4 June 2014

A positive and constructive visit

Nawaz Sharif refused to meet hardliners and did not mention Kashmir
Kuldip Nayar

I FOLLOWED the visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to India from his arrival to the departure. I did not find any false note either in his observations or meetings. He did not mention Kashmir. Nor did he meet the separatists who are always keen to have talks with the Pakistani leaders, not the Indians. From all angles, it was a positive and constructive visit.

That Nawaz Sharif's adviser Sartaj Aziz reignited the embers of bitter hostility by his briefing in Pakistan on Kashmir and several other counts is understandable. He had to indulge in rhetoric for domestic consumption. Lobbies of the armed forces and maulvis were assured that Nawaz Sharif vented his annoyance in private while talking to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Still I wish Sartaj Aziz had not done so because the meeting had changed the climate of opposition in India. Even the rightists in the country had conceded that a new chapter of equation had begun in the history of India and Pakistan relations. Sartaj Aziz, whatever his compulsions, did not have to be a hawk to take us all back to square one. Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh's statement may have queered the pitch, but Sartaj Aziz is not a bureaucrat and he should have kept India-Pakistan relations at a higher level.

Therefore, do not see a breakthrough in the stand that the two sides had taken from the time the two countries had parted company in August 1947. In fact, I have sensed more optimism on earlier meetings between the Prime Ministers on both sides. Nothing concrete has come out because the establishments in India and Pakistan are basically hostile to each other. No passage of time has lessened their influence or attitude.

Yet the relationship of love and hate smoulders all the time. People in the two countries yearn for friendship or at least normalcy. The meeting between Prime Ministers Modi and Sharif has once again evoked hope for better days. Once again, the foreign secretaries of the two governments are to pinpoint what keeps the countries apart. If the past is any guide, the goodwill will not fructify into normal relations. The reason why I say so is the enmity which has been fostered in the minds of people.

It was to be seen and believed the enthusiasm with which the visit of Nawaz Sharif was awaited in India. The nation should have been engaged in Narendra Modi's resounding victory or the decimation of the Congress, which has ruled India for several decades. Instead, the attention was focused on Islamabad.

For four or five days between Modi's unexpected invitation and acceptance by Sharif dominated the discussion that dominated the Indian media and drawing rooms centred on whether the Pakistan Prime Minister would come to Delhi at all. And it was all positive. People wanted him to come and literally prayed that he would. That he had to bring round the armed forces and the extremist elements in his own country was conceded. But it was argued that his arrival would be an apt step to strengthen the democratic ideas in Pakistan. Therefore, when he telephoned to say yes, a wave of relief swept through the country. Most newspapers made his acceptance as the first lead.

The audacity of incompetence

Shekhar Gupta | June 4, 2014

There were Vijayantas to the left of the sarovar, firing from just a couple of hundred yards.


The first of this three-part series concluded yesterday, saying the rise of Bhindranwale and his death with Operation Blue Star was a phase of madness. Now, an argument for why we must never forget it.

Nobody can reconstruct the 72 hours of Operation Blue Star in 3,000 words. Or even in 30,000. Books have been written about it by the finest reporters, notably the BBC’s Mark Tully (Amritsar: Mrs Gandhi’s Last Battle, co-authored with Satish Jacob). Mark was the unofficial but undisputed dean of the reporters’ corps for two generations, and please do read this book for diligence and detail. Books have been written by the generals who led the assault. I’d pick my dear friend Lieutenant General K.S. “Bulbul” Brar’s Operation Blue Star: The True Story (UBS, 1993) for the army’s side of the story, told as honestly as possible for a partisan, albeit an exceptionally honourable one. There was also a recent series of TV documentaries put together and anchored by my old comrade and friend, Kanwar Sandhu, currently executive editor of The Tribune. Check it out for its brilliance, depth and honesty. Even I contributed my bit in some detail, with a 27-page chapter, “Blo­od, Sweat and Tears”, in The Punjab Story, published by Roli in 1984. There is no real mystery about the operation, how it started and ended. But there are others that endured for decades, and some are still unresolved. Let me talk about some of those.

One, in fact, was resolved just last year, in the memoir (From Fatigues to Civvies: Memoirs of a Paratrooper, Manohar, 2013) written by Lieutenant General V.K. “Tubby” Nayar, whom I first met when he commanded the 8 Mountain Division at Zakhama in Nagaland, and who later honoured me by inviting me to speak at the release of his book. He was the deputy director general of military operations in 1984 and reveals, in his memoir, how the codename Bl­ue Star was chosen. Contrary to specul­a­t­ion over the years, it had nothing to do with the way traditional or devout Sikhs dress, or their colour preferences. Tubby sa­ys he was driving home, exhausted after a long day in the ops room, a codename yet to be found, and the signboard of a refrigeration shop caught his eye. It was selling Blue Star, a prominent fridge/ AC brand. Let’s go with it, he decided. We still don’t kn­­ow where the names of two other rela­t­ed operations — Op Woodrose to sweep the rest of the state clear of militants and ma­­­­intain order and Op Metal to specifica­lly catch or kill Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and members of his inner core team — came from.

