7 July 2014

Why the FM must digress

Vikram S Mehta | July 7, 2014 

The FM knows that his speech on July 10 will be closely heard and rigorously interpreted.

By now, the budget proposals will have been finalised. The finance minister may make some last minute changes, but these will not be substantive. The FM knows that his speech on July 10 will be closely heard and rigorously interpreted. He knows that as the first major economic statement by the government, investors will be looking for an affirmation of “Modinomics” — the combination of policies that on the one hand will eschew fiscal populism and on the other push the country back on to the trajectory of growth, jobs and entrepreneurship.

The focus of the budget speech will, of course, be on the arithmetic of the government’s finances. But the FM should digress. He should add a few paragraphs to lay out the markers of the government’s economic roadmap. There are four reasons for suggesting such a digression.

One, in the run-up to the budget, the government has emitted mixed signals. On the one hand, the prime minister himself has said that the public should expect tough financial decisions. His minister of state for finance has said that the government has inherited a near-empty coffer. Together, these statements would suggest that the budget will nix fiscal largesse. It will scale back subsidies, cut wasteful expenditure and offer no new entitlements a la MGNREGA and food security. On the other hand, the government has rolled back rail fare hikes and postponed the hike in gas prices. The presumption is that these were done because of the forthcoming state elections in Maharashtra and Delhi. The net result is confusion. Will the government hold fast to economic logic, as most people had come to expect, or will it repeat the pattern of past governments of talking about good economics but in fact deferring to populist politics? The expectations of the public from this government are high and the disappointment could, therefore, be correspondingly severe. The FM would do well to explain how he will resolve the tension between these two uneasy bedfellows.

In this context, it is worth pointing to the stranglehold of triple-digit oil prices. The march of the jihadi group ISIS across Iraq has caught the world by surprise. To date, this march has not rattled the oil market. The price of oil has hardly moved. This is because supplies have not been disrupted. ISIS is in control of north Iraq, whereas 90 per cent of Iraq’s oil reserves are in the south, and not one shipment of exports from the port of Basra has been affected. ISIS has, however, reminded everyone of the verity that the petroleum market is volatile and unstable. The Middle East sits on a powder keg. The FM is aware of this fundamental. He knows that notwithstanding the shale revolution in the US and the unlocking of new hydrocarbon frontiers in Africa, South America and Australasia, India will face triple-digit oil prices for some time to come. And that with 80 per cent import dependence, the budgetary burden of such high prices cannot be borne by the government or its public sector entities alone. It cannot afford to challenge the remorseless logic of the market any longer. A second reason for digression would be to explain to the public the consequences of continuing to subsidise energy. It would be to explain the trade-off between subsidies and development and to convey that the public will have to share some of the burden.

More rice from less water

Published: July 7, 2014

Rita Sharma

The HinduAlthough SRI is no longer a voice in the wilderness, pristine science and research establishments still continue to hold out. Picture shows a SRI field at Manakkal village, Lalgudi in Tamil Nadu. Photo: R. Ashok

With water becoming an important cost, and with climate change and soil degradation, the System of Rice Intensification offers disadvantaged farming households better opportunities

A truant monsoon is in the offing, with El Niño weather patterns expected to bring about drier conditions. India has the world’s largest area devoted to rice, a very water-intensive crop. This is a good time for giving impetus to “more crop per drop” practices, now that the rice-growing kharif season is upon us.

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) has demonstrated in several States the ability to save water while raising yields in a cost-effective manner. About 60 per cent of the country’s rice area is irrigated, accounting for 75 per cent of production, but also by guzzling disproportionately large volumes of water. A subnormal monsoon accentuates the problem of water scarcity, keeping in view that India supports 16 per cent of the global population with just four per cent of the world’s freshwater resources.

