-Pacific region is becoming more energy dependent on the Middle East, in the other hemisphere the United States is emerging as a global energy producing giant in its own right. Malik reports that U.S. shale oil production will more than triple between 2010 and 2020. And were the United States to open up its Atlantic and Pacific coastlines to drilling, he says oil production in the United States and Canada could eventually equal the consumption in both countries. Already, within a decade, shale gas has risen from 2 percent to 37 percent of U.S. natural gas production. The United States has now overtaken Russia as the world's biggest natural gas producer. Some estimates put the United States as overtaking Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer by the end of the current decade, though this is unlikely.

Malik observes that this would mark a return to the pre-1973 Yom Kippur War period of American energy dominance. When combined with Canadian oil sands and Brazil's oil lying beneath salt beds, these shifts have the potential to make the Americas into the "new Middle East" of the 21st century, though we need to remember that U.S. oil production may be in decline after 2020.


By Darshana M. Baruah

The search for Malaysia’s ill fated flight MH370 has put considerable spotlight on India’s strategically important Andaman and the Nicobar Islands — the latest being refusing Chinese naval ships entry to Indian waters to look for plane debris in the area. As the search for the missing plane intensified with the area expanding into the Indian Ocean, the strategic importance of the Andaman and the Nicobar Islands is clearly emerging.

On March 8, 2014, MH370 enroute to Beijing from Malaysia disappeared over the South China Sea after losing contact with Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) within an hour of take off. It was then indicated that the plane turned back from its scheduled route and flew for several hours after losing contact with the ATC. India joined international efforts to locate the missing plane as the search area widened over the Malacca Strait and the southern Indian Ocean. On March 14, 2014, forces from the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guards and the Indian Air Force were deployed to search the area in the South Andaman Sea, with the Indian Navy leading the search efforts.

The union territory of the Andaman and Nicobar lies at the junction of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea and is at a distance of 1200 km from India’s mainland — while being located at a short distance of 140 km from the busy shipping lanes of the Malacca Strait. Strategically, these islands are important to India’s security and the Look East Policy, given its location and the proximity to Southeast Asia.

The Indian Navy regularly engages with the navies of the region by carrying out exercises and drills off the islands. MILAN 2014, a multinational naval exercise which saw the highest number of participants since its inception in 1995, was also held in the Andaman Sea, off the Andaman Nicobar Islands. The islands also host the country’s first unified command of the three forces (Navy, Army and the Air Force), called the Andaman and the Nicobar Command (ANC), which was set up in 2001.

India has played an active role in the search for MH370 with the search operations being carried out from the ANC. As the search intensified, India deployed additional naval and air assets to locate the missing plane. The Indian Navy by March 15, 2014 had deployed “two recently acquired P8I Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft of the Indian Navy and one C 130 J aircraft of the Indian Air Force in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. The Short Range Maritime Reconnaissance Dornier aircraft of the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard have also been extensively deployed for the ongoing search operations”. Additionally, six ships, three each from the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard have been deployed with the larger international group in the Andaman Sea as well as in the Malacca Strait. While the Indian search efforts were suspended on March 16, 2014 as per Malaysian requests and a new search strategy, they were resumed on March 20 with further deployment. As of March 25, 2014 the airline has been declared ‘lost’ in the southern Indian Ocean. The airline sent out a message to the families of those aboard with the heartbreaking news that ‘”Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived… we must now accept all evidence suggests the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean.”

'Natural and Indispensable Partners': India and Japan in the Asia-Pacific

Natural and Indispensable Partners': India and Japan in the Asia-Pacific

M. Mayilvaganan, PhD, Assistant Professor, International Strategic and Security Studies, National Institute of Advanced Studies, IISc Campus, Bangalore 

M. Mayilvaganan, PhD, Assistant Professor, International Strategic and Security Studies, National Institute of Advanced Studies, IISc Campus, Bangalore

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to New Delhi as the chief guest for the 65th Republic Day celebrations in January 2014 apparently sent a clear signal of the importance of Japan to India in the context of changing power dynamics in Asia-Pacific. Notably, for the first time Japanese Prime Minister was a chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations. Natsuo Yamaguchi, member of the House of Councillors in the Diet and head of the New Komeito Party, was of the view that this gesture of India “speaks of the importance India and Japan are giving to their relationship.” Further he also added that this sends “a great epic signal... for the strengthening of the partnership,”[i]

With the intensified strategic competitions between powers and the emergence of Asia-Pacific as a major center of geopolitical interest, both India and Japan finds each other as best bets in safeguarding the region’s equilibrium and their own strategic interests. In fact, it would be very hard for both India and Japan to operate effectively – diplomatically, politically or strategically – in the region without a strenuous relationship with each other. Significantly, Indian policymakers have recognised the importance of Japan as a part of the stated India’s revitalised Look East Policy. All in all, Japan matters in Indian strategic calculations; especially when China is flexing its muscle while the US is rebalancing its global posture toward the critical Asia-Pacific region.

