7 April 2014


Monday, 07 April 2014 | 

There is talk about bringing back Indian funds illegally stashed in foreign banks. But what about the dirty money floating inside the local economy, particularly in sectors such as real estate?

On March 26, the Supreme Court rejected the Union Government’s plea to recall the court’s order to set up a Special Investigation Team, headed by its two former judges, to monitor investigations relating to black money and the flight of unaccounted amounts to foreign banks.

The court also slammed successive Governments at the Centre for “doing nothing to bring back the black money stashed away in tax havens abroad”. Indeed, it was only after six decades of independence, that at least one citizen came forward, in 2011, and complained that the Indian economy was being destroyed due to black money park in tax havens abroad.

The court said: “There will be a body (SIT) because you have failed. Were you not aware where the black money is deposited? You know it very well… Even if you have taken steps, this court being the highest court and the constitutional court can pass such an order”.

The Government has a number of agencies to deal with the problem of black money, like the Directorate General of Economic Enforcement, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and the office of the Chief Commissioner of Income Tax and even the Central Bureau of Investigations. But they are all parts of the larger Government machinery, and most of them cannot act on their own.

For instance, the CBI has to take permission from the Union Government before starting an inquiry against officers of the level of Joint Secretary and above. In 2013, the Union Cabinet has passed a resolution extending this shield to retired officials from the above ranks as well.

Politicians often think that the people are fools and the electorate does not see through their empty promises. One example of this is the announcement by the Congress that it will appoint a special envoy to track black money. But the Congress-led Government at the Centre has done little with the information it received regarding people who have stashed black money abroad. This is despite the fact that it has people from the Revenue and Intelligence services posted abroad in important Indian Embassies. Surely, they are doing some work.

A DISAPPOINTING SHOW - UPA-II has fulfilled few of its promises to the armed forces

Brijesh D. Jayal 

Writing in these columns when the United Progressive Alliance II commenced its innings (“Through Thick and Thin”, June 3, 2009), one was optimistic that the new dispensation would not sit idle whilst the nation’s armed forces continued down a slippery slope. This hope was driven by the belief that the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, who had earlier not shied away from bold decisions, would again not hesitate to look for innovative solutions to save the one institution on which rests the entire security edifice of the nation state.

On the morrow of the release of the Congress manifesto for the forthcoming elections, it is appropriate to reflect on how the armed forces have fared against the optimism then expressed by this writer. To put no gloss on it, one must admit that from the earlier slippery slope, the armed forces are now on the edge of the proverbial precipice with only their tenacity and grit holding them from the unknown. And judging by the recent resignation of the chief of naval staff on moral grounds and the vulgar haste with which the government accepted, it would seem that this tenacity has also reached breaking point.

In the interim, we have had the spectacle of an open war between a serving army chief and the ministry of defence with the former taking the unusual step of approaching the highest court. The extent of distrust is exemplified by media allegations of a secret military intelligence unit formed by the chief, purported to be snooping on conversations of officials in the ministry, and of unexplained army movements close to Delhi, with unsaid hints of the dreaded word, ‘coup’. Strangely, none of these stories have as yet been satisfactorily explained and put to rest, thus leaving not only a festering wound in civil-military relations, but also a sulking army deeply hurt by the open lack of trust in the institution itself.

When two of our soldiers were killed at the line of control and one beheaded by elements across the border, we had the unusual occurrence of emotional outpourings by relatives of the one mutilated when the bodies were brought home, but not one leader of significance was at hand to provide the families and the army with a healing touch. More recently, when five soldiers were ambushed and killed on the LoC, which, according to the army was the work of the Pakistan army, the defence minister told Parliament that they were “terrorists along with persons dressed in army uniforms”, thus offering Pakistan a readymade alibi.

No terrorists here

Khaled Ahmed | April 6, 2014 1

The American diplomats in Islamabad were sending a lot of dastardly information back home. WikiLeaks claimed that the al-Qaeda chief was in routine contact with up to 12 ISI officials. We say, all lies!. CR Sasi kumar

Carlotta Gall’s book will be met by the same denialism that has gripped Pakistan for many years.

Pakistan, where over 80 per cent of people hate America, is greatly upset over the yet-to-be-published book by reporter Carlotta Gall — a woman and a Jew — who has written in The New York Times that Pakistan was keeping Osama bin Laden in a safehouse in Abbottabad; and that it actually faked shock followed by populist rage at “discovering” him there after America’s dastardly attack to kill him on Pakistani soil.

We say her lies are myriad, typical of a Jewish hater of Pakistan and Islam. She says “the madrasas in Quetta are a cover, a camouflage. Behind the curtain, hidden in the shadows, lurks the ISI. The Pakistani government, under President Pervez Musharraf and his intelligence chief, Lt Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was maintaining and protecting the Taliban, both to control the many groups of militants now lodged in the country and to use them as a proxy force to gain leverage over and eventually dominate Afghanistan.”

She goes on to indict Pakistan further as an abettor of terrorism through proxy warriors it pretends not to know and claims to be helpless to curb. It pretends to “apparently” cooperate with America but covertly trains militants through its dreaded ISI to go to Afghanistan and kill Americans. She says Americans knew what its great ally was doing but refused to face up to it “for fear of setting off a greater confrontation with a powerful Muslim nation”.

She quotes a former chief of the ISI, Ziauddin Butt — a simple soldier, if you run into him at the Lahore Gymkhana, you will see him stuffing the heads of rich shopkeepers with stories of great derring-do against enemy America — as saying that “he thought Musharraf had arranged to hide bin Laden in Abbottabad”.

