27 May 2014

National security challenges that face the new Modi team

Published: May 26, 2014 
National security challenges that face the new Modi team
Praveen Swami

In this handout photograph released by the Presidential Palace (Rashtrapati Bhavan), Narendra Modi (2nd R) greets members of his new Cabinet as he arrives to be sworn in as India's Prime Minister in New Delhi on May 26, 2014.

Modi's decision to give Arun Jaitley Defence in addition to Finance suggests that the armed forces might get an injection of badly-needed cash.

Looking at the calendar of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s high-powered national security team, it is tempting to think there are good times ahead for them: Brasilia, in July, for the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa BRICS summit; the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September; Nay Pyi Taw in October, for a summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations; a meeting of the G-20 group of major economies in Brisbane.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj—the troika who will implement Mr. Modi’s strategic vision — will be seeing lots of the world, but it is unlikely to be fun.

East Asian states like Japan and Vietnam, alarmed by the rise of China and an apparent decline in United States' power, want to lock India into closer military partnership. Islamist insurgencies and Saudi Arabia-Iran tensions have made West Asia, the source of the fuel India’s economy lives on, dangerously fragile. Nuclear-armed Pakistan is buffeted by civil-military tensions, and, in some areas, collapsing central authority.

Ms. Swaraj will have to negotiate this maze of regional crisis — knowing all of them could directly hurt India’s overarching strategic goal, high economic growth.

Teeth for war machine

The unprecedented decision to give Mr. Jaitley charge of Defence in addition to Finance suggests that Mr. Modi believes these challenges can’t be dealt with unless India has military teeth. Mr. Jaitley will face immediate calls from defence services for injections of cash. The 2014-2015 interim budget allocated the armed forces Rs. 2.24 billion, but just Rs. 895.88 of that is available for capital expenditure—leaving the forces’ acquisition programme floundering.

The deficits are stark. The air force has only 34 squadrons against the 42 it is sanctioned to operate—and 50 it needs to fight a two-front war, the mandate given to the forces by former Defence Minister AK Anthony. The navy’s accident-hit submarine fleet is shrinking. For its part, the Army has critical deficits everything from anti-tank missiles and howitzers to assault rifles.

Mr. Jaitley thus has to rapidly decide on critical acquisitions left hanging by the last government: an $1.5 billion deal for attack helicopters, $1 billion for heavy-lift helicopters, $885 million for desperately-needed 155-millimetre howitzers.

The biggest pending acquisition is for 126 French Rafale fighters, worth $15 billion—a deal the Air Force says can no longer be delayed, but the government deferred because of financial issues.

Internal security

For his part, Mr. Singh will have to make sure external crisis don’t generate internal problems—like heightened terrorism. He will find a Ministry that has made only limited progress in delivering on promises made after 26/11. The Intelligence Bureau still has just two-thirds of the 26,867 the government had sanctioned for it prior to 26/11, with gaping deficits in critical technology-driven fields.

Police reform, another key element of the post-26/11 reforms, hasn’t gone particularly well, either. In 2011, there were 1,281,317 police on the rolls of India’s police services, up only very marginally from 1,132,302 in 2007—well short of the 250:100,000 police-public ratio that is a rough-and-ready global norm.

Mr. Singh’s predecessor, P Chidambaram, faced dogged opposition from Chief Ministers to his efforts to build a new, national architecture for security. He will now have to find ways to cajole States to cooperate with the Centre.

Jawaharlal Nehru: Hero of his age, outcast of ours

Ramachandra Guha
New Delhi, May 24, 2014

In 1976, when India was under a State of Emergency, the American journalist AM Rosenthal visited New Delhi. Rosenthal had once been the New York Times’s correspondent here, and greatly admired Jawaharlal Nehru. For he had seen, at first hand, how India’s first prime minister had struggled heroically to establish a democratic ethos in a country marked by pervasive social inequalities and by polarisation on religious lines.

Now, on this latest visit, Rosenthal was appalled by the climate of fear and suspicion engendered by the administration of Indira Gandhi. He concluded that Nehru’s daughter had damaged rather than deepened her father’s political legacy. As an Indian friend of Rosenthal’s laconically put it, were Nehru alive, he would be in jail, from where he would be writing letters to the prime minister on the importance of democracy and democratic institutions.

This week marks the 50th death anniversary of a man much admired in his lifetime yet increasingly vilified since his death. The decline in Nehru’s reputation has two principal causes: (1) the rise to power of parties based on ideologies opposed to that of the Congress; (2) the controversial tenures as prime minister of Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi and of his grandson Rajiv Gandhi. If Indira Gandhi departed from her father in her suspicion of debate and dialogue, Rajiv Gandhi abandoned Nehruvian secularism in successively capitulating to Muslim fanatics (by overturning the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Shah Bano case) and Hindu extremists (by opening the locks to the shrine at Ayodhya).

Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in May 1991. Later in the same year, I published an essay calling attention to the fact that while Mahatma Gandhi’s standing among the intelligentsia had rapidly risen in recent years, Nehru’s had precipitously fallen. (The newspaper gave it the title: ‘Nehru Is Out, Gandhi Is In’). While Nehru commanded colossal respect in his lifetime, I wrote that ‘today few other than the career chamchas are willing to defend him, ... and fewer still to understand him’. Yet I had ‘no doubt that in time Nehru’s reputation will slowly climb upwards, without ever reaching the high point of the 1950s’.