Particularly Japan and its strategic location in the Asia-Pacific geography is regarded as an indispensable associate in furthering India’s strategic interest given New Delhi’s engagement in South China Sea (SCS)—on joint exploration of oil with Vietnam—and in safeguarding the freedom of access and passage within the region. Incidentally for India, the SCS region serves as a strategic link between the Pacific and the Indian Oceans whose security is vital for the smooth flow of her sea borne trade and India’s commercial interests. The conventional wisdom about Japan seems to have guided the emerging Indian strategic intent as a way of enhancing multilateralism and inherently enhancing maritime security. Equally, Japan too particularly since Abe’s assuming of power has come to see India as a natural partner given its predicaments with powerful, assertive and threatening China in the Asia-Pacific. Significantly India and Japan appears to be ‘natural and indispensable’ allies who have a pivotal role to play in upholding stability apart from protecting freedom of navigation and safeguarding the “maritime commons stretching from the Indian Ocean region to the western Pacific.”[ii]

The Musharraf Case: Will Anyone Agree to Take The Fall for him?

Sushant Sareen, Senior Fellow, VIF

Even though Gen Pervez Musharraf has finally been indicted on five charges of treason by the Special Court constituted to try him, the widespread feeling within Pakistan and beyond is that this is probably as far as the civilian government could go against the ex-military strongman. As the argument goes, having made history - Musharraf is the first Pakistani military dictator to stand trial, it is time for all sides to back-off because the case has reached its ‘logical conclusion’.

For now, it is a win-win for all sides: the Nawaz Sharif government and the judiciary can claim to have made an example of Musharraf without being too bloody-minded and vengeful; the army can pat itself on the back for not having obstructed justice or destabilising the civilian government and at the same time managing to protect its former chief from being humiliated; Musharraf can boast about how he boldly faced the courts – it is another matter that he once virtually ran away from one court and then feigned illness to avoid appearing before the Special Court for weeks. Speculation is rife that within the next few days Musharraf will be allowed to leave Pakistan with either his mother’s hospitalisation or his own health becoming the excuse, to not return ever or at least until a more friendly dispensation assumes power in Islamabad. If indeed he gets out of Pakistan, the civilian government will not only have avoided any unintended consequences emanating from this treason trial, but also have got rid of a somewhat unnecessary distraction at a time when it is confronted with monumental economic and security challenges.

But things are a little more complicated than what the win-win situation would seem to suggest. Even though Musharraf’s exit from Pakistan works for all the players, the problem is not just that someone has to make a call to let Musharraf go, but also that whoever makes this call will also have to take a fall, if not a tumble, for Musharraf. This really is the nub of the problem and unless this is sorted out soon – the window of opportunity to send Musharraf out before the treason trial gathers pace will not remain open for very long – a situation could develop where, despite their reluctance, all the players are pushed by the force and logic of circumstances and their own stated positions in a direction that leads to Musharraf’s conviction and worse.

Until his indictment, Musharraf was placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) which prevented him from leaving Pakistan. The government claimed that removing his name from the ECL could only be done by the courts. But the Special Court has ruled that this is a call that the government has to take, which it is quite understandably unwilling to do. Nawaz Sharif knows that letting Musharraf go at this stage would open him to an unbearable political attack by the opposition parties. Just as Nawaz Sharif and his party used the Guard of Honour given to Musharraf when he quit the Presidency against the PPP, now the shoe will be on the other foot. Sharif still finds it difficult to live down the charge that he ran away to Saudi Arabia after seeking mercy from Musharraf. If he now allows Musharraf to leave, and that too without any mercy petition, he will give his opponents a big handle to beat him with.

Alliances realign as latest superpower pulls out of Afghanistan

The presidential election and US withdrawal are lilkely to have complex repercussions for the region's web of invisible networks 
Jason Burke in Delhi and Jon Boone in Islamabad 
The Guardian, Tuesday 1 April 2014

Afghan women push wheelbarrows past posters of election candidates in Kandahar. Photograph: Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Afghan watchers in the chancelleries of a dozen different states in south and west Asia know they are in for a long, tough weekend. Alongside them are spies, soldiers and business people, all keen for clues as to how the result of the presidential elections will affect the vast web of invisible regional networks that run through Kabul and across a vast swath of south and west Asia, from the Levant to the Himalayas.

"Everybody always says each year is key in Afghanistan. But we are now in a period when everything is very much up in the air. A lot of people have an awful lot at stake," said one western official based in the region. The key local players are Pakistan and Iran, with India, China, the Gulf states, the "-stans" of central Asia, and Russia playing lesser roles. Then there are informal "non-state" actors, extremist groups such as al-Qaida,Lashkar-e-Toiba or the Pakistan Taliban, as well as criminal trafficking gangs who have a strong interest in what happens in Afghanistan.

All protagonists are very conscious of the last time a superpower pulled out of Afghanistan after a decade or more of conflict. Following the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, India, Pakistan and Iran fought a bitter proxy war, each funding and arming local factions fighting for power in Kabul. The conflict had ethnic, religious and linguistic elements. Shia Iran backed Shia and other minority groups who spoke Dari, which is closely related to Persian. The Sunni Taliban, composed of Pashto speakers from Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, received support from Pakistan, the Gulf and informal regional networks of Islamic extremists. Many of those allegiances, decades or even centuries old, lie beneath positions taken today.