Of course, Butt has quickly denied what he said to Gall but he had already told a lot of foreign reporters about how Musharraf and the ISI’s Brigadier Ijaz Shah and ISI chief Shuja Pasha had actually placed him in Abbottabad.


April 3, 2014 · in Analysis

India and Pakistan have been bumping along in their own version of a Cold War for so many years now that it is tempting to assume the status quo will continue. Parliamentary elections in India in April and May, however, are about to introduce a new element of unpredictability in the region just as the United States prepares to pull its combat troops out of Afghanistan. The likely winner, Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is already signalling a tougher stance on Pakistan. That will not necessarily translate into increased tensions between India and Pakistan – Modi has made it clear his priority will be reviving economic growth, which at below five percent is far short of the eight percent needed to absorb India’s rising population. What it does mean is that the two countries will find it far harder to read each other’s intentions – Modi is an unknown quantity on foreign policy – complicating diplomacy and raising the risk of a rapid escalation in tensions after any acts of terrorism which India suspects originated in Pakistan.

The BJP meanwhile may be hoping that signalling a tougher stance alone will be enough to deter Pakistan, sparing India the need to choose between military retaliation and investment stability. The problem with that calculation is that Pakistan’s own grip on militants is deteriorating. The army, which dominates foreign and security policy, has faced accusations for years of backing the Afghan Taliban to counter Indian influence in Afghanistan. Unable to contain a domestic Pakistani Taliban insurgency, the short-term temptation for the army will be to push more militants into Afghanistan even at the risk of greater long-term blowback into Pakistan from an energized Taliban movement next door. Pakistan could also try to reduce pressure at home by easing curbs on jihadis more focused on India and Kashmir than on Afghanistan. It is the combination of the two – a new government in India and Pakistan’s domestic situation, compounded by long-standing fears of an India-Pakistan proxy war in Afghanistan after US combat troops leave – that will make the region so volatile.

Of the many unknown factors in India’s elections – themselves so notoriously unpredictable that Modi is far from guaranteed to become prime minister despite a strong showing by the BJP in opinion polls – only one thing can be said for sure. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who provided continuity to India’s Pakistan policy for a decade since his appointment by the ruling Congress party in 2004, will no longer be in office. Singh had hoped to make peace with Pakistan into his personal legacy. While he failed to push that through, he did maintain a policy of restraint, resisting calls for more aggressive action against Pakistan even after the 2008 attack on Mumbai by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.

After Afghan Election, Debate Over Post-2014 Troops Will Continue


As Afghans head to the polls Saturday to elect their next president, those in Washington still pushing for a lasting United States commitment to the country are hoping fervently that things go well – or at least well enough – to keep both the Obama administration and the American public on board.

Lately, the narrative in the U.S. around the Afghanistan War has hardened into one that shows it as a futile effort that has yielded little gains, despite more than 2,300 Americans killed and $600 billion spent since 2001. A December CNN poll revealed American opposition to the Afghan war hit 82 percent – higher than the Iraq War ever reached. Only one quarter of respondents wanted to see U.S. troops stay in Afghanistan after the official end of the war in December. National Intelligence Estimate predictions that security gains will retreat alongside the U.S.troop withdrawal, regardless of whether several thousand troops remain, have strengthened the hand of those within the administration arguing for the so-called “zero option” of keeping no troops in the country come January.

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. Full Bio

But those who have worked in Afghanistan on the diplomatic and military sides push back against that storyline and point to very real progress. 

“I am cautiously optimistic about what I am seeing in Afghanistan,” retired Adm. James Stavridis, former NATOcommander who now heads Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, told Defense One. “Despite unrelenting media focus on the difficult challenges of getting through the election and the ongoing insurgency, I think the macro picture is actually somewhat encouraging.”

Stavridis, like many commanders and aid workers, pointed to millions of Afghan girls and boys in school and economic growth as high as 13 percent in recent years. Women, too, have made gains, serving as parliamentarians, governors, entrepreneurs, judges, police officers and civil servants after being banished from their streets and schools under the Taliban. Stavridis also praised Afghan security forces. “We now have 350,000 Afghan police and soldiers in the field and they are fighting well,” he said. “They are taking casualties, but inflicting casualties, they are holding territory and the Taliban have made no significant gains whatsoever in terms of holding territory.”

Those who had a front-row seat to training Afghan forces agree. “I remember watching in 2006 and they couldn’t do the most basic things, and now man-for-man some of their folks are as good as ours. And as units, some of their units are as good as those in theNATO coalition,” said Mark Jacobson, former deputy NATOsenior civil representative who advised retired Generals David Petraeus and Stan McChrystal during their years commanding the war. “Even back in 2009 they handled the [attack on] the Intercontinental [Hotel] far better than Indian special operations forces handled Mumbai.”

Why Pakistan is Ignoring the Afghan Election

APRIL 4, 2014 

Though Afghanistan and Pakistan have long been linked in Western minds, with the "AfPak" designation reigning supreme in the collective conscience, the two countries are more disconnected now than ever before. 

Afghanistan is hardly mentioned in Pakistani media or public discourse, but there is a growing anti-Pakistan sentiment in Afghanistan. Some may even say it's a uniting factor in this election. Pakistan has been repeatedly accused of directly controlling anti-democratic forces such as the Taliban, and providing funding and safe havens for anti-state elements, all with the supposed intent of pushing Afghanistan into instability and chaos. Taken at face value, it would seem that Pakistan is the source of all the country's ills. Ironically, this is similar to a narrative that plays out frequently in the Pakistani media, except that Pakistan's bogeyman of choice is the United States. 