When I wrote this in 1991, it seemed that the dynasty, such as it was, had come to an end. I expected that the death of Rajiv Gandhi would lead to a more rounded assessment of India’s first prime minister. Some of Nehru’s ideas had run their course; thus, for example, both political devolution and market-friendly economics were now widely recognised as more suitable to India’s needs than the earlier emphasis on central planning.


India must hone its economic diplomacy, writes Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty 

The din of the electoral campaign has abated and the culmination is a runaway victory for the National Democratic Alliance, led by Narendra Modi. Undeniably, global attention is riveted on India as a new government led by Modi takes office. This has been a phenomenal election in many ways, fought largely on domestic issues. Foreign policy issues have been marginal in it, except for some comments by Modi during the campaign and media interviews relating to Bangladesh, China, Pakistan and the United States of America.

Any government that has promised to embed development and growth at the core of its governance agenda will have its task cut out. With more than 45 per cent of India’s gross domestic product coming from merchandise trade and services, correcting the decay in manufacturing capacity, creating foreign direct investment/investment climate, building economic infrastructure, providing employment for the young aspirational millions and a host of other challenges face the country, because of which the new government must revamp the way the government conducts economic diplomacy. This does not involve just the ministry of external affairs but all economic ministries that tend to work in silos and give higher priority to protecting turf, rather than coming together in a shared approach to get the best deal for the country.

Globalization has transformed the way in which countries interact and forge relationships, fundamentally changing the nature of diplomacy. This transformation encompasses new stakeholders, including transnational corporations, non-governmental organizations and other non-State actors, which are playing an increasingly important role in the expanding domain of diplomacy. In the context of a liberalized and open economy framework, there are many overlaps between economic interdependence, requirements of policy coordination and a wide spectrum of private economic interests, each of which have a bearing on the economic relationship between nation states.

The paradigm of “economic diplomacy” is, however, not entirely new. Its origin, formally recorded in Indian literature, can be traced back to Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Indeed, throughout history, instances of statecraft being deployed through economic tools have been visible. The US-led Western economic sanctions currently imposed on Russia or sanctions against Iran are examples of economic diplomacy, albeit in a negative way to achieve certain objectives that go against the interest of the countries at the receiving end .

India: Resolving the Bangladesh Immigration Issue

The long-running issue of illegal immigration has hindered development and exacerbated poverty in both countries.

By Joyeeta Bhattacharjee
May 27, 2014 

During campaigning in India’s recent elections, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime minister-designate Narendra Modi said that illegal immigrants from Bangladesh would have to leave the country if his party is voted into power. Since the BJP did in fact win the election, and with a record majority, how will Modi actually address the issue of illegal immigration? Many previous governments, including those of the BJP, have tried to deal with the issue, with very little success.

Amongst the initiatives adopted by the Indian government for recognizing illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, the most publicized is the Illegal Migrant Determination Tribunal (IMDT), which was established by Parliament in 1983. It was designed especially for Assam State, where the issue of illegal immigration has long been a cause of social and ethnic tension. Unfortunately, the IMDT did not perform as expected. From its inception in 1983 through to the 2000s, the tribunal identified a mere 10,000 illegal immigrants, and deported only 1,400. Considering its poor performance, the Supreme Court of India struck down the law in 2005 and required that the Foreigners Act of 1946 be enforced throughout India to deport illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Yet deportation under the Foreigners Act is also problematic. In 2003, the then Home Minister L. K. Advani ordered all states to deport illegal immigrants. A few weeks later 265 people were sent to the border, but authorities in Bangladesh declined to accept them. In fact India’s Border Security Forces (BSF), and its counterpart the Bangladesh Border Guards (then called the Bangladesh Rifles), came to the point of violence over the issue.

Commonality of language, culture and religion between the two countries emerged as a major challenge in identifying immigrants, making deportation extremely difficult. The immigrants speak the same language as many Indians, and often have familial connections that make it easy to assimilate with the local population. Bangladesh’s consistent denial that its citizens are illegally crossing the border also complicates matters. Even when Indian authorities have identified illegal immigrants, deporting them becomes almost impossible given the reluctance of Bangladeshi authorities to cooperate.

An old story of new beginnings

Husain Haqqani | May 27, 2014 

It is important to understand the reason for the historic failure of efforts aimed at fostering friendly neighbourly ties between India and Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif’s participation in Narendra Modi’s inauguration may be the first time a Pakistani pri­me minister has attended such celebrations in India, but it is just one of many occasions that have been billed as an opportunity for laying the foundations of a new relationship between India and Pakistan.

In 1950, Prime Minister Liaq­uat Ali Khan travelled to Delhi and si­gned the Liaquat-Nehru pact, wh­i­ch was expected to resolve the issu­es created by the violent Partition of 1947 that gave birth to Pakistan. But the optimism about the agreement died within a year with the ass­assination of its Pakistani signatory. Pakistan went through several years of political instability while the army gained influence in policymaking.

Then, once General (later Field Marshal) Ayub Khan assumed the reins of power directly in a coup d’etat in 1958, it was argued that a Pakistani military leader was better positioned to normalise relations with India than the weak politicians who preceded him. Pakistan’s participation in US-led military alliances was also meant to give the new country sufficient self-confidence in dealing with a larger, more powerful and ostensibly hostile neighbour.