Publicly, Afghanistan's immediate neighbours all now insist they want to avoid the anarchy of the early 1990s. Pakistan's official position is that it "remains committed to supporting all efforts for a free and fair electoral process in Afghanistan … as it would strengthen the prospects of stability". This is challenged by Afghan officials, and some in Washington, who blame the tenacity of the insurgency, the failure of negotiations with the Taliban and a series of bloody attacks on their neighbours. There are fears that a win for Abdullah Abdullah, a candidate who played a key role in a faction sponsored by India in the 1990s, could prompt Pakistan to ramp up "interference".

Does the Afghan Presidential Election Matter?

MARCH 31, 2014 


The upcoming election in Afghanistan marks neither the end of a long post-Taliban transition nor a crucial turning point for the troubled country.

With Afghanistan’s third presidential election mere days away, one thing seems obvious: it is an extremely significant event. The vote represents a crucial turning point for the troubled country, marking the end of the long post-Taliban transition and the dozen-year rule of Hamid Karzai. 


While dodging such aspirational vocabulary as “free” or “fair,” Western observers emphasize the importance of a credible process—but privately concede it will be no such thing.

Behind that bit of doublespeak lurks a broader delusion. The April 5 election may not prove to be such a watershed after all. The exercise, guaranteed to be doctored, may end up startling Afghans and observers alike not by the change it delivers, but rather by the continuity. After the vote, the holders of effective power, and their governing styles, may look quite familiar. Meanwhile, the notion of democracy will be further discredited in the minds of Afghans, connected as it is with electoral formalities that paper over glaring abuses. 

As for Afghanistan’s destiny, what happens in the year or two following the contest will be more important than the vote itself. Especially significant is whether an equitable consensus-building process, consonant with indigenous democratic practices, can loosen the knotted scars of a dozen years of ignored dysfunction. If international officials still care at all about Afghanistan’s ongoing stability, they should put energy and political capital into helping midwife such a process. 

For now, most of them remain fixated on the upcoming vote. “The importance of this political transition cannot be overstated,” opined Caroline Wadhams of the Center for American Progress earlier this month, echoing the publicly stated views of most U.S. Afghanistan-watchers. For, “a failed electoral process, in which the outcome is seriously disputed, has the potential to trigger violence and to undermine the cohesion of Afghan security forces.”1 

At a recent panel discussion on the topic, Ambassador James Dobbins, the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, cited poll results (as is his wont, despite the methodological weaknesses of the surveys) to describe Afghans as “confident” and “hopeful about the elections.” 

Even the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), whose seasoned experts live in Kabul and display a clear-eyed view of developments, has occasionally been swept up in the energy of campaign events, treating rallies or gatherings of tribal elders as meaningful at face value. 

One notable “event,” for example, was the withdrawal from the race, in early March, of Karzai’s older brother Qayum. He said he was building a coalition with Karzai family favorite Zalmai Rassoul, who would remain in the race. A few days earlier, the AAN reported with interest, a delegation of tribal elders had met in Kabul to urge ethnic Pashtun candidates to consolidate, so as to avoid splitting the vote. 

Afghanistan is Ready for 2014

APRIL 1, 2014 

Twitter Facebook Google + Reddit In a few days, Afghanistan will experience its first democratic transfer of power. Yet despite the historic nature of the 2014 presidential election, scheduled for April 5, voting day was the furthest thing from most Afghans' minds in late 2013. Though the Afghan parliament had passed several electoral laws in the fall of 2012 and current President Hamid Karzai had given numerous public assurances that he had no intention of delaying the vote or attempting to hold on to power, Afghans were, at worst, disbelieving and, at best, non-committal about the elections. 

Though 11 presidential candidates had been confirmed by December 2013 (there are now eight), the election remained on the backburner for policy makers and media pundits, both of which were focused on the wrangling between Karzai and President Obama over a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that would pave the way for a continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan once the NATO combat mission ended in December 2014. 

But by early February, two crucial things had changed. First, it had become so clear that Karzai would not sign the BSA that the issue receded into the background; and second, the presidential campaign had begun. The candidates were suddenly everywhere and the population was energized by televised debates and campaign rallies across the country. The election had gone from theory to fact and the Afghan public -- even in some of the most insecure provinces such as Khost, Paktia, Kandahar, Helmand, Kunar, Nangarhar and Kunduz -- was on the streets, in the rally halls, on the airwaves, and online talking not about if the elections would occur, but debating the merits of the various tickets and how to best use their vote. 

Over the past two months, I have been travelling to various provinces and witnessed the public's enthusiasm first hand -- a particularly heartening experience given the continued security threats in places such as Kunar, Paktia, Nagarhar, and Herat. After a barrage of national debates and an Afghan media that provided greater access to election information than ever before, many of the top candidates have defied expectations by attracting large gatherings at rallies in provincial capitals and quickly assembling provincial campaign teams composed of influential community leaders. I witnessed first-hand the opening of provincial offices of several candidates that attracted thousands of people even without the presence of the candidates. 

These community leaders have made a calculated decision that active participation in the political process is in their best interest because they have a chance to elect a new leader who can have a better relationship with the international community for long term support. This decision is partly driven by the understanding that there is no incumbent -- that Karzai cannot stand for a third term and cannot, or will not, attempt to hold on to the presidency by other means. 