The SRI is in step with the goal of enhanced food production keeping water availability in mind. With enhanced industrial and domestic demands, the demand for water is increasing and the agriculture sector is expected to adapt to a water discipline without letting up on the demand for increased agricultural produce. For small and marginal farmers, SRI can be a game changer because of reduced input requirement. The SRI method involves only reorganising the way in which available resources are managed. It was in Madagascar, some 30 years ago, that the SRI technique was developed by a Jesuit priest, Henri de Laulanie. In India, it was first tried out in Tamil Nadu in 2000-01, following which several States have demonstrated higher rice production using less water. SRI has shown an ability to raise rice yields to about eight tonnes per hectare (the current national average is 2.1 tons) without requiring new varieties, and with significantly reduced fertilizers and agrochemicals, while using only about half the water in business-as-usual irrigated rice. With the use of best practices, SRI yields of about 15-20 tonnes per hectare have been achieved.‘Climate-smart’

As pressures mount to ensure that every drop of water counts, SRI is seen today as “climate-smart agriculture.” Benefits of SRI include lower costs, improvement in soil health, and the capacity to withstand biotic (pest and disease) and abiotic (climatic) pressures. From being an obscure rice cultivation method of Madagascar, SRI has now grown into a global trend defying the scepticism of the scientific establishment and the resistance of conventional agronomists and rice breeders. Much of the impetus for SRI has come from innovative farmers, civil society, a few universities and academics, and some government professionals.

Intelligence Fears Iraq Conflict Tremors in India

By Yatish yadav
Published: 06th Jul 2014

Source Link

NEW DELHI: Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist offensive in northern Iraq, about 2,049 miles away from Delhi, has sent alarm bells ringing among Indian intelligence and security agencies here.
According to sources, a meeting of the intelligence top brass was convened in Delhi last week after inputs warned of a possibility of Shia-Sunni polarisation and potential clashes during Ramadan.

“A series of underground meeting of Shia and Sunni groups was held in Lucknow in the last week of June. There are reliable inputs that SIMI, a terror outfit drawn mostly from a particular sect may try to take advantage of the situation. It is getting dangerous,” a source said.

On June 19, Shia and Sunni groups clashed in Old Lucknow’s Shahadatganj area following a war of words between the two sects over ISIL activities in Iraq. Intelligence agencies keeping a watch over the developments had informed that “sympathy has been voiced for Shias in Iraq, triggering intensive counter propaganda by Sunni groups extending support to terrorists claiming that ISIL was not a terrorist outfit but a group of freedom fighters.”

Intelligence alert had further added that a “group of youngsters also announced support for ISIL commander and terrorist Abu Bakar Al-Baghadadi, which was a dangerous sign of self- indoctrination.”

Although clerics from both the sects have appealed to people to remain calm, the youth are said to be distributing several minute-long video clips through the Whatsapp social networking application in mobile phones.

“ISIL capability is questionable but the online propaganda has the potential to trigger sectarian violence in certain sensitive pockets. There is no mechanism to monitor Whatsapp communication. Although, one suspicious URL which hosted hundreds of jihadi videos, including ISIL execution, etc., for download was blocked,” said the source.

Indian agencies have also warned of Al-Qaeda al-Hind (AQAH) penetration and its alleged tie-up with SIMI and Indian Mujahideen (IM) to carry out terror activities in India. An offshoot of Al-Qaeda, AQAH is said to be involved in recruiting terror cells in IM’s fertile ground in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to carry out jihad in Syria and Iraq.

“It is getting dangerous. We are keeping a watch on what Indian groups are doing, but we need to have more intelligence inputs from Syria and Iraq to connect the dots,” the source said.

He added that the R&AW needs to reactivate its assets in the Gulf countries to monitor the situation as the flow of information from the region has been surprisingly very disappointing.

A Delhi-based Shia group Anjuman-e-Haideri has also added to the woes of intelligence agencies here. It has called for volunteers to go fight in Iraq against ISIL to protect the Shia population in the war-torn country.

To further its propaganda, the little-known group has also floated a tender inviting Indian airlines to carry 25,000 volunteers to Iraq.

Intelligence Bureau officials monitoring activities of such groups said they are adding fuel to fire through such activities which may have grave consequences for peace in the subcontinent.