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Ayub Khan said that only two is­sues caused friction between Ind­ia and Pakistan. One related to the di­vision of the Indus waters, which was resolved by the US-backed and World Bank-funded Indus Waters Tr­eaty. The other, according to Ay­ub, was Jammu and Kashmir, and the field marshal started the 1965 war hoping to find its final solution.

Another war, in 1971 over Bangladesh, resulted in a massive military defeat for Pakistan and the loss of half its territory. Ayub’s successor as military dictator, Yahya Khan, was forced to relinquish power to civilian Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. It was presumed that now a more coherent Pakistani state and a triumphant India would find lasting peace.

At Shimla, in 1973, Indira Gandhi purported to show magnanimity. The Ceasefire Line in Kashmir became the Line of Control and a carefully worded agreement committed both countries to the peaceful resolution of disputes. But the Simla Accord virtually fell by the wayside after the military coup of 1977 that led to Bhutto’s judicial murder two years later.

General Zia-ul-Haq and Morarji Desai spoke of peace amid Western media commentary that the two ostensibly pro-US leaders could accomplish what left-leaning Indian governments under the Congress could not. In the end, Zia lasted in power for almost 11 years, but good relations between Pakistan and India did not.

India Is Trying to Get Serious About Carrier Air Power New Delhi struggling to field two modern flattops

Since China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning began sea trials in summer 2011, naval and air power observers have been closely watching the development of Beijing’s once-secretive carrier program.

Meanwhile, India—an established flattop operator—has also been making important progress deploying air power at sea.

The first official deployment of India’s latest carrier, INS Vikramaditya, passed almost unnoticed by foreign media in early May. Adm. Robin Dhowan, who took over as boss of the Indian navy in April, told reporters that the carrier was “operationally deployed,” together with the Russian-supplied fighters that comprise the sharp end of the vessel’s capabilities.

The former Russian navy carrier arrived in India earlier this year after a protracted refurbishment costing more than $2 billion. Vikramaditya represents just the first phase of a large-scale carrier program that New Delhi hopes will allow it to keep up with China.

Both navies now plan to build at least two indigenous carriers to eventually replace their former Russian equipment.

India’s largest and most costly warship to date, Vikramaditya is now sailing under a naval ensign with MiG-29K fighters flown by Indian pilots. The carrier is home-ported at Kadamba, close to Karwar in southwest India. 

Problematic history

The 45,000 ton-displacement Vikramaditya has had a troubled path to service. Built in Soviet times and originally named Baku, the carrier was meant to operate a mix of anti-submarine helicopters and short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing Yak-38 fighters.

Baku entered service in 1988. With the demise of the Soviet Union, the Kremlin renamed the vessel Admiral Gorshkov … and withdrew her from service in the mid-1990s to save money.

As long ago as December 1998, officials from Moscow and New Delhi signed a memorandum of understanding to transfer the ship to India. The plan was for Russia to refurbish the vessel and convert her for use by non-STOVL carrier fighters, using the short-takeoff-but-arrested-recovery method.

STOBAR meant that the carrier would be able to operate far more capable jet fighters. It also demanded the addition of restrainers for powering up aircraft on deck, a ski-jump at the bow for takeoff and arrester gear for landing. All these modifications should have taken two years.

Pakistani government feels weight of army's heavy hand

By Mehreen Zahra-Malik
ISLAMABAD Fri May 23, 2014

1 of 4. Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif waves to the crowd as he leaves after attending a flag raising ceremony to mark the country's 67th Independence Day in Islamabad in this August 14, 2013 file photo. 

(Reuters) - At Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's palatial offices in Islamabad this week, the army chief sat down to deliver the head of government a message he did not want to hear: The time for talks with the troublesome Pakistani Taliban was over.

Sharif came to power a year ago promising to find a peaceful settlement with the Islamist militant group, but as round after round of talks failed, the powerful armed forces favored a military solution.

Their patience finally ran out and, late on Tuesday afternoon, during a tense meeting, the army effectively declared it would override a crucial plank of the government's strategy and take matters into its own hands.

"The army chief and other military officers in the room were clear on the military's policy: the last man, the last bullet," a government insider with first-hand knowledge of the meeting told Reuters.

* China is not a threat, but a challenge

25 May 2014 

China's president Xi Jinping with David Cameron in December. Photograph: Xinhua/REUTERS

Recent actions and statements by the Communist party leadership in Beijing have again raised the question: should we fear China? China's dramatic rise as a global economic powerhouse has been extensively charted, if not universally accepted. But on a range of other fronts, China now appears in the process of challenging, and rejecting, not only American and western geopolitical leadership but also the legal, institutional and security framework of the post-war international order upon which that leadership was founded.

A recent paper published by Chen Jimin of the Communist party's central committee school, entitled The Crisis of Confidence in US Hegemony, reflected a widely held assumption evident in much Chinese thinking: that the US is in irreversible retreat, and growing weaker as China grows stronger. The issue, as seen in some Beijing quarters, is not how to manage China's rise but how to manage, and profit from, America's decline. The outcome of this seismic and hazardous transition may ultimately determine who runs the 21st century.