India and Pakistan Under Modi

April 2, 2014

Indian election results will not be in for another six weeks, but the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems on track to win the most parliamentary seats, making it likely that Narendra Modi will be the country’s next prime minister. With Modi’s rise to power comes an increased likelihood of greater Indo-Pakistani tensions and potential for military escalation, especially if a major terrorist attack occurs in India.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s personal commitment to maintaining peaceful ties with Islamabad, despite attacks in India over the last several years that were often traced back to Pakistan-based groups, has kept bilateral ties in check. Aware of the deteriorating security situation inside Pakistan, Singh gave Pakistani leaders the benefit of the doubt, calculating that India’s interests were better served trying to engage with Pakistani civilian leaders rather than allowing hostility to define the relationship.

There are indications a BJP-led government would be less patient with Pakistan than its Congress party predecessor. The BJP leadership last year condemned the Pakistan parliament for passing a resolution against the hanging of Afzal Guru, a militant from Kashmir that was convicted for his role in the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. In response to Pakistan’s action, BJP leaders demanded New Delhi downgrade relations with Islamabad and suspend confidence-building measures.

It’s also true, however, that former BJP prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made a historic visit to Lahore in 1999 and encouraged back-channel talks on Kashmir that almost achieved a break-through until they were derailed by the Pakistani Army’s incursion into Kargil on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC).

But even before Vajpayee took the helm as PM, he was known for his predilection toward establishing peace with Pakistan. Modi, on the other hand, has been portrayed by some observers as anti-Muslim due to the communal rioting on his watch in Gujarat that led to the killing of nearly one thousand people, mostly Muslims.

What Will Become of Afghanistan After US Troops Withdraw Later This Year

April 3, 2014

Afghanistan or Talibanistan?

Col. Robert M. Cassidy

Armed Forces Journal, April 2, 2014

This year will see a set of key events in Afghanistan: variables of pivotal magnitude that may well determine whether it succeeds as a state or succumbs to another Taliban takeover.

If Afghanistan succeeds and endures, the struggle will have ultimately been the good war of the last 12-plus years: in terms of the justification for going to war, in the way the coalition ultimately prosecuted it, and in the context that the international community will have fulfilled a post-war moral commitment to the Afghan allies we supported and fought alongside.

The value of the political object, the morality of the war, and the perception of victory or defeat comprise the most compelling logic of the contest of wills there. There are impediments that increase the risk of failure, yet also momentum that favors success. And there is history, and the history of wars in Afghanistan does not suggest that catastrophic failure is inevitable – if the coalition continues to support Afghanistan after 2014.

The political object, and its perceived value, guide war. The value of the political object of the Afghan War – dismantling, defeating, and denying al-Qaeda sanctuary – derives from the horrific consequences of the 9/11 raids. The political object, when achieved and sustained, will prevent this from happening again. However, the perceived value of the object has diminished in the eyes of the supporting polities because of the costs and duration of this war. In other words, the political and domestic will to persevere have waned.

The Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Islamist zealots of similar cloth have endured significant disruption, displacement and dismantling of their capacity to carry on, yet their will to continue has not relented. This is because of the fanatical religious creed that animates these enemies, and because of the physical and materiel sanctuary and support they benefit from in Pakistan’s border areas. Generous funding from Saudi Arabia and other gulf states also helps. For the likes of the Quetta Shura and the Haqqanis, their mantra is ‘Islam or death.’ For Western polities, it is, ‘bring the troops home.’

Pakistani security elites believe they can counter their existential nemesis, India, by supporting the Taliban and using the Haqqanis to foment insurgency in Afghanistan. Although this notion of strategic depth is a figment of these elites’ febrile and fertile imaginations, their cost-benefit strategic calculus is not likely to change unless there is a huge shift in how the U.S. and the West confront Pakistani duplicity. In other words, in the minds of the Pakistani security leadership that decides strategy, the benefits of supporting and protracting the insurgency in Afghanistan outweigh the costs.

A Few Questions About China's Air Defense Identification Zone and Its Aftermath

March 21, 2014 | Dr. David Lai

China declared an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea on November 23, 2013 (See Figure 1). This move set off a security and political tsunami in the Western Pacific. The United States immediately denounced China’s sudden and unilateral act. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia, the European Union, and many other nations also joined the United States in criticizing China.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took the strongest stand by challenging China to roll back the ADIZ. In his angry address to a parliamentary session in Tokyo, Abe stated that the “measures taken by the Chinese side have no validity whatsoever to Japan, and we demand China revoke any measures that could infringe upon the freedom of flight in international airspace.”1

Following this wave of condemnations, the United States also sent two B-52 bombers (based on Guam) into the Chinese-claimed ADIZ in a stated effort to challenge China’s position. Japan and South Korea also scrambled their fighter jets into the troubled airspace. This flare-up took place only a few days prior to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s long-planned visit to Northeast Asia that included stops in Tokyo, Beijing, and Seoul. The Vice President’s visit was originally intended to promote U.S. economic and security interests in this region. The sudden turn of events in Northeast Asia had turned the Vice President’s trip into crisis management diplomacy. Although Biden was able to talk the leaders in Japan, China, and South Korea out of their “situation rooms,” his “shuttle diplomacy” was largely a failure in all three capitals: The Japanese Prime Minister was upset that Biden did not join him to demand a roll back of the Chinese-claimed ADIZ; the Chinese president had a 5 1/2-hour uncompromising meeting with Biden; and the South Korean president declined Biden’s calls urging South Korea to improve relations with Japan and for restraint on expanding South Korea’s ADIZ into the Japanese and Chinese-claimed ADIZ’s (South Korea followed through with its words to expand its ADIZ on December 8, 2013, see Figure 2).