A PROMISE FULFILLED- The US’s ideas about counter-terrorism could help India

Diplomacy: K.P. Nayar

The world has moved on, and quite remarkably so, during the week when Indian strategic thought was obsessed with the invitation of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, to his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif. Because of such obsession, new opportunities and challenges in what is potentially the most important relationship that needs mending by the Modi government have been lost on the critical public discourse about the course of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government.

As India was largely erupting in euphoria, anticipating change with the swearing in of a new government, the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, actually delivered the change that he promised when he came to power in January 2009. It took Obama five-and-a-half years to do so in one critical theatre of American life, but he did it at the same time that Sharif wound up his visit to New Delhi and returned home to Islamabad. “You are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan,” Obama told those passing out of the prestigious United States Military Academy, West Point. He was delivering an address that marked the commencement of military service for the class of 2014 which graduated out of the academy that has produced some of the best in America’s military.

Because Obama’s speech was a milestone in American history, it was appropriate that he quote Dwight Eisenhower before he became president, remarkably, when he was still a serving general in the US army. Eisenhower said at this very venue, in his commencement address to the class of 1947 at West Point: “War is mankind’s most tragic and stupid folly; to seek or advise its deliberate provocation is a black crime against all men.”

What Obama said in his commencement address may emerge as a turning point in America’s history. Although the US ended military draft as a fallout of the trauma in Vietnam, every young American with promise who graduated out of its highly rated military schools in the last 13 years lived in the shadow of being in a war zone. It is to the credit of Obama that he promised to end that. He won the election in 2008 on such a platform.

Bhindranwale reborn

June 4, 2014
Praveen Swami

The Hindu A visitor looks at the pictures of those who had died in operation Blue Star, at a museum inside the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar. The assault on the Golden Temple complex by the Army was launched in 1984 to arrest Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a Sikh leader and his militant followers who had initiated a movement for a separate Sikh state. 

Punjab is seeing the emergence of a new cult of the revanchist preacher

He has returned, as the faithful always claimed he would: not, perhaps, as his iconographers imagined — riding a white horse at the head of an army — but as a simulacrum that peers out of street-corner stalls and online stores. For a modest $15.99, Los Angeles residents can buy t-shirts bearing the unsmiling visage of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, “the most determined, charismatic and valiant great General of the 20th century.” In Ludhiana, the same t-shirts sell for Rs 200. Posters go for Rs 50, possibly less if one bargains.

It is 30 years (on June 3) since Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian Army to end Mr. Bhindranwale’s reign of fear inside the Golden Temple — setting off a tide of blood that coloured an entire decade.

For the generation that lived through those years, those events have been pushed to the margins of memory, having little bearing on politics today. The cult of Mr. Bhindranwale, though, is undergoing a bizarre revival. YouTube is awash with home-made music videos eulogising Ms. Gandhi’s assassins: one rendition, possibly comprehensible only to semiologists and adolescent males, features bodybuilders with turbans and a promise that Khalistan police officers will be equipped with BMW sports cars. In another Khalistan anthem, images of Ms. Gandhi’s assassins are followed by advertisements seeking Sikh models.

The new cult of Khalistan isn’t about politics or religion; it is enmeshed, instead, with anxieties about masculinity and agency born of a State that is mired in a profound cultural dysfunction.Remembering Bluestar

It has been two years now since the five high priests of the Sikh faith unveiled the foundation of a memorial to Mr. Bhindranwale and the terrorists who died with him. When built, the three-floor monument will be positioned on a 30 square foot plot that lies between the sanctum sanctorum, the Harimandir Sahib, and the Akal Takht, the supreme seat of the faith’s temporal authority. For generations of believers to come, the memorial will be the principal source of historical knowledge on men who placed the assault rifle at the centre of their faith.

Agriculture can’t wait

Dharmakirti Joshi | June 4, 2014

The sharp increase in the MSP for cereals has resulted in excess cultivation and unmanageable stocks, which involve huge carrying costs.


Although the RBI didn’t announce a rate cut at its second bi-monthly policy review yesterday, its tone was dovish. Whether it will cut interest rates sometime this fiscal in order to crank up the economy depends on how overall inflation, particularly food inflation, behaves.

India’s GDP growth was below 5 per cent in the eight quarters leading up to March 2014, but consumer price index (CPI) inflation has been sticky at around twice that (10 per cent). Clearly, inflation is not the byproduct of excessive demand or growth alone. To be sure, we are not in stagflation territory because the economy continues to grow. But high inflation in a slowing economy does generate stagflation-like concerns and makes the RBI’s task that much more difficult.

While GDP growth remained below 5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2013-14, retail inflation offered some respite as it declined to 8 per cent in February. And after a long time, wholesale price index (WPI) inflation too was under 5 per cent.

Taking the cue, the RBI pushed the pause button on rate hikes in April.

But, at least for now, the weakness in domestic demand persists. Industrial production data disappointed yet again, declining 0.5 per cent in March. The respite from price rise too may be transient — CPI inflation spiked again to 8.3 per cent in March and 8.6 per cent in April. This resurgence was led by inflation in vegetables, fruit, milk and milk products.
The threat of a poor monsoon due to the increasing odds of El Nino further complicates matters for the RBI. The Indian Meteorological Department now estimates there is a 60 per cent chance of the phenomenon playing out this year, thereby raising the probability of a deficient monsoon.