China's apparently growing opposition, or at least its deepening disregard, for the old world order came into sharper focus at the UN last week. Beijing joined Russia in vetoing a security council draft resolution calling for the crisis in Syria, including allegations of war crimes committed by both sides, to be referred to the International Criminal Court. In blocking the draft, China and Russia went against the 13 other members of the security council and the express wishes of 65 member states. Disturbing, yes. Hard to justify, certainly. Yet this sort of contrarian behaviour is increasingly the norm. China has frequently obstructed, or failed to support, other proposed UN actions on Syria and international crises ranging from Sudan and North Korea to Libya and Zimbabwe. Beijing caused real dismay in western diplomatic circles in March when it refused to join in condemning Russia's annexation of Crimea.

China's policy is not merely reflexive. It is proactively engaged in shaping alternative international power structures and realities that better serve its interests. President Xi Jinping last week proposed a new Asian security organisation that would include Russia, Turkey and Iran, but exclude the US. What he failed to mention were the negative implications for collective security of China's recent oil-drilling incursion into Vietnam's offshore exclusive economic zone, in contravention of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea; its seizure of Philippines' territory in the South China sea and refusal to partake in a UN-run arbitration procedure; its restated claims to Indonesian and Malaysian waters; its ongoing confrontation with Japan, following its unilateral declaration of an air exclusion zone over contested islands in the East China sea.

Beijing, Kunming, Urumqi and Guangzhou: The Changing Landscape of Anti-Chinese Jihadists

Publication: China Brief Volume: 14 Issue: 10
May 23, 2014 06:29 PM Age: 1 day

Abdullah Mansour in a video from the Turkistan Islamic Party

During the roughly six months since China suffered its first-ever car bombing in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on October 31, 2013, China has witnessed a series of other terrorist attacks on its territory. Such attacks included a mass stabbing at a train station in Kunming that killed 29 people, a double suicide bombing at a train station in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region’s capital of Urumqi and a mass stabbing at a train station in Guangzhou that injured six people. The car bombings in Urumqi on May 22 made it all the more clear that the recent attacks in China are part of coordinated militant campaign against China, which is likely organized from outside China and that employs the tactics of jihadists in neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

One connection between these recent incidents is that they were carried out by Uighurs, members of a Muslim ethnic group from Xinjiang. Xi Jinping and his counter-terrorism strategists are faced with the task of identifying the foreign and domestic forces behind these attacks—and around 15 other mass-stabbings and car-rammings in Xinjiang since 2011—and developing a program to counter such violence. The internal network of such militant cells is likely already in place and possibly expanding, which will provide more opportunities for the Uighur-led Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) and its closely allied Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) to expand their jihad across the border from Afghanistan and Pakistan into China. 

This article analyzes the political nature of the recent attacks in China, with an emphasis on operational connections between the attackers and international jihadist groups like the TIP and IMU. 

International Connections 

The TIP’s Spokesman Role 

The TIP has approximately 300–500 militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also a network in Turkey and possibly Central Asia (Author’s field research in northwest Pakistan, 2012). With such numbers, it is limited in its capacity to launch an insurgency in China, which has a population of well over one billion people. The only attacks in China for which the TIP showed evidence of its responsibility were the Ramadan-eve car rammings in Kashgar in July 2011, which killed 12 pedestrians. The TIP has also claimed several cart-bombings near Xinjiang’s border with Pakistan in 2012, which were likely carried out by its cells in Xinjiang (See Terrorism Monitor, Volume 10, Issue 8). 

China’s Consistently Inconsistent South China Sea Policy

The thesis of China’s foreign policy consistency falls apart in the South China Sea.
By Ryan Santicola
May 24, 2014

Adrien Morin contends that China’s foreign policy is consistently non-assertive toward Western power, basing this on its policy throughout the Syrian crises. While Mr. Morin’s thesis on consistency may find support in China’s position on non-interventionism in Syria, it falls apart in his attempted extrapolation to the South China Sea.

Despite any perception within China that its policy in the South China Sea is not “foreign policy,” it is – not because the territory and water in dispute are decidedly international, but because the disputes at issue involve multiple sovereign state actors and must be navigated through diplomacy. China’s own practice of acceding to multilateral and bilateral agreements pertaining to the South China Sea confirms this fact – why would China conclude international agreements regarding an area to which it genuinely believed it had perfect title?

In fact, the common refrain from China on the best course of action to resolve territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea has been a foreign policy tool, namely bilateralism. This is China’s explanation for its refusal to participate in arbitration with the Philippines before the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Similarly, it is the stated basis for China’s continued reluctance to resolve a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea with ASEAN.

So, China has a consistent foreign policy of bilateralism in the South China Sea, right? Wrong. When it comes to the South China Sea, and where Mr. Morin goes astray, China’s foreign policy in practice diverges greatly from its stated policy. In practice, Chinese foreign policy has been anything but consistent and has included aspects of multilateralism, bilateralism, and (most recently) unilateralism, achieving an almost incomprehensible level of unpredictability.

In the multilateral context, China has demonstrated that it will accede to both binding and non-binding commitments with which it has no intention of complying. In 1996, China signed onto the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), yet continues to assert maritime claims that are wholly incongruent with that regime. In the non-binding realm, China is a party to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). Yet, through its continued harassment of ships in international waters, escalatory actions at the Scarborough Reef in 2012, and engagement in land reclamation projects in the Spratly Islands in 2014, it has flagrantly disregarded its political commitment to avoid conduct that would, according to the DOC, according to the DOC, complicate or escalate disputes and have implications for peace and stability.