The crisis is now over; yet more conflicts are sure to come. The following questions seek to make sense of the situation and bring attention to the potential issues with China’s future actions concerning the ADIZ.

Why Did China Impose Its ADIZ at This Time?

To the outside world, China’s ADIZ came as a surprise, but the Chinese have been discussing the need for the ADIZ for quite a while. the Chinese are disgruntled because their maritime neighbors, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam, have ADIZs; but China, as the “biggest boy in the block,” the one with the longest coast line in the region, and the nation with many security issues in the Western Pacific, does not have one. To the Chinese, a more appropriate question for them is: “What took us so long to make one”? Nevertheless, China’s ADIZ is not just about what the Chinese Defense Ministry has stated in its declaration that “it is a necessary measure for China to protect its statesovereignty and territorial and airspace security,” but an action directed toward Japan.

China’s Rising Defence Expenditure and Implications for India

While India’s interim defence budget for the financial year (FY) 2014-15 has remained stagnant in terms of the Rupee-Dollar exchange rate and inflation, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has been given a 12.2 per cent increase over the previous year in planned defence expenditure to US$ 131.57 billion (Yuan 808.23 billion).

China’s annual defence expenditure has been growing at double digit rates over the last decade. The latest hike is a clear signal from the new regime led by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang that China will continue its strident march towards becoming the pre-eminent military power in Asia and that its military assertiveness will continue while dealing with territorial disputes. 

Premier Li Keqiang told the National People’s Congress, the government would "strengthen research on national defence and the development of new- and high-technology weapons and equipment" and "enhance border, coastal and air defences... 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."

Chinese analysts often seek to justify the steep annual hikes in the defence outlay as having been “caused by the sharp increase in the wages, living expenses and pensions of 2.3 million PLA officers, civilian personnel, soldiers and army retirees.” However, defence analysts look at the spectacular anti-satellite test successfully conducted by China in January 2007, pictures of an aircraft carrier – the Liaoning – undergoing sea trials, the acquisition of SU-30 fighter-bombers and air-to-air refuelling capability, the development of anti-ship ballistic missiles and a growing footprint in the South China and East China Seas, and cannot help wonder whether a 21st century arms race has well and truly begun.

In the 2004 and 2006 White Papers on National Defence, the Chinese government had stated that additional funds were needed for modernisation of the PLA. The allocation of additional funds for force re-structuring and a qualitative increase in the levels of training is emphasised in both the White Papers, as also rising inflation as a cause of increased defence expenditure. However, nothing in the recent White Papers fully explains the double-digit inflation-adjusted growth in the annual defence expenditure. It is this lack of transparency that has fuelled speculation about an arms race.


When Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping met for the fifth time last year—at the October APEC summit in Bali, Indonesia—the Chinese leader spoke about “the uniqueness of China-Russia relations.” Indeed, the ties between the two countries, as both Beijing and Moscow now perceive them, are truly one-of-a-kind. They view themselves in the same terms and see their interests as converging. Closer than they have been at any time since the early 1950s, China and Russia have embarked on a grand project—challenging the American-led international system.

As many have feared, these two large states, one bent on changing the world and the other perhaps simply obstructionist, are a formidable pair and can alter the international system, if not exactly as they please, then at least in ways that can shake its foundations. Yet despite appearances, China and Russia are weak states, and today’s narrative of resurgence could soon be replaced by the story line of decline. It is in decline, in fact, that they may find the alliance that has long eluded them.

A decade ago, when Beijing and Moscow started flexing their muscles, the “strategic partnership” both nations often talked about was mostly a mirage. True, they had signed a comprehensive “friendship and cooperation” treaty in 2001, yet their bond was weak. Then, both China and Russia saw their relations with the West—principally the United States—as more important than their ties with each other. In both capitals, there were thinkers who perceived the other to be the “ultimate strategic threat in the long-term,” as a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute termed it.

New members on the Artic Council like China, India, and other Asian countries underscore the rush to secure energy and mineral resources and shorter trade routes.

Moscow had settled its border with China not so much to improve relations with Beijing as to allow it to concentrate on historic foreign policy objectives along its western and southern frontiers. And its first moves in this regard were largely successful. The “energy superpower,” as it now identified itself, was able to use abundant oil and gas reserves to reassert dominion over the “near abroad” and regain influence in Western Europe.

On his way to establishing the Russian Federation as a major power, Putin made it clear there was little room for the Chinese at the heart of the global order as he conceived it. As late as 2011, he proposed the “Eurasian Union,” a grouping of nations once comprising the Soviet Union. He may have spoken of it as only “one of the poles of the modern world,” but in reality he saw it as closer to the center of the international system, “serving as an efficient link between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific region.” As Putin imagined it, China would in effect merely be one of the parts of this system at one end of the world.