However, it is interesting to note that Afghanistan's other neighbors rarely feature into this conversation of interference and destabilization, despite evidence to the contrary. 

Iran, for example, has a long history of involvement in the country. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the NATO commander in Afghanistan, told reporters in 2010 that there was "clear evidence of Iranian activity" in Afghanistan, including cases of "providing weapons and training to the Taliban." A year later, British Foreign Secretary William Hague reiterated this when discussing "evidence that Iran continues to supply the Taliban with weaponry" which are "clearly intended to...kill Afghan and ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] soldiers." Although this involvement is common knowledge, it is not often discussed in the Afghan media or addressed in statements from the presidential palace. This may be due to the fact that Iran backs at least eight newspapers in Kabul and controls nearly a third of Afghan media. Perhaps if Pakistan followed suit, it wouldn't be subject to the same ire. 

Whatever the reason for this Afghan focus on Pakistan, it is clear that Pakistan will be blamed for any pre-election violence. Whether these allegations can stand up to scrutiny or be seen as being in the national interest is another question entirely. 

The Battle at Home 

So what exactly does the Pakistani leadership think of the upcoming Afghan elections and who is their candidate of choice? The short answer is that, frankly, they don't seem to be too concerned with the election or its outcome. 

Pakistan is facing a multitude of domestic issues, including acute energy shortages, rising inflation, sectarian violence, the discovery of mass graves in the increasingly restive Balochistan province, and anti-state groups challenging the government. This is further compounded by changes in the political landscape with a relatively new government in power: Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party is trying to translate his campaign promises into actual governance policy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province; the young Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is challenging militancy while trying to consolidate his party in Sindh; and Jamaat-e-Islami (the Pakistani chapter of a political party which also has a presence in Afghanistan, India, and Bangladesh) is operating under a newly elected leader against the backdrop of peace talks with the Taliban. 

Afghanistan Elections and the Taliban Threat

In the election run-up, the Taliban has increasingly set the agenda in the region with a spate of high-profile attacks. 

By Rajeev Agrawal
April 05, 2014

In the lead up to the presidential elections in Afghanistan, which get underway today, the Taliban has upped the ante in the region, especially in Afghanistan, with a spate of high-impact attacks in March. An attack on March 29 hit the heart of the election process when the Taliban stormed a building next to the Independent Election Commission headquarters in Kabul, making very clear the threat it posed to the elections. Beginning with an attack on a famous Lebanese restaurant in Kabul on January 18, which killed 13 foreign nationals, the Taliban has been cleverly choosing targets and patterns this year that leave the international forces and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) struggling to react.

Across the Durand Line, in Pakistan, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) seems to be toying with the Pakistani establishment, oscillating between attacks on the Pakistani army to accepting cease fire and peace talks proposals. A broad overview of the situation does indicate towards one clear pattern: the Taliban are on the offensive and are setting the agenda, forcing both, Afghanistan and Pakistan to react and follow.

Afghanistan’s transition in 2014 is built on three important pillars: elections, the handover of security responsibilities to the ANSF, and reining in the Taliban. While the latter two are ongoing efforts, the presidential elections are a clear landmark. Successful elections would benefit the Afghanistan peace process and undermine Taliban influence. It could also lead to the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States, which despite having been successfully negotiated and even passed by the Loya Jirga in November last year, awaits signing by President Hamid Karzai, who so far has refused. While the Afghanistan government, the U.S. and the Taliban all understand the significance of the elections, the difference lies in its execution. The U.S. simply wants this process to be done, and is more focused on the withdrawal timetable and the various scenarios for leaving troops behind, which stretch from a “zero option” to a figure of 10-15,000 troops. The ANSF and the Afghan government are more focused on the process of the elections and the safety of the candidates, while keeping the transition process in motion.

Where does that leave the Taliban? While everything that the U.S. and the Afghanistan do has a direct bearing on the Taliban, unlike the past three years, at present there is no clearcut campaign strategy against the Taliban nor are there any ongoing military operations to clear Taliban strongholds or target its leaders. In past few months, the process of “reintegration and reconciliation” also seems to have been lost in the din of transition and elections.

How Obama Lost Afghanistan


He said it was ‘the right war.’ Then he did everything he could to screw it up. 

Despite the violence and uncertainty surrounding this Saturday’s election for a new Afghan President, there’s one positive —Hamid Karzai, the sitting president and the architect of much of the country’s unrest, is not on the ballot this time. But while Karzai must cede power under the rules of the Afghan constitution, the other leader whose mismanagement helped tank Afghanistan abandoned his influence in what he once called “the right war” a long time ago. That leader is President Barack Obama. 

An outright winner is unlikely on Saturday, unless one campaign is far superior in the art of vote fraud. The most dramatic political comeback belongs to Dr. Ashraf Ghani, a technocrat economist who previously served as Karzai’s Minister of Finance. Known for a volatile temper—according to former colleagues, he once broke his wrist by slamming his hand into a meeting table—Ghani only earned three percent of the vote against Karzai in 2009. Today, Ghani polls as the frontrunner, dividing the margin of Karzai’s heir apparent, former National Security advisor and Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul, and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, an ophthalmologist with a fondness for flashy Italian suits. He gathered 30 percent of the vote in 2009, but declined to participate in a run-off against Karzai. 