The Not-So-Mighty Russia-China Gas Deal

Why shifting from celebratory toasts to moving gas out of the ground could prove challenging.
May 23, 2014 

This week’s 30-year $400 billion Russia-China natural gas deal has justifiably attracted considerable attention for both its scale and its symbolism. Indeed, it is an important agreement that could have profound consequences. Nevertheless, there may also be less to the immediate arrangement than meets the eye.

On the surface, the agreement appears to be a major accomplishment for President Vladimir Putin and for Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled natural-gas monopoly, even if the company made price and other concessions to secure the agreement with China National Petroleum Corporation, China’s largest energy producer. Mr. Putin accurately described the deal as "the biggest contract in the history of the gas sector of the former USSR" and, as this thinking goes, artfully deflected Western efforts to isolate Russia politically or economically over the annexation of Crimea, implied that a new Moscow-Beijing axis could produce a global political realignment, and secured an important new role for Gazprom in Asia’s vast energy markets.

Some appropriately question just how much Moscow had to give away—Russia needed this deal, and international observers expected it, so failure could have left the Kremlin looking somewhat deflated. The fact that the Russian president himself acknowledged that the Chinese had been “difficult, hard negotiators” and that the final pricing appears to be below what Gazprom originally sought adds weight to this. Others speculate whether it is really in Russia’s national interest to be too close to China or express skepticism that Moscow and Beijing can ever get along due to mutual suspicion and competing aims. But these are long-term questions and may not be answerable until after Russia, China, Europe, Asia, the United States and others have already experienced the consequences.

China’s cyberespionage presents a 21st-century challenge

Opinion Writer 

By Fareed Zakaria, Published: May 23 E-mail the writer 

Vladimir Putin might be a 19th-century statesman, using old-fashioned muscle to get his way, but it has become clear that Chinese President Xi Jinping goes one step further, comfortably embracing both 19th- and 21st-century tactics.

Start with the 19th-century aspect: the huge Sino-Russian natural gas deal signed this week that is perfectly understandable in terms of realpolitik. Beijing has long sought secure energy supplies, and it places that vital interest above any desire to punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea or to strengthen global norms against aggression. In fact, the Chinese shrewdly recognized that the Russians, facing sanctions, were anxious to diversify away from their dependence on European customers. So Beijing got a good deal. 

While the gas agreement has received all the attention, it’s also worth studying Xi’s speech in Shanghai, given the same day the deal was struck. The meeting was a gathering of an obscure Asian regional group, one that includes Turkey, Iran and Russia but not the United States. His message was that Asians should take care of their own security. He made a veiled threat to outsiders who try to meddle in the continent’s affairs. “Someone who tries to blow out another’s oil lamp will set his beard on fire,” Xi said. He presented the Chinese view of the region, which he calls Asia — not the preferred U.S. term, the Asia-Pacific. This implies that Washington, as an outside power, should not play a major role in the continent’s affairs. Xi also warned Asian countries not to “beef up a military alliance targeting a third party,” clearly a reference to countries such as the Philippines that are expanding their military cooperation with the United States. 

That’s power politics. But this week we also saw a new world of great-power intrigue. The Justice Department filed formal charges against five officials in the Chinese military and detailed the economic espionage that they have allegedly conducted against U.S. companies for eight years. The action is unprecedented, especially since these officials are never going to be arrested — and will probably never leave China anyway. 

Why did the United States do this? In remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday, former defense secretary Robert Gates speculated that the purpose was threefold — to signal to U.S. companies that they should be on the watch for cybertheft, to signal to the Chinese that Washington was getting increasingly frustrated with this problem and to signal to the American people that their government was taking this issue seriously. 

China: The Long-Term Prospects Are Good

May 22, 2014: In the northwest (Xinjiang) Uighur terrorists are increasingly aggressive in attacking the growing Chinese presence among them. In northwestern China, especially Xinjiang province, the local Uighurs are increasing angry over growing pressure from Han Chinese soldiers and intrusive Han government officials. Because of that many Uighurs continue to support anti-Han activity and this makes it possible for Islamic terrorists to survive and operate. Most Uighurs are found in Xinjiang province. There the nine million Uighurs are now less than half the population and most of the rest are Han Chinese. Chinese officials have been publicly urging soldiers and police to be more aggressive against uncooperative Uighurs. The government accuses Uighur activists of endangering state security and tries to keep the unrest out of the news. This is part of an ongoing effort to suppress Uighur unhappiness in the face of the growing number of Han Chinese moving to traditionally Uighur areas and taking over the economy and most of the good jobs. The same thing is happening in Tibet, where the government is using the same tools to keep everyone under control. 

The U.S. is trying a new tactic in its battle against Chinese hacking; indicting five senior Chinese Army officers (Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu, and Gu Chunhui) known to be running a specific army organization (Unit 61398) outside Shanghai. Unit 61398 has been tracked and identified as the source of thousands of hacker attacks on American corporations. These attacks resulted in the theft of billions of dollars’ worth of trade secrets and software. China has consistently denied any knowledge or participation in these attacks. The U.S. Department of Defense has long sought permission to go on the attack against Chinese hacking but involving the military struck many as dangerous against a potential foe as large and powerful as China. Lawsuits and sanctions, on the other hand, are a civil matter. Much less risk of military escalation. The Chinese are scrambling to cope with this unexpected form of counterattack and the sanctions and bad publicity that are likely to follow. 