High prices for Russia’s hydrocarbons allowed its willful leader to pursue his great ambitions, and the resulting geopolitical competition with China essentially ensured that relations with Beijing remained troubled. Not only did the two nations intensify their rivalry in Central Asia and the Middle East, they faced off on Russian territory, in the country’s Far East, which became the most fundamental irritant in Sino-Russian relations.

This continent-sized area, stretching from Lake Baikal to the Pacific Ocean, was then home to fewer than seven million Russian citizens, and it was depopulating faster than other parts of the shrinking nation. At the end of last decade, demographers had projected that by 2015 the number of Russians would fall to perhaps as few as four and a half million.

The story was different on the Chinese side of the boundary. East of Mongolia and abutting Russia are three Chinese provinces that contain almost a hundred million residents. Ambitious and restless Chinese left overcrowded villages and headed to the wide-open Russian plains. The migrants, legal and not, benefited their new homeland, driving the economy there by trading goods, farming the soil, marrying Russians, and working hard.

Xenophobic Russians, who often spoke of the “yellow peril,” always believed Beijing was using the migrants to promote a “Sinification” that would ultimately result in the annexation of the Russian Far East. Moscow’s concerns were stoked by irredentist Chinese officials, who from time to time grumbled about the “lost territory” in reference to portions of Russia’s Far East, including Vladivostok, once ruled by the Manchus, whom the Chinese of today consider to be their own kin. The tottering Manchu Qing dynasty ceded the area to czarist Russia in two “unequal treaties”—as the Chinese define the agreements—in 1858 and 1860.

In a series of deals, the last signed in July 2008, the two sides finally delineated their border, the fifth-longest in the world at almost two thousand seven hundred miles. Yet both the Russians and the Chinese know that no line separating rivals is ever really final.

Moscow’s deep-seated insecurity over the border is why the tie-up between Russia’s state-owned Rosneft with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), announced in October 2013, was truly the “breakthrough” deal it was called. After years of recalcitrance, Putin finally agreed to Beijing’s demand for an equity stake in a lucrative oil field in Eastern Siberia. It was not the first time that Russia had agreed to give the Chinese an ownership interest in an energy field—that occurred in 2006—but it was by far the most significant. The Rosneft-CNPC arrangement, in all probability, will accelerate China’s penetration of the sparsely settled Far East and perhaps give Beijing a platform to reach into the Russian heartland itself.

Why the Russian change of heart? The Wall Street Journal reported that the arrangement was “a sign that Moscow is overcoming its fear of Chinese encroachment on Russia’s Far East.” It’s more likely that facts on the ground convinced the Kremlin that it had no alternative but to give the Chinese what they wanted. In short, the Rosneft-CNPC contract signals a turning point in which Beijing has gained, now and for the foreseeable future, the upper hand.

The fundamental problem for Russia is that Putin, during his three terms as president and one as prime minister, has done little to diversify the economy away from oil and gas exports. Since his pretensions to global power always rested on the price of hydrocarbons, the consequences of that inaction are visible now that global prices for gas are tumbling due to the US-led shale boom, and oil is beginning to follow the downward trend, which could last decades. Russia is already feeling the effect. “Alarming” is the one word heard in Moscow in recent months to describe the stagnating Russian economy. Putin himself used the term in April.

At the same time that oil and gas prices are falling, energy customers are looking beyond Russian suppliers. Europe is finding new sources of natural gas, and Asia is turning to North and South American fields. As a result, writes Daniel Graeber of OilPrice.com, “the Russian economy is starting to retreat behind the former Iron Curtain.”

These trends have made Russia look east. “Geopolitically, Russia realizes it has to work with China,” notes Ildar Davletshin of Moscow-based Renaissance Capital. Significantly, Moscow and Beijing, at the time of the announcement of the Rosneft deal in October, agreed to greater diplomatic cooperation and coordination, perhaps best symbolized by the signing of twenty-one cooperation agreements by Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and his counterpart, Premier Li Keqiang. “Bilateral relations have never reached such high levels,” said Medvedev while in Beijing.

Will the Chinese-Russian “strategic entente” endure? Despite some skepticism in the international community, there are reasons to believe that it will. For one thing, Moscow’s perceptions of its own weakness have been largely responsible for its move to improve ties with Beijing, and those perceptions will last for as long as the Russian economy flounders.

Moreover, the Chinese, for their part, will value their Russian friends more as time progresses. At the moment, the opposite is thought to be true in some quarters, that Beijing will see less and less value in a declining Russia and that a China owning the twenty-first century will not need Moscow except perhaps as a source of oil and gas, which it will be forced to sell the Chinese whether or not they are friendly.

Just as Russian economic weakness is driving Putin toward the Chinese, it is also making Russia attractive to a China that finds it hard to form alliances but nonetheless realizes it needs friends, even distant ones. President Obama’s critics may see his “pivot” to Asia as “unresourced” and “hollow,” but for the Chinese it is real and an unmistakable warning that Washington is beginning to reevaluate overly generous China policies. In Putin, Beijing’s policymakers not only see someone who shares their general outlook and is willing to poke Washington in the eye, but also someone with enough of a sense of history to accept the role of pliable junior partner. Last decade, it was Putin who kept the Chinese at arm’s length. In the last couple of years, however, he has adopted a far more conciliatory attitude. As he said of Beijing in April 2012, “We do not have a single irritating element in our ties.”