The many shades of anti-terror fight

Return to frontpage
Published: July 7, 2014
Ayesha Siddiqa

APPakistan army launched ground operation in North Waziristan tribal region, beginning a new phase in its major offensive against Taliban militants. File photo

Pakistan’s second-phase of anti-terror operations in North Waziristan is part of what many believe to be a fundamental pattern of playing the good versus bad Taliban game

The Pakistan Army announced launching of the second phase of its operation in North Waziristan on June 30 which means putting boats on ground. This development is meant as proof of the military’s intent to fight the menace of terrorism and Talibanisation in the country, especially in North Waziristan. Some among the fledgling, urban, upper middle class liberals have heaved a sigh of relief at this development, as this group had always supported tough military action against the Taliban. But the operation has still not managed to dispel the fears of those who believe the operation is more of a hogwash, mainly meant to attract approximately $300-million — this was made conditional by the American Congress on the Army launching an attack in North Waziristan. Some suspect that this is a temporary move to avenge the deaths of soldiers in the area.

For years the Army has showed reluctance to launch an operation in North Waziristan, a territory known as a favourite rest and recreation spot for the notorious Haqqani network which the Americans in particular find problematic. The Army’s main concern all along was to save the Haqqani network for a rainy day after post-U.S./NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Pakistan Army’s former chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani had said Pakistan did not want to control Afghan territory but would like to see a friendly regime in Kabul to minimise threats to the country’s security. Since the Haqqani network was viewed as that essential security, GHQ, Rawalpindi even struggled to get the group accepted as part of the Afghan endgame plan. However, this proposition did not seem acceptable to many stakeholders.

Reluctance to launch operation

But saving the network was probably one of the reasons that Gen. Kayani was reluctant to launch an operation. On June 30, the former DG, Inter-services Public Relations (ISPR) , the official PR agency of the military, Maj.Gen. (retd.) Athar Abbas claimed in a television interview to the BBC that the former Army chief was unable to implement a decision taken in 2010 to launch an operation in North Waziristan in 2011. He said it was the General’s own weakness. Notwithstanding the fact that Maj. Gen. Abbas was reputed to be part of the pro-Musharraf lobby in the GHQ and has his own axe to grind with Gen. Kayani who did not promote the General to three-star, the claim certainly tends to posit the new Army chief and his team as wanting to make a fresh start. In fact, the Army’s current DG ISPR, Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa, told the media that the military would fight all kinds of terrorists including the Haqqani network.

The military seems lost in transition

In view of the military establishment’s history of unconstitutional interventions and linkages with religion-based militant groups, the key to the possible dual transition is a Pakistan, which is neither monopolised nor controlled by the Pakistani military establishment
Faisal Sidiqui

Can constitutional legitimacy flow from the barrel of a gun … If reliance on coercive force in gaining power is legitimised or condoned, there can be no rational basis for decrying the assault on the writ of the state by any band of marauders, robbers, adventurers and zealots of varying extremes in the political spectrum.”

— Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja

Pakistan's army chief General Raheel Sharif at the change of command ceremony at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi. Sharif, a career infantry officer, is considered a moderate army chief. However, the Pakistan army, it appears, is changing to remain the same. Reuters

JOHN Mortimer’s fictional character, Rumpole (of the Bailey), always introduces his wife not by her name but as “she who must be obeyed”. If Rumpole was a citizen of Pakistan, he would certainly adapt the same description to portray the Pakistani military establishment, ie “they who must be obeyed” or maybe, “they who must be feared”.

These notions of “obedience” and “fear” attached to the military establishment may be critical to the functioning of any modern army but in view of the political role of the Pakistani military establishment, they are obstacles to the possible dual transition taking place in Pakistan.

The military is adapting to changes, but only in order to remain the same.

The first transition concerns a modern army operating under, and in accordance with, a modern constitutional state; the second pertains to a post-Zia Pakistan with the state neither using nor protecting nor promoting nor tolerating religion-based militant groups. The first will ensure that Pakistan is a normal, modern constitutional state and the second that it is becoming a part of the world community.

In view of the military establishment’s history of unconstitutional interventions and linkages with religion-based militant groups, the key to these transitions is a Pakistan, which is neither monopolised nor controlled by the Pakistani military establishment. We can examine five key aspects of this transition.