If the rains indeed turn out to be below normal, we will be back to square one — growth will retreat as inflation accelerates. This is the last thing we need when manufacturing is barely growing and service sector growth is decelerating. In the event, India’s growth would be around 5.2 per cent this fiscal rather than Crisil’s predicted 6 per cent, and the RBI will be forced to become hawkish.

Unreliable monsoons are a risk we have to manage and mitigate on an ongoing basis. But the bigger question is: is entrenched and elevated food inflation the new normal? That food inflation spikes even when monsoons are normal supports this thesis. Researchers at Crisil have found that the drivers of food inflation seem random: vegetables and fruit in 2012-13, oils and fats in 2011-12, condiments and spices in 2010-11, pulses in 2009-10, cereals and pulses in 2008-09, and oils and fats again in 2007-08. High, double-digit inflation has been observed in more than one food category every year.



According to the World Bank, Chinese GDP in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms will surpass the US’, becoming No. 1 in the world, late this year. The Chinese government seems uneasy with this breaking news. Why? What does this mean for its maritime disputes?

By Kai He

CHINA IS projected to be the world’s No.1 economy late this year, surpassing the United States. Yet China is fearful of this for three reasons. The first fear is the inflation of Chinese power by using the GDP index. It is not the first time for the outside world to exaggerate China’s power using its GDP. In 2010, China’s GDP overtook Japan, becoming the second largest economy in the world just behind the US. This time the World Bank’s figure will make China the world’s No.1 economy very soon.

However, Chinese leaders understand that no matter how large the GDP or GDP in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms is, China’s 1.3 billion people – the largest denominator in the world – will dilute its real power. For example, in 2012 China’s GDP per capita was No. 91 according to the World Bank, even behind that of Iraq, which was still suffering from the US war on terror. China’s GDP per capita in PPP has moved China up to No. 89, but it is still behind the Dominican Republic.

China’s two other fears

Moreover, China’s military budget is still less than one third of that of the US although China has tried to keep its military spending up with a two-digit increase in recent years. In terms of soft power – its ideational and normative influence in the world – China’s power is still trivial in comparison with the US. In his new book, China Goes Global: The Partial Power, David Shambaugh, a leading China scholar, systematically examines China’s multifaceted influences in today’s world politics. He concludes that China is still not a true global power, but a “partial power”. China will probably remain so for the foreseeable future.

The second fear is the policy implications behind the “China-as-No.1” illusion. Everyone knows that with great power comes great responsibility. Chinese leaders are worried that China will fall into a “rhetorical trap” set by the outside world, especially the US. In 2005, Robert Zoellick, then US deputy secretary of state, proposed that China might play the role of “responsible stakeholder” in shaping the international agenda. In the eyes of Chinese leaders, Zoellick’s proposal is a “rhetorical trap,” which aims to dictate and constrain China’s foreign policy behaviour.


June 2, 2014 · in Analysis

Last week at West Point, President Obama observed that “Russia’s aggression towards former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors.” He explained that the United States could strengthen its leadership in the world by extending its “effort to strengthen and enforce international order.” The president went on to note the importance of “standing with our allies on behalf of international order” and “having other nations maintain order in their own neighborhoods.” Given the growing perception abroad of U.S. weakness and indecisiveness, Russia and China’s actions lend greater urgency to a central question of our time: what is the outlook for the liberal international system? Two of today’s most important foreign-policy thinkers grapple with it in the new issue of Foreign Affairs.

In “The Return of Geopolitics,” Walter Russell Mead—a professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and editor-at-large of TheAmerican Interest—contends that Western policymakers misinterpreted the Soviet Union’s collapse to signify not only the “the ideological triumph of liberal capitalist democracy,” but also “the obsolescence of hard power.” Increasingly, he argues, “China, Iran, and Russia are all pushing back against the political settlement of the Cold War.” While there may be no “strategic alliance among them,” they are united in “their agreement that the status quo must be revised” and in their judgment that “U.S. power is the chief obstacle to achieving their revisionist goals.”

John Ikenberry—a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University—retorts in “The Illusion of Geopolitics” that China and Russia are “part-time spoilers at best” (he omits Iran from his analysis, arguing that it is, on balance, “engaged more in futile protest than actual resistance” to today’s system). Confronting “the most globally organized and deeply entrenched order the world has ever seen,” those two countries would be undertaking a “fool’s errand” if they tried to “contest [its] basic terms.” While Ikenberry does not argue that today’s system can or will endure in its current configuration on its own, he is confident that it will grow more entrenched if the United States continues to strengthen the “network of alliances, institutions, geopolitical bargains, client states, and democratic partnerships” over which it presides.

Mead and Ikenberry agree that China and Russia do not pose existential challenges to that system. Paradoxically, though, their actions may be harder to counter for that very reason. Both countries operate on the basis of a kind of Goldilocks principle for advancing national interests: apply and sustain enough pressure to score small victories—but well below the threshold that could trigger significant military, economic, and/or diplomatic retaliation—and repeat until the accumulation thereof changes tactical and, in time, strategic realities.