The best scenario is a May run-off between the two top candidates—the opposite of the chaos of 2009 that left Karzai with a third term. Instead of a statesmanlike exit as father of a new democracy, Karzai’s re-election imploded his already troubled legacy. On an election day the UN characterized as Afghanistan’s worst episode of violence in fifteen years, Western diplomats accused Karzai and his cronies of at least 100,000 fictitious ballots and over 800 fake polling sites

Some level of corruption is to be expected in a post-conflict war zone, but the rancorous back and forth between Karzai and the Obama administration was a disastrous turning point. Dismissing voting irregularities as “totally fabricated,” Karzai dedicated his next five years to severing his relationship with the United States. Always a pacifist—a nuance neglected when drafting plans for a more aggressive war strategy—Karzai went increasingly public with his anger over civilian casualties, night raids and what he saw as American rejection to take the fight to Pakistan. 

Over the last year, Karzai refused to sign a security pact setting the terms for a long-term American troop presence, leaving the decision of keeping American forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to the next president. Only a month ago, Karzai told the Washington Post, “There is no war to be fought in Afghanistan. I believe that much of the conflict is a creation in which the Afghans suffer.” 

Pakistan’s Deal With the Devil And The Taliban Shadow Surge


On March 1, the Islamabad government cut a deal with the Taliban. And since then, all hell has been breaking loose in neighboring Afghanistan. 

In the last month, the Taliban has killed dozens of people in a string of attacks timed to destabilize Afghanistan ahead of the presidential elections on Saturday. 

Most recently, a suicide bomber breached the heavy security at the Interior Ministry building and blew himself up, killing six police officers. And that may be just a preview, if local Taliban commanders are to be believed. 

“We told Afghans not to vote,” said Haji Shakor, a Taliban commander in central Afghanistan. “If we found out you voted, you won’t take your five fingers home.” 

But the real accelerators of this violence aren’t Shakor and his fellow Afghanistan-based militants, local intelligence and security officials tell The Daily Beast. Instead, it’s Taliban insurgents streaming over the border from Pakistan that have enabled the group’s recent killing spree in Kabul. And they say the Pakistani government is to blame for the incursion. 

On March 1, the government in Islamabad agreed to a month-long ceasefire with Pakistan’s Taliban, known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The truce was supposed to be a chance to revive stalled peace talks but its timing, just ahead of Afghanistan’s elections, suggests that it may also have been a way to reposition forces before the vote. 

By increasing violence ahead of the election, the Taliban is trying to discourage voting and convince Afghans that the government is incapable of providing security. It’s a tactic the Taliban has used in the past before big political events, but this time to pull off its plan the group used some shrewd foreign diplomacy. 

There are, broadly speaking, two Talibans, one in Afghanistan and one in Pakistan. The two groups operate semi-autonomously but both fall under the leadership of the Quetta Shura leadership council. And major moves, like this ceasefire, would undoubtedly be blessed by the Quetta Shura. 

In a recent interview Srtaj Aziz, Pakistan’s advisor on foreign policy and national security, responded to allegations that Pakistan was responsible for Taliban attacks in Afghanistan. 

“We told Afghans not to vote. If we found out you voted, you won’t take your five fingers home.” 

Interview: Lobsang Sangay The Diplomat speaks with the prime minister of Tibetans in exile.

By Anuradha Sharma
April 07, 2014

On April 26 it will be three years since you won the historic elections that made you the first political leader of the Tibetans, a post relinquished by the Dalai Lama. What has the experience been like?

The first year was anxious but I told myself this is my karma and I had to do the best I could to fulfill the aspirations of Tibetans in exile and Tibet. The 400-year-old institution of the Dalai Lama was changing course. All of a sudden His Holiness had decided to pass on the baton of political head and that came to someone like me: young, new to politics and without much administrative experience. I was anxious about the transfer of political authority and so were the Tibetan people. In the second year, the anxiety subsided but it continued to be very hectic, and so it has been since then. Except Sikkim, I have been to all the Tibetan settlements in India, all Tibetan schools, 90 percent of the monasteries and around 80 percent of old-age homes. In North America and Europe, I’ve visited all major Tibetan communities except three or four places. I am still working hard and intend to continue doing so; the rest I leave to the collective karma of the Tibetan people.

What is it like managing a ‘nation’ without physical boundaries? What are the challenges and opportunities?

The major challenge is the travelling that is required to reach out to the Tibetan population across the globe in five continents. It’s a grueling schedule every time—seven countries in 13 or 14 days in Europe and seven states in eight days in the U.S. The normal schedule is 8 am to 8 pm, followed by dinner and informal interactions with the local Tibetan communities. By the time you go to sleep, it is past midnight and the next morning you wake up early to travel to another city or country. The good part of it is the opportunity to meet different kinds of people, the exposure to different cultures and political systems.

Beijing’s Arctic Play: Just the Tip of the Iceberg

China has clearly signaled that it has a strong interest in the Arctic region. 
By Elizabeth C. Economy
April 05, 2014

If you pay attention, Chinese foreign policy rarely surprises. Of course there is the odd moment when Beijing catches the world unaware: for example, its declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea in late 2013. Generally speaking, however, the Chinese telegraph their long-term strategic intentions through their smaller tactical maneuvers. It is just that the rest of the world sometimes misses the signals or doesn’t know what to do with the information. Such is the case with China’s emerging play in the Arctic.

Over the past several years, China has begun to stake out its claim to the Arctic. No part of China actually touches the Arctic, but as a recent International Institute for Strategic Studies commentary points out, Chinese scholars routinely describe their country as a “near-Arctic” state, and Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo has argued that the “Arctic belongs to all the people around the world, as no nation has sovereignty over it… China must play an indispensable role in Arctic exploration as we have one-fifth of the world’s population.” This is a signal of Chinese intent.