May 21, 2014: Russia and China agreed to build a natural gas pipeline from Russia to China so Russia can export natural gas. The agreement obliged China to buy a minimum amount of Russian natural gas (worth $400 billion) over a 30 year period. This deal had been in the works for a long time and it was believed that the growing production of shale (“fracked”) natural gas worldwide was making this deal unattractive for China. Russia had long dismissed shale gas and fracking as more American fads that would soon fade. Now Russia has to cope with lost markets because of shale gas (driving gas prices down). Since oil and gas are Russia’s major exports, this is a serious matter. With less foreign currency available from energy sales, there is less money to import new technology and consumer goods as well as rebuild the military. Older Russians remember how successful American efforts to lower the price of oil in the 1980s helped bankrupt and destroy the Soviet Union. To many Russians this is happening again. Even ally China suddenly became less likely to be a customer for Russian natural gas because the proposed deal to build a $22 billion natural gas pipeline to China depended on the price of natural gas staying high enough to justify the pipeline cost. With more countries (including Europe and China) fracking a lot, the price of natural gas will stay low and the China pipeline could be a big money loser. Russia has apparently sweetened the deal sufficiently (at Russian expense) to interest the Chinese again. Meanwhile, without any fanfare or much publicity China began, for the first time, producing natural gas from shale using fracking. China has a lot of these shale natural gas deposits and this could eventually produce all the natural gas China needs. The complete details of the Russia-China gas export deal were not made public and it is likely that China has a way to get out of the deal if world prices of natural gas plunge (as they already have in the U.S.) because of fracked natural gas. 

One of the Last Things South Vietnam Did Was Fight China Skirmish occurred near the site of current tensions

In January 1974, South Vietnamese forces clashed with the People’s Liberation Army Navy in the Paracel Island chain. The site of this relatively obscure battle is just north of where Vietnamese and Chinese ships are squaring off right now.

The two countries had established their competing claims to the islands—which the Vietnamese refer to as Hoang Sa and the Chinese call Xisha—well before they came to blows. The South Vietnamese navy regularly chased foreign fisherman away in the 1960s under the umbrella of American military might.

But in 1973, the U.S. started cutting off support for the Vietnamese Republic. American negotiators cut deals with the North in Paris and Congress then cut aid to the South.

Beijing quickly quickly realized the situation was changing in their favor. Communist forces already controlled the northern half of the archipelago.

The People’s Liberation Army started seizing the other half without firing a shot—and without anyone even noticing. On Jan. 16, South Vietnamese officers and their American adviser stumbled on Chinese soldiers and ships already setting up shop on Drummond Island.

A platoon of South Vietnamese troops stationed on another island were completely unaware of the intrusion. When Saigon demanded that they leave, the Chinese asked them to do the same.

Despite their shrinking resources, South Vietnamese authorities could not let this challenge go unanswered. So the next day, 30 Lien Doan Ngoui Nhia commandos—South Vietnamese SEALs—went ashore on another island and tore down a flag the Chinese had put up.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy responded by sending their own reinforcements. The stage was set for an altercation by Jan. 18. 

Putting Ukraine in Its Place

Foreign Policy June 2014
From the current debates you’d never know what matters more: Russia’s land grab, Iran’s nuclear program, or China’s territorial claims. How America stopped thinking strategically. 

May 21 2014
Matt Dorfman 

Let’s briefly review the American foreign-policy debates of the past year. Last August, President Obama declared that he would bomb Syria for defying his call to not use chemical weapons. Then, in a sharp about-face, he decided instead to work with Russia to dismantle the weapons, and was denounced as weak by hawkish critics. Obama’s supporters said he had done as well as he could have under the circumstances. Two months later, America and its allies struck an interim nuclear deal with Iran. Hawks called it appeasement. Obama’s supporters said it was as good as one could expect under the circumstances. Within hours of the deal, China claimed the right to monitor and possibly take military action against aircraft crossing a disputed area of the East China Sea. Hawks denounced Obama’s response as weak. The president’s supporters said it was as strong as possible under the circumstances. Then, in February, Russia began menacing Ukraine. Hawks called Obama’s response weak. His supporters said the president was doing all he reasonably could.

Each debate resembles the others, but occurs in splendid isolation. Today’s foreign-policy disputes rarely consider the way America’s response to one crisis might affect another. Adopt a tough stance on China’s air-defense zone, for instance, and Beijing is less likely to join the West in condemning Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Severely punish Russia for that aggression, and Moscow is less likely to help America enforce sanctions against Iran. Take an ultra-hard line on Iran’s nuclear program, and Tehran is less likely to help broker an end to Syria’s civil war that the U.S. can live with. Instead of discussing each threat in isolation, America’s politicians and pundits should be debating which ones matter most. They should be prioritizing.

To understand how Americans stopped doing that, you need to go back to the middle of the 20th century. Over the course of the 1940s, as America lurched from isolationism to world war, foreign-policy strategists such as George Kennan and Walter Lippmann roughly outlined America’s core interests around the world. First, the United States must continue to prevent an enemy power from establishing a beachhead in the Americas, a principle set forth in the venerable Monroe Doctrine. Second, no enemy power should be allowed to dominate Europe, thus threatening what Lippmann called the “Atlantic highway” connecting the United States to Britain and France. Third, no enemy power should shut the United States out of East Asia; that’s what had precipitated war with Japan. Fourth, no adversary should block America’s access to Middle Eastern oil. But beyond these areas, U.S. interests were limited. “I am more and more convinced,” Lippmann wrote in 1943, “that it is just as important to define the limit beyond which we will not intervene as it is to convince our people that we cannot find security in an isolationist party.”