Day of the Hydra

By Yatish Yadav
Published: 06th July 2014


An explosion on the streets of a Iraqi town

Under the stoic gaze of Saddam Hussein’s once-fabled Water Palace near Tikrit, Iraq, the soldiers lay huddled in the camaraderie of death as they had fought together in life, most of them young, their bodies twisted in the irreversible rictus of murder. They were dressed in the uniform of the Iraqi Army. Satellite images showed the 190-odd bodies lying in shallow trenches, in two large clusters laid on top of the other. Beside them, the ancient Tigris River flowed, which had witnessed another bloody siege of Baghdad in 1258, then by the Mongols, when it was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. The soldiers rotting in the mass graves discovered last week were executed by Islamist forces led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), whose siege of Baghdad is leaving in its wake a trail of blood, crucifixions and civilian unrest as its fighters slaughter their way to carve a global Muslim Caliphate.

The past is on our doorstep, and it is claiming its dark heritage. ISIL has announced the return of the Caliphate; a system of Islamic rule that ended a century ago. The militants have declared its chief “Caliph” and “leader for Muslims everywhere.” The ISIL, which aims to unseat Al-Qaeda as the premier jihadi organisation, has called on all Islamist fighters to join its ranks in the struggle to create a global Caliphate, which would stretch into Gujarat.

But the Al-Qaeda remains the world’s premier terror organisation. Amar Bhushan, former R&AW Special Secretary who watched the emergence of Taliban and Al-Qaeda, cautions that India has to prepare itself as Al-Qaeda operatives are opening new fronts to keep the movement alive.

“You cannot erase a terror outfit. It will come in different forms and shades. Since focus was on Al-Qaeda, the coalition of terror groups joined hands with ISIL and they are more violent than the original Qaeda. In India, the agencies need to monitor groups like SIMI and Indian Mujahideen which have same agenda and get support from across the border to destabilise peace,” Bhushan adds.

The Terror Franchise Game

Even as the Indian government is engaged in frenetic discussions to evacuate Indians in Iraq, reports of Indian jihadis fighting with ISIL forces reveal how widespread the Islamist movement has become. “A dangerous cocktail is building up. These terror outfits are planning to take control of weapons of mass destruction to re-establish the global Caliphate. We have to recognise that these are the birds of same feather—call it ISIL, Al-Qaeda or LeT. India is on their radar and we need to take it little more seriously,” former police chief and internal security expert Prakash Singh says.

The Islamist terror footprint does not span just Afghanistan and Pakistan. The seeds of blood America sowed in Afghanistan in the late 20th century in its war against Communism has sprouted all over the Islamic world. It has spread through Africa, Syria and is now inundating Iraq. This radical change in theopolitics notes two changes.


Gwynne Dyer 

“Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day,” said Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, announcing the rebirth of the caliphate in the broad territory between Aleppo in northern Syria and Diyala province in eastern Iraq. It hasn’t actually grown much more in the past couple of weeks, but it certainly intends to go on expanding.

The radical Sunni Muslim organization that conquered almost half of Iraq in a whirlwind week at the beginning of June has changed its name. Before, it was ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (the old Ottoman province that used to include Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel). But now it wishes to be known simply as the “Islamic State” — for there can only be one such State, and it should include everywhere that Muslims have ever ruled. ISIS propagandists have even produced a map showing the ultimate borders that their Islamic State lays claim to. Spain and Portugal will be part of it, because they were ruled by Muslim conquerors during much of the Middle Ages. Iran, too.

All of India except the southern tip should be under the rule of the caliph, because Muslim invaders also ruled there as minorities for many centuries — and, of course, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary will be part of the Islamic State, for the Ottomans conquered all the Balkans up to there. Not to mention half of Africa, and Indonesia, and southwestern Siberia.

So much for the fantasy. What’s the reality? A group of jihadis have seized a big chunk of eastern Syria and western Iraq, erased the border between them, and declared an Islamic State. As little as ten thousand strong only a month ago, they have been rapidly growing in numbers as ISIS’s success attracts new recruits — but they are obviously never going to reconquer India, Spain or Siberia.