Washington may find it odd that China should seek to fortify its relations with a sinking Russia rather than with the United States, but as nationalism replaces prosperity as the Communist Party’s primary basis of legitimacy, it becomes increasingly difficult for Beijing’s leaders to embrace their counterparts in either the liberal democracies or the many neighbors with which China has territorial disputes. At the moment, Beijing maintains expansive land and sea claims against an arc of nations from India in the south to South Korea in the north. Furthermore, its ambitions to close off the international waters of the South China Sea bring it into conflict with seafaring nations, especially the US, which has for more than two centuries protected freedom of navigation.

On the other hand, there is virtually no strand of anti-Russian political thought in Beijing. With President Xi’s public campaigns promoting both Marxism and Maoism, the fashion is to lament the passing of the Soviet Union and express pity for a Russia that has, in the view of the Chinese elite, fallen from superpower status to a power of second or third rank. “Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse?” Xi has been quoted as asking during an internal party meeting in December 2012. “An important reason was that their ideals and convictions wavered.” Russia is an object lesson as well as an ally.

Xi’s view of the Soviet demise is incorporated into a documentary that party cadres are now forced to watch. In Memory of the Collapse of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union, jointly produced by a Communist Party organ and the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, blames the disintegration of the USSR on Mikhail Gorbachev’s attempt to introduce Western-style political reforms, the relaxation of the Soviet party’s monopoly on ideology, and Boris Yeltsin’s privatization of state entities.

The lessons of Memory of the Collapse are buttressed by those of a more recent film from October—General Liu Yazhou’s Silent Contest, a screed co-produced by the National Defense University, the Army General Staff, and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The film mourns the Soviet Union and in virulent terms attacks the US for trying to cause a Soviet-type failure in China. Liu is reputed to be a progressive—he penned a controversial essay in 2010 arguing that China must adopt American-style democratization or face a Soviet fate—so his participation in this officially sponsored rant is a sign the party is demanding conformity with its pro-Moscow/anti-US views.

In the 1950s, the Chinese proudly said, “today’s Soviet Union is tomorrow’s China,” and this sense of familial closeness has survived to this day, even if the prediction itself has been discarded. With America essentially identified as China’s geopolitical opponent, it is only natural that Xi finds Putin a natural ally, and that Beijing’s recent foreign policy initiatives show increasing coordination with the Kremlin.

The issue highlighting the closeness of the relationship is, of course, Syria. China and Russia vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions on the Syrian civil war, and when the Obama administration threatened military action over the use of chemical weapons last year they worked the back channels and press podiums to protect the regime they both had an interest in preserving. Moscow and Beijing even dispatched warships to the eastern Mediterranean in a maneuver that looked like a warning to the US Navy and NATO vessels in the area.

And when they had gotten their way, Presidents Putin and Xi jointly took to the world stage to announce their triumph on Syria. At the Bali summit, the Russian leader cited “coordinated decisions” as a primary example of how the two capitals were strengthening their relations and projecting a new power. His Chinese counterpart said the Syrian matter was an instance of how China and Russia “are cooperating very closely to resolve urgent and acute international and regional issues.” “Syria,” correctly notes Arthur Dong of Columbia University, “is symbolic.”

It is also a preview of things to come. Russia and China are working together to protect the theocratic Iranian regime, a sign that in the Middle East and Persian Gulf China and Russia are moving from competition to cooperation. But it is in Asia where the two countries are most overtly pursuing their collaboration, acting through the Beijing-launched Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which the Chinese see as their own NATO. And in October, President Xi invited Moscow, in the words of the official Xinhua News Agency, to join China in guaranteeing “security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”

At a time when Russia is in obvious decline, the invitation to play a broader role is welcome. Xi’s overture, even if insincere, is noteworthy because Beijing has almost never asked other nations to cooperate with its grand designs. If nothing else, it indicates the degree to which China sees Moscow as “the ideal candidate” for the role as Beijing’s “global partner,” as Tian Chunsheng of the State Council’s Russian Development Research Center put it.

This cementing of ties means the US could find itself facing a formidable Sino-Russian alliance in another multi-decade geopolitical struggle played out across continents. Of course, the outcome of that contest could very well hinge upon how durable the China-Russia combination proves to be. 

In the Cold War, an insecure and angry Beijing abandoned Moscow and joined Washington. Now the Chinese look like they are switching sides again, and to make matters worse, their rise looks inexorable. The concern, therefore, is that this time the US and the liberal democracies will be overwhelmed by a China-Russia alliance. 

Yet this partnership may in fact be one of a paper tiger and bear. For one thing, neither China nor Russia stands for anything more than its own narrow self-interest. They may denigrate the notions of freedom and democracy, but neither has any philosophical alternative to offer.

Moreover, their emerging partnership may be built on a shaky foundation. That Russia is deeply troubled in terms of its economy and regime legitimacy is clear. Perhaps less obviously but no less inexorably, the People’s Republic is also beginning to experience challenges posed by, among other things, accelerated demographic decline, a degraded environment, and worsening racial and ethnic turmoil.