If Vietnam-China Showdown Turns Hot, Here’s How It Could Go Down Conflict between China and Vietnam is between a heavyweight and an underdog

One of the oldest rivalries on the planet has flared up again, and it’s all because of where China placed an oil rig in the South China Sea.

The location of an oil rig might not seem like enough to start a war. But the two countries are in an aggressive standoff that—given the politics of the region and the shared history between the two countries—has the potential to turn violent.

But to understand what could happen next, it’s important to look at the history of conflict between China and Vietnam, and the military forces both sides have at their disposal.

Suffice to say, the latter is outmatched. But Hanoi is rapidly building up its military forces. Chinese and Vietnamese clashes are also not likely to end if one side backs down tomorrow. Here’s why. 

Staring down the barrel

First of all, the latest round of clashes began when HD-981, an oil rig owned by China National Offshore Oil Corporation, arrived at its location about 180 miles south of the Chinese island of Hainan on May 1.

Hanoi initially assumed the rig was simply passing through Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which is allowable under rules governing the zone.

But to Vietnam’s surprise, the rig stopped.

The Vietnamese coast guard set out to intercept the rig and demand it leave Vietnamese territorial waters, but the Chinese coast guard pushed right back. Some of the pushing is literal—both sides claim that each others’ coast guards have rammed their ships, causing damage. The Chinese coast guard has also sprayed Vietnamese ships with water cannons.

More than 100 vessels from both sides are reportedly circling the oil rig. That’s roughly 35 Vietnamese ships versus more than 90 Chinese vessels. At least one fighter jet, a JH-7 “Flounder”—likely from the People’s Liberation Army Navy—overflew the area.

The confrontation at sea triggered nationalist protests in Vietnam, which led to acts of arson against Chinese property. At least 21 people have died in the rioting, including Chinese nationals, and more than 100 wounded.

More than 600 Chinese citizens crossed the border from Vietnam back into China. Beijing has also sent ships and planes to evacuate Chinese citizens, including those wounded in the protests.

That the crisis hasn’t escalated further is encouraging. Previous incidents of this kind have led to bloodshed. 

Millennia of bad blood

China has dominated Vietnam four times over the last 2,000 years, the earliest in the first century BC. During those periods, Vietnam was effectively a vassal state of China. Vietnam paid heavy taxes to China, and suffered political, cultural and economic subordination.

Alleged Connection between Boko Haram and Nigeria’s Fulani Herdsmen Could Spark a Nigerian Civil War

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 10
May 16, 2014

A Fulani herdsman with his cattle

In recent weeks, Nigerian security forces have claimed that some groups of semi-nomadic Fulani herdsmen engaged in bitter and bloody conflicts with farmers in several Nigerian states are actually composed of members of Boko Haram. A statement from Nigerian Director of Defense Information Major General Chris Olukolade claimed the potentially dangerous identification came during the interrogation of Fulani herdsmen arrested after a series of killings and arson attacks in Taraba State (Vanguard [Lagos], April 23; Leadership [Abuja], April 24; Nigerian Tribune, April 24). Reports of Boko Haram members (who are mostly members of the Kanuri ethno-cultural group) disguising themselves as Fulani herdsmen while carrying out attacks in rural Nigeria are common. Though many of these reports may be attempts to deflect responsibility from Fulani herders for attacks on sedentary farming communities throughout north and central Nigeria, even the perception that the Fulani herdsmen have joined forces with Boko Haram could propel Nigeria into a new and devastating civil war. 

Conflict between Fulani Pastoralists and Nigerian Agriculturalists 

With origins in the Senegambia region, the Fulani now stretch across some 20 states in West Africa and the Sahel belt, ranging from Guinea-Conakry to Sudan. Though the Fulani herders once existed in a symbiotic relationship with sedentary agriculturalists in this region (involving the fertilization of fields by cattle who fed on the vegetative debris left over after crops had been taken in and the exchange of meat and milk for grain and other agricultural products), this relationship has been disturbed in recent years by environmental changes that have driven the herders further south, massive growth in the size of Fulani herds, the growth of practices such as agro-pastoralism, the expansion of farmland into traditional corridors used by the herders and the general collapse of customary conflict-resolution methods. 

Many Fulani now tend to reach for automatic weapons to resolve disputes with agricultural communities. This has in turn led to the development of “self-defense” forces in the agricultural communities and the growth of cattle-rustling. Vigilante groups are often more trusted than the Nigerian security forces, which are often suspected of collusion with the herders and/or Boko Haram. Farmers routinely accuse the Fulani herders of allowing their animals to feed on still-growing crops and contamination of community watering-places. The rape of non-Fulani women by herders is also identified as a growing source of conflict and prevents women from carrying out traditional and necessary roles in gathering food and water. The herders in turn accuse the farmers of denying them access to grazing areas when alternatives cannot be found. 