True, China occasionally takes dramatic steps to signal its seriousness in settling maritime disputes on its preferred terms. In May 2012, for example, following a standoff between Chinese and Filipino vessels in Scarborough Shoal, China blocked the import of some 1,500 containers of bananas from the Philippines. In November 2013, it declared an Air Defense Identification Zone that overlapped with territory over which Japan claims sovereignty. And in early May, when a Vietnamese flotilla confronted Chinese ships attempting to operate an oil rig near the disputed Paracel Islands (China calls them the Xisha Islands), it was blasted with water cannons.



By Michael Lelyveld

Slumping sales in China’s real estate market have raised concerns that property prices and the economy could soon be in for a dangerous drop.

After years of double-digit price jumps, China’s home sales have stalled, leaving developers in the lurch and pushing some realty companies to the brink.

At first glance, official figures suggest only a mild decline.

New home prices rose in 44 of 70 surveyed cities in April, compared with 56 a month before, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported. Eight cities recorded lower prices, twice as many as in March, state media said.

Average price growth slowed to 0.1 percent, dipping from 0.3 percent in March, according to the NBS.

But the pace of price hikes was far slower than the 1-percent month-on-month gain in April 2013, when 67 of the 70 cities showed gains and prices in Beijing climbed 10.3 percent from a year before.

The number of home sales this April fell 18 percent from the previous month, setting off warnings of a price plunge to come.

Initial reports for May suggest further weakness.

A survey of 100 cities by the China Real Estate Index System found that home prices declined from a month earlier for the first time in two years, Reuters reported.

“If home sales keep falling, price cuts will sure spread, and probably deepen as well,” said Dai Fang, an analyst at Zheshang Securities Co. in Shanghai, cited by Bloomberg News.

The cooling of the property sector is a victory of sorts for the government of President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, which ordered a stiff capital gains tax on home sales in March 2013 to stop speculation and make housing more affordable for first-time buyers.

The market was slow to respond as many cities either ignored the order or wrote their own rules to hamper investment in second and third homes.

Now there are concerns that loan limits and other measures could soon take effect with a vengeance, dragging real estate companies and the economy down.

“The data underscore our view that the property market poses the greatest risk of a sharper-than-expected slowdown,” said Fitch Ratings in research note, quoted by the official English-language China Daily.

In the first four months of the year, the total value of home sales fell 9.9 percent from the year-earlier period, Bloomberg reported.

Property dump

The sales slowdown has already led to isolated cases of deep discounts as heavily-indebted developers try to dispose of unsold units.

Last week, China Daily reported that some cities including Shenzhen and Dongguan have refused to register sales if the prices have been discounted by more than 15 percent.

Clearing the cobwebs

By editor
4 Jun 2014

The relationship with Pakistan will remain troubled because of two looming factors: how Islamabad chooses to work in Afghanistan and how it tackles the terrorist problem at home

The relationship with Pakistan will remain troubled because of two looming factors: how Islamabad chooses to work in Afghanistan and how it tackles the terrorist problem at home

A country’s foreign policy does not alter with regime change, determined as it is by its neighbourhood, its intrinsic strength and the larger forces at play in the wider world.

But the nature and scale of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s election triumph and its proclamation of a determined leader at the head are interesting pointers to a new, more nuanced projection of Indian foreign policy.

Narendra Modi’s decision to invite his counterparts in the neighbourhood for his swearing-in ceremony was a good beginning. It served the purpose of diminishing to an extent his hawkish image and was an opportunity to get to know the leaders, particularly from Pakistan and Sri Lanka, without raising expectations.

From the reactions to Mr Modi’s assumption of office has evoked around the world, particularly from China, Japan and the United States, it would appear that the wider world is keen to gauge the potential changes in New Delhi’s policy. China is taking the lead in registering its interest while Japan is not far behind. And the US has been reiterating from President Barack Obama down, about how keen it is to get to know the new Prime Minister, despite the less than flattering history of the denial of a US visa.

Interestingly, Mr Modi has opted for an internal security man, Ajit Doval, rather than a practitioner in the foreign policy field as his choice for national security adviser. He seems to be contemplating to compensate this by appointing a foreign policy specialist as something of a strategic czar. Obviously, a thorough assessment of India’s foreign policy parameters is the objective.

Some verities will not change. India has two problematic neighbours — Pakistan and China — it must deal with. The US, while in relative decline, remains the most important single power and is likely to remain so for the next 50 years. China has climbed the power structure dramatically in the last 30 years and aspires to a G2 relationship with the US.

Although the US and some of its European partners would want to accord Russia the status of a middling power, President Vladimir Putin has forcefully asserted his country’s ambitions and interests by his policies in relation to Crimea and Ukraine. He has annexed Crimea, essentially more Russian than Ukrainian historically and ethnically, while he has stepped back from a confrontational posture on Ukraine.

In a sense, Ukraine is unfinished business because it implied a contemptuous attitude by the US and the European Union to Russia’s basic interests in a landmass on its border with traditionally close, ethnic, linguistic, trade and religious affinities. Perhaps the West has learnt a few lessons from the Ukrainian tragedy and will show greater respect for Moscow’s basic interests in its neighbourhood.