The most immediate problem confronting Beijing, however, is the economy, which for more than three decades had been the motor of its rise. Its state-led economic model is clearly exhausted as official growth rates continue to fall. Government investment is increasingly inefficient, resulting in a dangerous buildup of debt, and property bubbles around the country are threatening to burst. Manufacturing, the pride of China since the 1950s, is stagnant, and the service sector may not be nearly as big or vibrant as Beijing’s statistics portray it to be. Tellingly, the number of jobs in China is beginning to shrink, a sure sign of danger, and Chinese enterprises are investing abroad in large part because opportunities at home are lacking.

The essential problem for the party is that entrenched interests are blocking reforms that are necessary for growth. Therefore, the prospects for a broad-based and long-lasting recovery in China are narrowing. Should the economy continue to erode, the Chinese leadership could very well find itself in much the same position as Putin is in now. And just as Putin turned to China when his economy turned sour, it is possible Xi will lock China’s destiny to Russia’s even more tightly for the same reason. The two countries, after all, have complementary economies: one is a manufacturing powerhouse with few natural resources and the other is the mirror opposite.

Nonetheless, the best economic partner for Beijing is America, which created the framework for China’s ascent and for decades eased and encouraged its entry into the international system. Today, the world’s two largest economies interact in many ways, to the benefit of both. But since Xi Jinping’s elevation as Communist Party leader in November 2012, his emphasis on reactionary thought, not to mention his signature call for “ideological purification,” is a warning that theory-based politics can push China in many wrong directions.

So, despite everything, his country’s pairing with Russia could be durable because it fits well with Xi’s notion that the Chinese Communist Party must hold fast to its “ideals and convictions,” what he said the Soviets foolishly abandoned. This would not be the first time in history that the People’s Republic—or China, for that matter—has rejected modernity.

Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China and Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World. He blogs weekly for World Affairs on China and Asia.

A Merkel, a Map, a Message to China?

Another cartographic brouhaha. 
APRIL 1, 2014 

On March 28, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping at a dinner where they exchanged gifts. Merkel presented to Xi a 1735 map of China made by prolific French cartographer Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville and printed by a German publishing house. According to an antique-maps website, d'Anville's map was based on earlier geographical surveys done by Jesuit missionaries in China and represented the "summation of European knowledge on China in the 18th-century." The map showed, according to its original Latin caption, the so-called "China Proper" -- that is, the Chinese heartland mostly populated by ethnic Han people, without Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia, or Manchuria. The islands of Taiwan and Hainan -- the latter clearly part of modern China, the former very much disputed -- are shown with a different color border. 

Historical maps are sensitive business in China. Every schoolchild in China learns that Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, and the Diaoyu Islands have been "inalienable parts of China since ancient times." The d'Anville map, at least visually, is a rejection of that narrative. Unsurprisingly, China's official media outlets don't seem to have appreciated Merkel's gift. The People's Daily, which has given meticulous accounts of Xi's European tour, elided any coverage of the offending map. More curiously, when news of the map's presentation reached the Chinese heartland, it had somehow morphed into a completely different one. A map published in many Chinese-language media reports about Merkel's gift-giving shows the Chinese empire at its territorial zenith, including Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia, and large swaths of Siberia. This larger map was the handiwork of British mapmaker John Dower, published in 1844 by Henry Teesdale & Co. in London, and was certainly not the gift from Merkel to Xi. But this mistake was not noted or explained in Chinese reports. 

Both versions of the Merkel map have made appearances on Chinese social media, eliciting vastly different interpretations. Those who saw the d'Anville map seemed shocked by its limited territories. Hao Qian, a finance reporter, remarked that the map is "quite an awkward gift." Writer Xiao Zheng blasted Merkel for trying to "legitimize the Tibet and Xinjiang independence movements." Architect Liu Kun wrote, "The Germans definitely have ulterior motives." One Internet user asked, "How is this possible? Where is Tibet, Xinjiang, the Northeast? How did Xi react?" 

The Dower map, on the other hand, seemed to stoke collective nostalgia for large territories and imperial power. An advertising executive enthused, "Our ancestors are badass." Another Internet user hoped Xi would feel "encouraged" by the map to "realize what a true re-emerge of China means." Some suspected that Merkel tried to send Xi a subtle reminder that Russia had helped Mongolia declare independence from China in the mid-20th century, somewhat like what Russia did in Crimea in March 2014. 

To be sure, the d'Anville map does not constitute a total contradiction of the Chinese government's version of history. In 1735, the year when the Qianlong Emperor began his six-decade reign, his Qing empire's military prowess was on the ascent. Qianlong quelled a rebellion by Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang, brought the Mongol tribes under closer rule, and appointed officials to oversee affairs in Tibet such as the selection of the Dalai Lama. In other words, Qianlong established the trappings of imperial control over these peripheral territories, which allowed later governments -- the Republic of China, then the current People's Republic of China -- to claim sovereignty. Maps published by Western countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries vary in their presentations of Tibet and Xinjiang, but the Dower map is certainly not alone in showing Xinjiang and Tibet as parts of the Chinese empire. 

All the cartographic brouhaha may be overblown. One Internet user refused to "overinterpret" the d'Anville map as a message about Tibet or Xinjiang. After all, "You can't use a map of the 13 colonies of the United States made in 1776 to tell Americans that Texas or California is not U.S. territory."