There are a number of reasons for China’s interest in the region, but four stand out in particular. First, of course, the region is rich in resources: oil and gas, fish, and minerals among them. According to one estimate, the region holds one-third of the world’s natural gas reserves, and resource-hungry China has recognized the region’s potential. China is in talks with Denmark to take stakes in a copper mine in Greenland; China National Offshore Oil Corporation has partnered with Iceland’s Eykon Energy for oil exploration; and China’s Sichuan Xinye Mining Investment Company will be working with London Mining to exploit the country’s iron ore reserves. Uranium and rare earths are additional potential targets for Chinese investment; Greenland has enormous reserves of both, including the capacity to meet 25 percent of world demand for rare earths.

China is also interested in the Arctic for trade reasons. As the climate changes and the Arctic ice melts, three new trade routes may open up that will dramatically reduce cargo transport time and help avoid the security challenges of traditional routes such as the Strait of Malacca. Already, Denmark and China are discussing cooperation to explore these new routes.

China Lashes Out at North Korea

China’s media offers withering criticism of North Korea as tensions mount between the erstwhile allies. 
April 05, 2014

Tensions appear to be quickly mounting between the erstwhile allies North Korea and China.

Last week I noted that North Korea has reportedly begun hanging banners declaring that China is “a turncoat and our enemy” at its Kang Kon Military Academy. The characterization of China as a “turncoat and our enemy” was coined by Kim Il-Sung, North Korea’s eternal leader, in 1992 but has been invoked by Pyongyang on a number of occasions since to express its displeasure toward Beijing.

The feeling seems to be mutual these days, if the Global Times—a state-run Chinese newspaper—is any indication. As my colleague Shannon noted earlier today, the Global Times published an editorial on Thursday that contained unusually harsh criticism of North Korea. Although the editorial focused primarily on North Korea’s nuclear program, it also includes some other more general criticisms of Pyongyang. For example, it stated: “If Pyongyang continues to follow this [nuclear] path, it will suffer long-term isolation by the international community and the country’s poverty will never be eliminated. The risks these factors pose to the Pyongyang regime can hardly be offset even if North Korea truly becomes a nuclear state.” North Korea has been extremely critical of foreign leaders that characterize North Korea as being wrecked by poverty.

The Global Times editorial also suggested that North Korea’s claims about its nuclear progress were exaggerated, and warned against trying to exploit the divergence between China and America’s approaches towards its nuclear program. “The North’s nuclear issue has caused some divergence between China and the US,” the editorial stated. “If Pyongyang thinks this provides an opportunity for it to further develop its nuclear capabilities, it should give up such fantasies.”

At other points in the piece, the Global Times characterized North Korea’s heavy reliance on missile and nuclear tests as a clear demonstration of its overall weakness. “Nuclear tests and missile launches have become Pyongyang’s only diplomatic cards, which is unfortunate for Pyongyang and the entire Northeast Asia.” Similarly, it said the reason why North Korea emphasizes its nuclear program so much is because “Pyongyang’s deterrence is so weak that it has no other ‘leverage’ than nuclear weapons.” Nonetheless, the Global Timesdismissed North Korea’s nuclear technology as primitive, and said that it is “not enough to truly deter Washington.” As a result, the Global Times said that North Korea should abandon its long followed path of isolation in Northeast Asia.

China has not limited itself to media criticisms of North Korea, however. As I noted earlier today, in response to North Korea’s medium-range ballistic missile tests last week, the UN Security Council openly condemned Pyongyang. This would not have been possible without China’s acquiesce (North Korea responded by threatening to conduct a “new form” of nuclear test, which was the proximate impetus for the Global Times’editorial).

4 Ways China Can Prepare for War in East Asia

Northeast Asia has become a potential powder keg. What should China do to prepare itself for possible conflict? 

April 04, 2014

Over the past decades, the fuse for the powder keg of war moved from the Balkans to the Middle East. Now it has shifted to China’s backyard without us even noticing. Five years ago, if someone had told me that Northeast Asia would become the world’s leading powder keg, even more dangerous than the Middle East, I wouldn’t have believed it. But now, such a statement seems more and more like the truth.

After the U.S. military conquered Iraq, the “Arab Spring” bloomed in the Middle East and North Africa. Although the internal turmoil suffered by countries in this region shows no signs of abating, in terms of geopolitics the Middle East crisis has been greatly alleviated. Nowadays, there is only one “troublemaker” left – Iran, which would find it hard to cause a crisis without support ( not to mention Iran is not up to fighting with the United States and Israel). Iran’s recent willingness to give up its nuclear weapons program foreshadows a shift in the winds.

In contrast, the situation in Northeast Asia is decidedly not optimistic. Almost every responsible country in the world has age requirements for its top leader, usually requiring top leaders to be at least 40 years old. But North Korea is now under the control of a 30-year old young man. After taking office, this leader “lived up the the world’s expectations” — that is to say, he refused to follow China’s road of reform and opening up and refused to act according to common sense. He eliminated dissenters without a scruple, and will most likely continue to develop nuclear weapons.

And on top of that, add the problem of Japan.

On December 17 of last year, Japan passed its first National Security Strategy as well as revising its National Defense Program Guidelines and Mid-Term Defense Program. In these documents, it’s easy to see a posture of arms expansion and war preparation aimed at the “China threat.” A few days later, one of my Japanese friends from Tokyo’s Waseda University sent me a half-joking message: “Mr. Yang, the sleeping lion of Japan is finally awake. Thanks to China for waking him up.”

I didn’t think this joke was very funny. I replied to him that I had only heard of the Napoleon quote that China is Asia’s sleeping lion. Who said that Japan is another “sleeping lion”? Was it Hitler?