The Curse of CAR: Warlords, Blood Diamonds, and Dead Elephants

The Curse of CAR: Warlords, Blood Diamonds, and Dead Elephants 

To end the hideous civil war in the Central African Republic, sanctions against leaders may help, but we also have to stop the trade in gems and ivory that’s funding the warlords. The rule of lawlessness in the Central African Republic, fueled with money from blood diamonds and poached ivory, has hardened religious identities, divided Muslim and Christian communities with murderous enmity, and allowed warlords to prevail in an atmosphere of impunity.

The state in CAR, which has never been strong, is now all but nonexistent. Make no mistake, even though the world is paying little attention, the crisis in the country demands a broad response to halt violence, establish order, and help hundreds of thousands of people at extreme risk.
The U.N. Security Council and the White House recently imposed sanctions on five key players in the conflict that is currently swallowing the country They target former presidents Francois Bozizé and Michel Djotodia, as well as strongmen from the anti-Balaka militia and Séléka rebels.

This is all well and good. Financial strangleholds are a step in the right direction because they address the political and economic dimensions of CAR’s crisis. But broadening the response to what is required and doing so competently means understanding the conflict’s broader dynamics and its distinct traits. Although the Séléka forces are largely Muslim, and the anti-Balaka largely Christian, the structural roots of the crisis and the forces that drive it are more complicated and have little to do with religion.

Those who are paying attention to CAR generally do so out of concern for the country’s violence. Hundreds of thousands of people have been driven from their homes, with many of them living in an airport-turned-wasteland beneath the wings of derelict jets.

What began as skirmishes between anti-Balaka militias and Séléka forces have expanded as fighters on all sides cast ever-widening nets around anyone guilty by association. Political manipulation of religious identity in CAR is nothing new, but it thrives in institutionally weak environments.

omalia Is at Peace—Somalia Is at War Embattled country’s politics are stabilizing, but terror and insurgent group Al Shabab is dangerously transforming

Somalia is the archetypal failed state. A nation that has fractured so completely that for 20 years no central authority was able to control more than a few square kilometers of the capital.

For many outsiders, the word “Somalia” evoked images of Black Hawk Down, pirates and Islamist rebels stoning civilians found guilty of adultery. An attack on the Somali parliament that killed 18 people on May 24 only reinforced the stereotype of a country gone to Hell.

But there are reasons to hope for Somalia. A robust intervention by the African Union, manned mostly by Ugandan troops, improved security and helped protect the fledgling government starting in 2007.

A complex succession of interim governments produced a new constitution and a new president in 2012. Now Somalia stands at a crossroads. And while the future holds considerable promise, there are grave threats, as well.

Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. U.N./Stuart Price photo

Great expectations

“Look at what Somalia is now” compared to a few years ago, says Andrews Atta-Asamoah, a senior researcher at the South African Institute for Security Studies. “It has come a long way.”

Somali and A.U. troops have pushed the Al Shabab Islamic militia out of the capital Mogadishu and many other strongholds. The Somali army and their allies today control larger parts of the country than at any point since the state collapsed into clan warfare in 1991.

But the real progress has been in the political realm, Andrews tells War is Boring. Especially notable was the inauguration of a new president and a new constitution in 2012.

The process was by no means democratic—president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected by a parliament whose members had been appointed by clan elders, rather than by the general population. But it was the most inclusive political process the country had seen in a long time.

According to Atta-Asamoah, Mohamud also represented a “clean break with the past” and therefore brought to his office an unprecedented level of credibility.

In contrast to the interim governments that preceded him, Mohamud has no links to any of the country’s warlords or militias. A highly respected academic, he seems to stand above the fray of clan politics.

The United States of Gas Why the Shale Revolution Could Have Happened Only in America

Made in America: a fracking site in Tioga, North Dakota, November 2013. 

Less than a decade ago, the future of American energy looked bleak. Domestic production of both oil and gas was dwindling, and big U.S. energy companies, believing their fortunes lay offshore, had long since turned away from the mainland. But then something remarkable occurred: a surge of innovation allowed companies to extract vast quantities of natural gas trapped in once-inaccessible deposits of shale. The resulting abundance drove down U.S. gas prices to about one-third of the global average.

Natural gas has been a godsend for the United States. Already, gas has spurred a manufacturing renaissance, with investors spending and planning hundreds of billions of dollars on new facilities such as chemical, steel, and aluminum plants. The shale boom has created hundreds of thousands of new high-paying, middle-class jobs, and now, more than one million Americans work in the oil and gas industry -- an increase of roughly 40 percent between 2007 and 2012. Moreover, because natural gas currently supplies about 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States (a figure that is rapidly growing), the boom is saving U.S. consumers hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Combined with the other benefits, those savings have given the United States a long-term economic advantage over its competitors and helped the country recover from the Great Recession.

As much as other countries may envy this catalyst for domestic growth, they will not be able to replicate it, because only the United States possesses the unique ingredients necessary to fully develop shale resources. A legal system that enshrines the private ownership of land and the resources below it, along with open capital markets and a reasonable regulatory system, has led to the growth of thousands of independent oil and gas companies, all of which are in intense competition with one another. As a result, nearly four million oil and gas wells have been drilled in the United States, versus 1.5 million in the rest of the world. The bustle of drilling activity in the United States has also led to increases in innovation within the industry on an order of magnitude that other countries can only dream of.

Although other places, such as China and Europe, have substantial shale resources, they don’t have the entrepreneur-friendly system needed to develop those resources quickly and productively. So long as politicians don’t get in the way, then, the United States will profit handsomely from the shale revolution for decades to come.