Feeling lucky

To the west and east, ISIS is already at war with regimes that are either very tough (Bashar al-Assad’s war-hardened dictatorship in western and central Syria) or very Shia (the south-eastern slice of Iraq, densely populated and with a large Shia majority). The Islamic State’s central position between its two enemies gives it a strategic advantage, but not a decisive one. To the south are desert frontiers with more promising territory. Jordan’s population is about two-thirds Palestinian, and even among the Bedouin tribes that are the mainstay of King Abdullah’s rule there was some enthusiasm for ISIS’s victory in Iraq. If Jordan fell, the Islamic State would reach right up to Israel’s borders, with incalculable consequences. But even if ISIS gets very lucky, it is unlikely to get farther than that. Egypt blocks its expansion to the west, although the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis extremists who are active in the Sinai peninsula undoubtedly have some ties with it. Even its direct rivals in the Refound-The-Caliphate business — the original al-Qaida, al-Shabab in north-east Africa, Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, and their lesser brethren — are unlikely to accept the ISIS leader as caliph.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who now styles himself Caliph Ibrahim, has clearly been preparing himself for this moment: he even chose the name of the first caliph, Abu Bakr, as his nom de guerre. His spokesman does not hide his soaring ambition: “We hereby clarify to the Muslims that with this declaration of Khilafah (caliphate), it is incumbent upon all Muslims to pledge allegiance to the Khalifah Ibrahim and support him.” They are not going to do that, and the sheer radicalism and intolerance of ISIS’s members make it unlikely that their project will survive unaltered for more than a year or so even in the territory that now makes up the “Islamic State”. Nevertheless, it is extraordinary that the 7th-century caliphate has reappeared even fleetingly in the modern world. Bush and Blair have a lot to answer for.

India's Unused Nuclear Leverage

The news that India had ratified the 1997 Additional Protocol permitting more intensive and intrusive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle and research including nuclear installations and facilities excluded by the Indian government from the safeguards regime came as a shock. Especially as India did not condition its consent, as did the US in 1998, to the IAEA sticking to restrictive procedures for “appropriately managed access”. IAEA is hence free to inspect what it wants when it wants in order to get a “comprehensive picture” of India’s nuclear activity. Whatever happened to the dissatisfaction expressed in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s election manifesto with the nuclear situation generally?

This development coming so soon after Narendra Modi assumed command suggests one of two things: Contrary to his party’s manifesto the prime minister had mulled the problem of how to advance India’s nuclear interests, and arrived at a definite view ere he assumed office that placating the US by buying its Westinghouse AP 1000-enriched uranium-fuelled light water reactors (LWRs) and thereby ensuring the country’s formal entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was best. Or, and this seems the more likely explanation, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) that has invested heavily in the Congress party-Manmohan Singh regime’s policy of nuclear giveaways used the excuse of the upcoming Washington meeting with US president Barack Obama to push its institutional agenda and secure Modi’s approval, as concurrently Minister for Atomic Energy, to “complete” the 2008 civilian nuclear cooperation deal with America.

The empowerment of the bureaucracy in Modi’s scheme of things without the prime minister first articulating a geostrategic vision and laying down new policy guidelines, put continuity of policy at a premium—something that was foreseen (“Modi’s ‘India First’ Agenda”, May 2, 2014). In this regard, the MEA was no doubt aided by the fact that neither Modi nor Sushma Swaraj, appointed as minister for external affairs, had other than limited exposure to international relations and the conduct of foreign policy would, therefore, be inclined to accept its advice. Except Swaraj was a stalwart of the parliamentary fight over the nuclear deal that, but for Amar Singh and his reportedly US-lubricated antics to convince the Samajwadi Party into supporting the ruling coalition, would have brought down the Manmohan Singh government on July 8, 2008. And she was in the forefront of the opposition move to blunt the nuclear deal by forcing the Congress regime to accept the 2010 Civilian Nuclear Liability Act. Apparently, by the time foreign secretary Sujatha Singh and officials in the disarmament and international security division briefed the minister, Swaraj had forgotten the reasons why the BJP had opposed the nuclear deal that Washington desperately wanted and the weak-minded Manmohan Singh fell in with, and failed to counsel rethink to the PM.