A war of words was inevitable after that. However, I have to admit that the “sleeping lion” of China seems to be “sleeping in,” or at least after waking up it’s still confused, thinking it’s still dreaming. Could little Japan actually be more worthy of the name “sleeping lion”? Since the Meiji Restoration, it has won almost every war it’s fought, and even Japan’s final defeat was grand in scale: Japan became the only nation to have been beaten by atomic bombs. After World War II, although oppressed by the U.S. military occupation and a “peace constitution,” it rose rapidly to become a world power, with the second largest economy. Over the past years, because of the end of the Cold War and the rise of China, Japan’s international status has been steadily deteriorating and economic achievements have been hard to come by. It’s no wonder that some Japanese believe Japan can only renew it power by developing its military, raising its political status, and becoming a “normal country.”

Sun Tzu in Contemporary Chinese Strategy

By Fumio Ota | April 01, 2014


Sun Tzu permeates modern Chinese strategy, influencing everything from deception to espionage while downplaying civilian control in favor of a general’s on-site decisions and pushing “initiative, resulting in a Chinese Air Force inclination to take this initiative through offensive operations and raising the specter of Beijing developing a preemptive strategy despite protestations that the national defense policy is “purely defensive in nature.” Countering Chinese strategy calls for using Sun Tzu against Beijing. For example the general enshrined moral influence to bring the people in line with their leaders’ vision. That can be undermined through an exposé of the leaders’ real lives versus the fable and other discrepancies between public posturing and private actuality. 

Sun Tzu wrote 2,500 years ago during an agricultural age but has remained relevant through both the industrial and information ages. When we think about security, Japan’s greatest strategic concern is China, and we cannot discuss Chinese strategy without first discussing Sun Tzu. In this article, I demonstrate how contemporary Chinese strategists apply the teachings of Sun Tzu and his seminal The Art of War.1

Statue of Sun Tzu in Yurihama, Tottori, Japan
Why Sun Tzu?

Europe first discovered Sun Tzu during the late 18th century. Wilhelm II, the emperor of Germany, supposedly stated, “I wish I could have read Sun Tzu before World War I.” General Douglas MacArthur once stated that he always kept Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass on his desk. At the end of the Cold War, the United States borrowed from Sun Tzu when it created “competitive strategy,” which aimed to attack the Soviets’ weaknesses with American strengths.2 This is exactly Sun Tzu’s meaning when he said an “Army avoids strength and strikes weakness.” I have also heard that this idea is referred to as a “net assessment” strategy in the Pentagon.

When I was a student at the National Defense University in Washington, DC, I studied Caspar Weinberger’s “six tests.” When I first considered his tests I immediately thought, “This is the teaching of Sun Tzu.” Let us consider Weinberger’s six tests and the comparable ideas found in The Art of War(see table).

General Colin Powell added a few tests of his own with the so-called Powell Doctrine, and his tests also have comparable passages in Sun Tzu. For instance, Powell’s questions “Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?” and “Have risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?” are similarly mentioned in chapter 2 of The Art of War.

Sound and Fury on the Bosphorus

As chaos swirls around Turkey's embattled prime minister, can the opposition take advantage?

BY Lauren Bohn
MARCH 28, 2014

Lauren Bohn is a multimedia journalist based in Istanbul and co-founder of Foreign Policy Interrupted, an initiative dedicated to amplifying female voices in foreign policy. She's the founding assistant editor of the Cairo Review of Global Affairs in Egypt, where she was a Fulbright fellow and Pulitzer Center grantee.

ISTANBUL, Turkey — In one of Istanbul's cosmopolitan districts on the winding Bosphorus Strait, two female campaigners stood armed to the teeth with campaign gear -- pamphlets, pins, balloons, and a trailer booming patriotic beats. "Here's the plan," said a soft-spoken Gulsun Karsli. "We'll go house to house and remind people why the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is the best."

"But first," she paused and smirked, "We'll take a selfie."

Turkey is currently in the hectic throes of election season. On March 30, voters will go to the polls to elect the mayors of Istanbul, Ankara, and local municipalities across the country. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party appears poised to come out ahead, with polls projecting that the AKP holds roughly a 10-point lead over its main rival, the Republican People's Party (CHP).

Tensions, however, are high. In an increasingly polarized political landscape, the vote is essentially a referendum on not only Erdogan's increasingly white-knuckled grip on the country, but on the very identity of modern Turkey.

But even in Kadikoy, a district that AKP historically loses, the team of AKP campaigners -- a brigade of sharp-tongued, smart-phone wielding women -- isn't worried.

"Look, Erdogan's transformed this country and turned it around completely from when I grew up," says Seyda Ertem, a businesswoman who studied at Barry University in Miami. She says her long, blonde hair and penchant for trendy clothes come as a surprise to many, who don't expect an unveiled, stylish woman working for the Islamist AKP. She says that she has been asked derisively how much money she's being paid to support the party.

"It's all just noise," she says, rolling her eyes. "There is no solid opposition, just noise."

Indeed, there's been quite a bit of noise in Turkey this year. Last summer, Erdogan's government fired tear gas and water cannons at demonstrators protesting against his plans to demolish Gezi Park, a beloved green space in Istanbul, to make way for yet another mega-mall. The protest wasn't merely about trees, but a larger fight over the identity of the country and who ultimately decides upon that identity. The park became yet another battleground in the country's perennial struggle between Erdogan's self-proclaimed pious constituency and a secular elite rooted in the military.