Wednesday, 04 June 2014 | Deebashree Mohanty

In the country’s Red corridor, victims are looking to the new Prime Minister for relief. They want firm action that brings the region lasting peace

While everyone in my household was rejoicing the decisive mandate for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, my barely educated but politically-agile maid, hailing from Jharkhand, was complaining. She drew my attention to the ever-growing, widespread Maoist problem, rampant in her home State as well as in other neighbouring States. She narrated her personal experience of the atrocities committed by the Maoists on hapless villagers, mostly tribals, as well as on the jawans.

According to my maid, the Maoist problem is roughly a decade-old. It started with stray incidents of murder but now the Maoists have multiplied in numbers. They are spreading terror all around and behave like the rulers of the area. They kill frequently and senselessly, mostly to punish police informants but without ever verifying if the victim was really a mole.

Wailing families is a daily affair as Maoists claim the lives of innocent civilians and jawans. The ultras behave like dacoits, claiming forests areas and its produce as their own. Anyone daring to venture out in their area is killed and his body hung by a tree to send out a strong message to others. People live in a state of constant fear, and no one dares to come out of his house after dusk.

The worrisome part is that neither the Government at the Centre nor the State machinery has so far done anything much to curb the menace. It seems the Maoists rule the roost as they have an edge over the bona fide leaders.

The will to curb Maoists appears to be missing. The ill-equipped police and personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force complain about not their requirements being ignored, but the apathy from the establishment is frustrating. Even during the recently-held general election, the Maoist problem found only limited traction during the campaign.

According to an official estimate, about 5,000 people, out of which 50 per cent are civilians, have been killed by the Maoists in the last decade alone across the eastern Red corridor. This problem has become much bigger than just a simple retaliatory exercise by exploited tribals-turned-Maoists, as human rights activists would like to maintain. Maoism has now become the terrorists' profession, a way of life; it is driven by the lust to be powerful lords; it has become a movement somewhat similar to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Military woes: What Modi govt needs to fix

Dinesh Kumar

TWO developments on the very first day of the newly sworn in Modi government have come as a surprise if not a disappointment to the country's defence community. First, the BJP-led NDA government has not so far appointed a full-time dedicated defence minister. Second, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who has also been allotted the defence portfolio, announced on May 27, the very first day after being sworn in, that he was holding only temporary charge of the Ministry of Defence and that a full-time defence minister would be appointed in about a fortnight. This means that any meaningful work related to this vital ministry that forms part of the apex Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) will have to wait for now.

Behind the ritualistic annual Republic Day parade is the story of mismanagement and abject neglect of the country’s defence

This is surprising considering that the BJP is known for maintaining a tough line on defence and national security issues. In its 2014 Lok Sabha election manifesto, the BJP has devoted two pages (compared to five-and-a-quarter pages in its 2009 election manifesto) to defence, internal security, nuclear capability and related issues promising to correct almost everything that is wrong with India's defence and the armed forces. The listing, however, is somewhat haphazard and does not read as methodical. Whether it is because it was put together in a hurry or is ominously indicative of the functioning of the Defence Ministry in the days ahead will be known in time.

What the government could make a start with

Modi's government will need to take bold and innovative measures. Blacklisting companies has not helped; rather it has delayed if not altogether stopped procurement of some vital defence equipment, adding to the cause for delays in modernising the armed forces. Perhaps a more pragmatic policy of not objecting to agents getting commissions so long as the political executive and government employees, including bureaucrats and the armed forces have not accepted commission would be in order and the equipment selected for induction based solely on merit. Also, it needs to be kept in mind that the cheapest is not always the best while the best is often more expensive.

Equipment, gear and arms for soldiers working in counter-insurgency operations should be a priority for the government

However, at a far more fundamental level, India needs to improve its indigenous capability and diligently works towards self reliance in core areas. Why is it that the Indian Space Research Organisation has been a far better success story? Can the DRDO and key defence public sector units not replicate that model? The DRDO needs to focus on realistic goals rather than spread itself thin. Also, the government needs to devise ways to attract the best talent into the DRDO and vital defence PSUs such as HAL and take a hard look at the factors that have led to a large number of scientists resigning from service. Private participation needs to be increased. The Ministry of Defence needs more bureaucrats with a positive attitude and a better-“educated” top military brass and complete synergy between them. From them, the government must seek and demand excellence. But first India needs a defence minister with leadership qualities who will show involvement and take ownership of this vital ministry. He or she, along with Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi, must get going quickly and make things happen.

Au revoir, Afghanistan

June 4, 2014

APPRISONER SWAP: President Barack Obama walks with Jani Bergdahl and Robert Bergdahl, after he spoke about the release of their son, U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on May 31.

Leaving aside the political ramifications of the deal within the U.S., the prisoner swap blows dark clouds over the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India region

It had all the trappings of a soon-to-be-iconic photograph — a tall American Commander-in-Chief dressed in a smart black suit, his arms reassuringly around the shoulders of the mother on his left and the father on his right, all three walking away from the camera down a flowery White House pathway.

However the announcement that Barack Obama made a few minutes before that photograph was taken on May 31, flanked by the parents of U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, has since sent ripples of consternation across both a bitterly partisan Washington and a South Asia that is jittery from watching Washington’s rush for the exit in Afghanistan.