Since then, major rifts have emerged between the AKP and its erstwhile ally, an Islamic movement led by Fethullah Gulen, a reclusive cleric based in Pennsylvania. The tug-of-war has culminated in a stream of leaked audio recordings, which reveal an extensive and sticky web of state corruption. In one purported leak, Erdogan tells his son to dispose of large sums of money. In the most recent leak, high-level security Turkish officials discussed potential military operations in Syria.

Nuclear Zero After Crimea

April 5, 2014

On April 5, 2009, in Prague, President Barack Obama proclaimed the goal of freeing the world from the unique dangers posed by nuclear weapons. The massive Czech crowd applauded, as did many others around the world. Six months later, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded Obama its Peace Prize.

Today, five years after Prague, the idea of seeking to eliminate all nuclear weapons has nearly evaporated from international politics. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine inflames memories of the Soviet invasion of Prague in 1968. Russia’s bullying leaders cling to nuclear weapons as badges of great power and bulwarks against Western and Chinese coercion. In Asia, China and Japan mobilize air and naval forces to contest disputed islands in the East China Sea, prompting the U.S. to buttress capabilities and resolve to defend Japan while warning both sides not to precipitate a crisis.

Long before Crimea and the Senkaku islands entered their consciousness, Republicans in the U.S. Senate determined to block ratification of new treaties. They refuse even to discuss limitations on ballistic-missile defenses and other forms of arms control that could motivate Russia and China to limit and perhaps reverse the modernization of their forces.

Meanwhile, France bristles at anything that might complicate its perpetual retention of nuclear weapons. Pakistan and India expand their nuclear arsenals. North Korea rattles its nuclear sabre. And non-nuclear-weapon states such as South Africa and Brazil that could have been expected to support the disarmament agenda by strengthening nonproliferation rules and their enforcement instead stand on the sidelines and grumble.

In this environment it is tempting to dismiss the goal of nuclear abolition as a fleeting dream of a new president and international do-gooders. However, turning away from fundamental questions about the future role of nuclear weapons cedes too much importance to transient political trends and neglects issues of great strategic import. The happenings of the past five years should not be allowed to foreclose serious analysis and debate looking to the future.

Defenders of nuclear weapons (and opponents of Obama) emphasize that nuclear weapons deter warfare. The president knows this, of course. In Prague he said, “As long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that defense to our allies—including the Czech Republic.”

Curbing Violence in Nigeria (II): The Boko Haram Insurgency

Africa Report N°2163 Apr 2014


Boko Haram’s four-year-old insurgency has pitted neighbour against neighbour, cost more than 4,000 lives, displaced close to half a million, destroyed hundreds of schools and government buildings and devastated an already ravaged economy in the North East, one of Nigeria’s poorest regions. It overstretches federal security services, with no end in sight, spills over to other parts of the north and risks reaching Niger and Cameroon, weak countries poorly equipped to combat a radical Islamist armed group tapping into real governance, corruption, impunity and underdevelopment grievances shared by most people in the region. Boko Haram is both a serious challenge and manifestation of more profound threats to Nigeria’s security. Unless the federal and state governments, and the region, develop and implement comprehensive plans to tackle not only insecurity but also the injustices that drive much of the troubles, Boko Haram, or groups like it, will continue to destabilise large parts of the country. Yet, the government’s response is largely military, and political will to do more than that appears entirely lacking.

Most Nigerians are poorer today than they were at independence in 1960, victims of the resource curse and rampant, entrenched corruption. Agriculture, once the economy’s mainstay, is struggling. In many parts of the country, the government is unable to provide security, good roads, water, health, reliable power and education. The situation is particularly dire in the far north. Frustration and alienation drive many to join “self-help” ethnic, religious, community or civic groups, some of which are hostile to the state.

It is in this environment that the group called Boko Haram (usually translated loosely as “Western education is forbidden”) by outsiders emerged. It is an Islamic sect that believes corrupt, false Muslims control northern Nigeria. The group and fellow travellers want to remedy this by establishing an Islamic state in the north with strict adherence to Sharia (Islamic law).

Boko Haram’s early leader, the charismatic preacher Mohammed Yusuf, tried to do so non-violently. While accounts are disputed, the narrative put forward by Boko Haram and now dominant in the region is that around 2002, Yusuf was co-opted by the then Borno state gubernatorial candidate, Ali Modu Sheriff, for the support of his large youth movement, in exchange for full implementation of Sharia and promises of senior state government positions for his followers in the event of an electoral victory. Sheriff denies any such arrangement or involvement with the sect. As the group rose to greater prominence, the state religious commissioner was accused of providing resources to Yusuf, while the government never implemented full Sharia.

The Worst Place in the World for MH370 to Go Missing

Pool photo by Rob Griffith

Hope to find MH 370 was virtually destroyed by a month of bungled searching. The only saving grace was one lonely satellite company’s brilliance. 

It’s now a month since Malaysian Flight MH370 became modern aviation’s greatest mystery. Certain things are clear and many of them are disturbing. 

First, the oversight of commercial air space in this part of Asia is chaotic. Jealously preserved divisions of power within each state made it impossible to achieve the kind of open, rapid and efficient exchange of information between the states themselves that is essential in an emergency. As s result, too much time has been spent chasing false leads, some of them dubiously motivated, and assessing data that turned out to be badly flawed. 

As long as any physical evidence remains out of reach this is not only the most demanding sea search for an airplane ever undertaken, it’s a virtually impossible forensic challenge. 

The initial failure to report radar sightings of what was probably Flight MH370 had costly consequences in a time-critical situation. Days were wasted searching the South China Sea, not the Indian Ocean. 