The unprecedented decision by the White House to hand over five senior Taliban commanders held in Guantanamo Bay to the Amir of Qatar in exchange for the release from captivity of Sergeant Bergdahl, is being seen by many, including Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, as one of the strongest plays by the American President to consolidate his second-term legacy.

According to the deal, the five men have been banned from leaving Qatar for at least a year and Mr. Obama said that he had received security guarantees from Qatar “that it will put in place measures to protect our national security.”Controversial move

However, with Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar saying the exchange was a “big victory,” there is real reason to fear the consequences of the release of the men described as the “Taliban Dream Team,” and comprising the outfit’s intelligence chiefs, chief of army staff, interior minister, provincial governor, and one prisoner linked to a joint Taliban-al Qaida cell.

Unsurprisingly, within days of the prisoner swap being announced, the move was condemned by Mr. Obama’s political opposition as a case of “negotiating with terrorists.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon and the ranking Republican on the Senate committee, James Inhofe, said in a joint statement that in executing this transfer, Mr. Obama had “violated laws which require him to notify Congress 30 days before any transfer of terrorists from Guantanamo Bay and to explain how the threat posed by such terrorists has been substantially mitigated.”


June 3, 2014 · in Analysis, Commentary

The past few months have seen a particularly high-profile series of murders in Pakistan. An American cardiologist volunteering at a hospital in Pakistan was shot dead because he belonged to the minority Ahmadi community. A lawyer and human rights activist was killed after he took up the case of a lecturer accused of blasphemy. A pregnant woman was beaten to death by her family outside a courthouse in Lahore for marrying the man of her choice.

The murders are only the most visible part of a much deeper assault on civil society in Pakistan. Attacks against religious minorities – Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus and Shias – are on the rise, so much so that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) urged the U.S. government in its annual report to designate Pakistan “a country of particular concern.” Ahmadis have faced discrimination for decades – the steady erosion of their rights carries uncomfortable echoes of themarginalisation of Jews in pre-war Europe. Religious persecution has been extended to Shias – the USCIRF report released in April said close to 700 had been killed over the past year. Meanwhile, accusations of blasphemy have become an increasingly popular way of settling political and personal scores. USCIRF estimated that at least 17 people are on death row and 19 more serving life sentences after being convicted of blasphemy; others are killed before their cases even go to court. Most recently, the country’s biggest media group – which is embroiled in a row with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency – found itself facing charges of blasphemy over one of its entertainment shows. Violence against women remains chronic. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated that nearly 900 women were murdered by their relatives in 2013.

Should the United States be speaking out more assertively against such crimes, or threatening to cut aid if nothing is done? Realists will argue it is hard enough to influence Pakistan without aggravating relations by lecturing it about human rights abuses. Washington needs Pakistan’s cooperation to stabilize Afghanistan, and U.S. aid is also meant to keep the country stable and limit the risk of the collapse of a nuclear-armed state. The hope is that as Pakistan’s economy recovers and its fragile democracy takes root, civil society will be able to assert itself. Moreover, non-military aid is already intended to improve the lives of ordinary Pakistani citizens. U.S. non-military aid has been channelled towards areas like education and women’s empowerment, along with training and infrastructure support to improve civilian law enforcement. Britain, which provides substantial aid to Pakistan, spends about a third of its aid money on education.

The Strategic Logic of the US-Taliban Prisoner Swap Deal

Debates over the merits of the U.S.-Taliban prisoner swap agreement are missing the point. 
June 03, 2014

Earlier today, my colleague Ankit reported on the prisoner swap deal between the Taliban and the United States. Under the terms of the agreement, the U.S. has agreed to release five senior Taliban commanders being held at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for U.S. soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the sole American prisoner of war in Afghanistan.

As Ankit and I discuss briefly on the podcast today, the deal has faced immense scrutiny in the U.S. On the Sunday morning talk shows this week, many Republican lawmakers criticized the deal on the grounds that the White House had negotiated with a terrorist group. This, critics charge, will make it more likely that terrorist groups will take U.S. soldiers hostage in the future, in order to squeeze concessions from the United States.

There are also concerns that the five Taliban prisoners who are being released will rejoin the war effort against NATO and its Afghan allies now that they’ve regained their freedom. Moreover, some members of Congress have questioned the legality of the deal since the administration released five prisoners from Guantanamo without notifying Congress in advance, as was stipulated in legislation passed in an effort to prevent the administration from closing the Cuba-based prison.

Further complicating matters for the Obama administration, many U.S. soldiers, including members of Sgt. Bergdahl’s platoon, have charged the soldier with trying to desert his post. The circumstances surrounding his disappearance five years ago in Afghanistan remain murky. However, as CNN notes, “According to firsthand accounts from soldiers in his platoon, Bergdahl, while on guard duty, shed his weapons and walked off the observation post with nothing more than a compass, a knife, water, a digital camera and a diary.”