It took at least a week to produce anything resembling a reliable time line of the Boeing 777’s course after the last contact between it and controllers. 

It turned out that the Malaysian military had noted an unidentified airplane flying west, not north toward China, but did not report this to the civilian authorities for two days. The Thai military tracked what was almost certainly the same unidentified flight continuing out over the Indian Ocean but did not report it for ten days “because it wasn’t asked.” 

As enraging as these lapses are, they should not come as a surprise. They are not the result of momentary negligence or incompetence. They reflect a long and deeply embedded status quo in the way international aviation is handled in one of the busiest air spaces in Asia. 

None of the nations involved is technically backward. Thailand, for example, not only manages, and manages well, one of the world’s busiest international hubs, Bangkok, a key gateway between Asia, the Middle East and Europe, but has two regional airports into which thousands of tourists fly safely every day, Phuket and Chiang Mai. All these airports are in the process of upgrading their navigation aids to future international standards. 

In this case the behavior is made even more complex by the shadowy role of Western intelligence agencies. 

There are, however, throughout the region, sealed compartments of military and civilian authority—the Thai military radar, for example, covers swathes of airspace beyond the areas allotted for commercial traffic. Not only national security is involved. The interdiction of drug traffic and piracy is involved. Separate branches of the military—air force, navy, and army—have high degrees of autonomy and are not used to sharing information with politicians. 

So it’s really not so shocking that when the need arises for states to share information, some of which may be classified, in a transparent and timely manner they simply don’t have the means, experience, or inclination to do so. 

America the Gentle Giant

How the United States can shape the world without boots on the ground and bombs in the air. 

APRIL 2, 2014 

Vladimir Putin's cynical efforts to annex Crimea and intimidate the fledgling government of Ukraine make it all too clear that naked aggression in world affairs is not a thing of the past. The United States and its allies must respond firmly when such aggression occurs. But there are other perhaps less dramatic instances of resorting to force of arms. These include unresolved disputes between states -- or ethnic, tribal, and religious disputes within states -- that degenerate into armed conflict. 

In many instances these conflicts can be prevented, and there is every reason to try to do so. First, violent conflict has cascading security, political, and economic consequences in addition to offending universal values of justice and human dignity. Second, in most circumstances the use of military force alone provides no easy or attractive solutions. The United States, our allies and friends, and international institutions should therefore invest in equally effective means of preventing conflict, whether used in concert with or in lieu of force. These tools are necessary now. Trends such as the diffusion of global power, the rise of non-state actors, and the spread of potent technologies will only increase their relevance. 

A strong national defense is essential to peace. But the use of force is costly, in both lives and dollars, and it is not appropriate to every task. When our nation does use force, as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan, the gains won by our troops are often best sustained using non-military means. Few things honor the sacrifice of our troops more than protecting what they fought for, and, wherever possible, keeping them out of war in the first place. 

We urge the president, his administration, and the U.S. Congress to prioritize non-military efforts of conflict prevention, mitigation, and resolution. Done well, such efforts can avert or reduce the need to use force while advancing U.S. interests in ways that are both potent and cost effective. They can help other countries resolve conflicts through politics and the rule of law rather than through violence, which devastates lives and livelihoods, and empowers extremists and criminals. They can help non-violent citizen movements address the drivers of conflict -- such as corruption and the violation of minority rights -- in their own societies. 

The White House's Faulty Math on Gas Exports

The U.S. will soon be an energy exporter. But administration officials are overselling that potential. 
APRIL 3, 2014 

The Obama administration has a simple message for European countries fearful that Russia might use its energy might as a weapon: Don't worry, because the United States can export as much natural gas in a day as the entire continent uses every 24 hours. It's a comforting message for allies wondering whether to alienate Moscow by backing Ukraine's fragile government. Unfortunately, it's also wrong.

The confusion began with President Obama. On March 26, after a meeting with European leaders, the president said that future overseas sales of American natural gas could reduce Europe's dependence on fickle energy suppliers like Russia.

"The United States is blessed with some additional energy sources that have been developed in part because of new technologies, and we've already licensed, authorized the export of as much natural gas each day as Europe uses each day," Obama said.

Secretary of State John Kerry made a similar claim in Brussels on Wednesday after a summit with European Union officials that was specifically dedicated to energy issues.

"Our new capacities as a gas producer and the approval of seven export licenses is going to help supply gas to global markets, and we look forward to doing that starting in 2015. And we will supply more gas than all of Europe consumes today," he said.

Neither statement, as expressed, is correct. For the moment, the U.S. is a net importer of natural gas, which means America consumes more gas than it produces. Down the road, the U.S. will produce enough natural gas to begin selling significant amounts to foreign countries. That could meet some of Europe's gas demand, but not all of it.

Math is always fun, so here are the numbers in question. In 2013, the 28 countries of the European Union consumed about 44.7 billion cubic feet per day. In 2013, Europe imported about 4.6 billion cubic feet per day of liquefied natural gas aboard massive tankers, which is the way U.S. firms would send natural gas to the continent. They get the remaining 38.7 billion cubic feet per day from other sources, including local production and by pipelines.

To be sure, American overseas sales will soon start to grow somewhat significantly. The Department of Energy has approved seven natural gas terminals in recent years which can export a total of about 9.2 billion cubic feet per day. The department is considering whether to sign off on the construction of 30 other plants which would allow American firms to theoretically export nearly 27 billion cubic feet per day more to the EU's member nations. In practice, many of those terminals will never be built, and much of that gas will likely be sold to customers in Asian countries in any event.