The Obama administration has sought to defend the deal by pointing to the U.S. government’s responsibility for the safety of U.S. soldiers. Moreover, they’ve pointed to Bergdahl’s apparent declining health as a reason why they were willing to negotiate with the Taliban, as well as release Guantanamo prisoners without first notifying Congress. They have also acknowledged the charges that Bergdahl might have been a deserter at the time of his capture but have said that is an issue that will be dealt with in due time.

Why Obama Is Leaving 10,000 Troops in Afghanistan

May 27, 2014

Shamil Zhumatov—Reuters
A clean break like the U.S. made from Iraq is tempting. But it's not a risk Obama is ready to take—yet

By choosing to leave almost 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after the formal end of American combat operations later this year, President Barack Obama made a choice between two imperatives.

One was to make a clean break with a war that has lasted more than 12 years, costing hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of American lives, with inconclusive results. Obama was happy to take that path in Iraq, from which he pulled out the last U.S. soldier in December 2011. (There’s some dispute as to whether Obama preferred to leave a small residual force but was denied by the Iraqi government; suffice to say Obama wasn’t hell-bent on staying.)

The other imperative was to ensure that Afghanistan doesn’t become like a horror movie killer who springs up the moment the you think he’s dead and turn your back. Afghanistan’s security forces probably aren’t yet ready to defend their government against the Taliban, a weakened but hardly defeated enemy. A residual American force can aid the Afghans with everything from intelligence to logistics to medical assistance. (The Afghans have paltry Medevac capabilities, for instance—hardly a morale booster for their troops.) Obama may rightfully doubt that maintaining tens of thousands of U.S. forces can remake Afghanistan into a tidy success story. But neither does he want to preside over a slide back into a 1990s-style civil war.

That civil war, of course, produced a Taliban government which harbored al-Qaeda and made the Sept, 11, 2001 terror attacks possible—the reason we invaded Afghanistan in the first place. Obama never promised to make Afghanistan a functioning democracy, or even to defeat the Taliban. His repeated vow has been to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda” in the region and prevent the terror group’s ability to threaten the U.S. and its allies. A residual U.S. force in Afghanistan will be crucial to achieving that goal.

Even with most al-Qaeda figures killed or driven from the country, a senior U.S. official told TIME in December, “it’s likely there would be some residual al-Qaeda or or related affiliates that persist beyond [the end of 2014]. And we would retain the requirement to disrupt any threats. The preferred way for us to do that is in a partnership with the Afghans.”

Dust-up at the Shangri-La

Asian security
Jun 1st 2014
by Banyan | SINGAPORE

TEMPERS frayed rather alarmingly at this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual forum for Asia's defence establishments, held in one of the eponymous hotels, in Singapore. First Japan and then America criticised China. Then China reciprocated in furious terms.

The 13th dialogue, from May 30th to June 1st, could hardly have been better timed to deal with the region’s security anxieties. Over the past six months the level of concern about China's aggressive pursuit of disputed territorial claims has been increasing steadily, at least outside China.

In November 2013 China unilaterally declared an Air-Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, which covered the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands, which are administered by Japan. Then in May, in rapid succession, China moved a massive oil-rig to drill in waters in the South China Sea seen by Vietnam as part of its Exclusive Economic Zone; startedconstruction work at a shoal in the South China Sea claimed by the Philippines; and then, the Japanese complain, flew fighter jets dangerously close to surveillance planes Japan had near the Senkakus.

China probably feared the worst when it learned that this year the speech at the dialogue’s opening dinner would be delivered Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe (pictured). It tends to shun him as a troublemaker intent on reviving Japan’s militarist past.

Perhaps for that reason, the Chinese delegation was not headed by the defence minister. Instead China sent some of the top brass from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and Fu Ying, a senior diplomat now attached to China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress.

They were all duly incensed by Mr Abe’s speech. It was indeed a (largely implicit) onslaught against China and its recent behaviour. In response, Mr Abe promised, there will be an enhanced role for Japanese security in the region. He offered to provide patrol boats to the Philippines and Vietnam.

Then the next morning, Chuck Hagel, America’s secretary of defence, used his speech to accuse China of “destabilising, unilateral actions” to assert its claims in the South China Sea. He also endorsed Mr Abe’s speech and stressed the importance of America’s strategic “pivot” or “rebalance” towards Asia.

Part of Mr Hagel’s intention may have been to counter the disappointment felt among some of America’s Asian allies about an important foreign-policy speech that Barack Obama had made three days earlier. Mr Obama had made no reference to the rebalance, and mentioned China only in passing. In suggesting that terrorism remained the biggest security threat to America, he raised questions about whether American strategy had “pivoted” at all.

But China may have noticed that it also said that America “must always lead on the world stage” and would “use military force, unilaterally if necessary...when the security of our allies is in danger.” Those allies in Asia did not feel reassured, but China may have felt threatened. Mr Hagel’s more explicit commitment at Shangri-La, to a leading role in Asia, clearly irritated China.


This essay by Nick Prime is part of the Personal Theories of Power series, a jointBridge-CIMSEC project which asked a group of national security professionals to provide their theory of power and its application. We hope this launches a long and insightful debate that may one day shape policy.

“The primary aim of the strategist in the conduct of war is some selected degree of control of the enemy for the strategist’s own purpose; this is achieved by control of the patterns of war; and this control of the pattern of war is had by manipulation of the center of gravity of war to the advantage of the strategist and the disadvantage of the opponent.”[i]

This theory of control, whereby the aim of war is some measure of control over the enemy, and the achievement of this degree of control is the purpose of strategy, was most cogently expressed by Admiral J.C. Wylie. Its origins however date back to the early 1950s. When Wylie, along with Admiral Henry Eccles and German-American historian Dr. Herbert Rosinski, developed a general theory of strategy around this central concept of ‘control’. While each of the three men’s conceptions of this theory reflected variances in nuance and expression. All three sought to understand the interplay between politics, power, and control. The focus herein will be on the value of this theory as a means to understand strategy as something which exists and is practiced both in the physical and cognitive domains.

Understanding the Terms

A half century ago Wylie remarked that the study of strategy lacked a clear and consistent vocabulary, a statement that is as true today as it was then.[ii] In addition to the many definitions of strategy itself, there are as yet no established definitions for the terms and concepts which serve as the foundational elements for our understanding of strategy. It is important then to provide, in brief, a working conception of these terms so that their interplay can be shown in each domain.

Perhaps the most simple and practical definition of politics is that provided by Harold Lasswell who defined it as “the way people decide who gets what, when, where, how, and why”.[iii] Here we see the first unstated but unmistakable emphasis on choice as critical to understanding the concept. Another unstated but clear emphasis is on the role of authority, a crucial element in the practice of politics. As Lawrence Freedman has noted there is a critical interplay between power and authority, with a great deal of debate being had as to whether the two concepts are exclusive or extensions of each other.[iv] Freedman’s discussion of power in a strategic sense (what he dubs ‘strategic power’) also emphasizes a duality between physical and cognitive. Though he makes clear distinctions between the physical expression as force (or the capability to use force) and the cognitive expression, what he sees as its perception in the mind of the ‘target’ or ‘beholder’. While his focus on strategic power is largely on ‘coercive capacity’ the important term there is capacity.

Wylie saw politics as “the allocation, use, transfer of power” a conception which echoes both the interplay between power and authority, while also reflecting an emphasis on capacity.[v] Power then could perhaps best be thought of as energy, capable of existing in various forms such as watts of electrical charge or calories of food. Politics then is the means by which the power of a group, institution, or nation state is marshalled, allotted, and/or directed. Strategy then should be viewed as the mechanism by which the capacity (power) created through politics, is applied towards the aim of a given policy. The assertion of authority or more appropriately, control. Herein lies the subtle but distinct difference between Freedman’s conception of strategy and that of Wylie, Eccles and Rosinski. Freedman defines strategy as “the art of creating power to obtain maximum political objectives using available military means.”

Rosinski, whose understanding of strategy resembles that previously quoted by Wylie, defined strategy as the comprehensive direction of (military) power, applied through tactics, for the purpose of control.[vi] The difference between Freedman’s theory and the control theory is subtle but significant. By placing the emphasis on strategy’s purpose as being (some measure of) control, they are focusing on the application of power, in contrast to Freedman’s focus on thecreation of power.

China’s Other Religious Problem: Christianity

Signs of a crackdown on Christianity in China may increase the strength of more extremist, quasi-Christian groups. 
June 03, 2014

The recent upswing in terrorist attacks in China, with militant Islamist groups like the Turkestan Islamic Party claiming responsibility, much of the conversation about religion in China is focused on Islam. Scholars debate how restrictions on the practice of Islam in Xinjiang may be related to an increase in fundamentalism (and terrorism). Meanwhile, others compare Uyghurs to China’s other largely Islamic minority group, the Hui, who are mostly integrated into Chinese society.

However, at the same time that China has declared its own “war on terror” with a year-long anti-terror crackdown, Beijing also seems poised to declare war on another religion: Christianity. Earlier this year, local authorities demolished the massive Sanjiang church building in Zhejiang province, citing violations of building regulations. Church members, though, said the effort was part of a coordinated crackdown on Christianity.

A New York Times article on the demolished church saw the event as the end of an informal truce between church and state in Zhejiang. Largely tolerated by the local authorities in years past, churches in Zhejiang have recently been ordered to remove crosses and other signs of the Christian faith. Others, like Sanjiang, have been demolished. The Times article, citing a provincial policy statement, says that it’s “clear the demolitions are part of a strategy to reduce Christianity’s public profile.” The policy paper explicitly urges officials to target churches using a pretext of “illegal construction,” exactly what happened to Sanjiang. “This is crucial to investigate and prosecute from the perspective of laws and regulations to avoid inviting heavy criticism,” the document said, according to NYT.

In Islam, it’s assumed that religious fundamentalists can prey upon feelings of religious oppression to convert others to their cause. Now a fringe group based on Christianity may be gaining popularity due to restrictions on the Christian faith in China. The Almighty God or Eastern Lightning group, defined by Chinese authorities as a cult, is estimated to have around one million members, despite (or perhaps because of) its alleged use of violent tactics. A 2013 profile of the group in Vice magazine highlighted the group’s tendency to convert members by infiltrating illegal house churches — places where Chinese Christians gather to avoid state meddling in their faith. These gatherings have become fertile ground for the extremist Almighty God group to recruit new members.