There reportedly was not much discussion in Modi’s office, and the contra-viewpoint championed, other than this analyst, by the late P K Iyengar, ex-chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, A N Prasad, former director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, and A Gopalakrishnan, ex-chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, that informed the BJP’s thinking when in opposition, was ignored. Let’s therefore enumerate some important reasons why the original nuclear deal was bad and follow-up actions such as signing the Additional Protocol are, too. One, the nuclear deal torpedoes the 1955 three-stage Bhabha Plan based on large reserves in-country of thorium for energy self-sufficiency by diverting attention, effort, and monies from the pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR) technology (first stage) India has specialised in, and from speedily developing for subsequent stages the breeder reactor, and upscaling the Kamini thorium experimental reactor to funding the purchase of exorbitantly-priced foreign LWRs. These reactors costing $6-7 billion per 1,000MW plant will produce unaffordable electricity at `40-50 a unit at present prices! Two, uninterrupted operation of the string of foreign LWRs will become hostage to India’s good behaviour in the economic and foreign policy fields as the supply of nuclear fuel packages and spares can be choked at any time. Thus, the dependency syndrome that prevails with respect to conventional armaments will now be replicated in the nuclear energy sector. Three, the position of foreign supplier countries will be further strengthened with regard to shaping India’s foreign policy choices by threats of extraordinary economic disruption of, say, 10,000MW of power from the imported reactors going off the grid. Four, these things will happen if India resumes nuclear testing, which it needs to do to remove design flaws in its thermonuclear weapons. Five, in which case, tens of billions of dollars invested in these white elephants will become radioactive waste, needing expensive vitrification and entombment. And finally, with all but eight of the PHWRs under safeguards, the country’s capacity for surge production of weapons-grade plutonium has been severely hurt. Is the goodwill of the US worth surrendering “strategic autonomy”?

Pakistan: Worse Than We Knew

by Carlotta Gall 
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 329 pp., $28.00 

Alexandra Boulat/VII
A pro-Taliban rally in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, circa 2002

During the Afghan elections in early April I was traveling in Central Asia, mainly in Kyrgyzstan. I wanted to inquire into the fears of the governments there as a result of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. What did they think of the growth of Taliban and Islamic extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Officials in each country cited two threats. First, the internal radicalizing of their young people by increasing numbers of preachers or proselytizing groups arriving from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Middle East. The second, more dangerous threat is external: they believe that extremist groups based in Pakistan and Afghanistan are trying to infiltrate Central Asia in order to launch terrorist attacks. 

Islamic extremism is infecting the entire region and this will ultimately become the legacy of the US occupation of Afghanistan, as the so-called jihad by the Taliban against the US comes to an end. Iran, a Shia state, fears that the Sunni extremist groups that have installed themselves in Pakistan’s Balochistan province on the Iranian border will step up their attacks inside Iran. In February Iran threatened to send troops into Balochistan unless Pakistan helped free five Iranian border guards who had been kidnapped by militants. (The Pakistanis freed four of the guards; one was killed.) 

Chinese officials say they are particularly concerned about terrorist groups coming out of Pakistan and Afghanistan that are undermining Chinese security. Although China is Pakistan’s closest ally, its officials have made it clear that they are closely monitoring the Uighur Muslims from Xinjiang province, who are training in Pakistan, fighting in Afghanistan, and have carried out several terrorist attacks in Xinjiang. 

Terrorist assaults from Pakistan into Indian Kashmir have declined sharply since 2003, but India has a perennial fear that Islamic militant groups based in Pakistan’s Punjab province may mount attacks in India. Many Punjabi fighters have joined the Taliban forces based in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, and they have attacked Indian targets in Afghanistan. India is also wary of another terrorist attack resembling the one that took place in Mumbai in 2008. 

For forty years Pakistan has been backing Islamic extremist groups as part of its expansionist foreign policy in Afghanistan and Central Asia and its efforts to maintain equilibrium with India, its much larger enemy. Now Pakistan is undergoing the worst terrorist backlash in the entire region. Some 50,000 people have died in three separate and continuing insurgencies: one by the Taliban in the northwest, the other in Balochistan by Baloch separatists, and the third in Karachi by several ethnic groups. That sectarian war, involving suicide bombers, massacres, and kidnappings, has gripped the country for a decade. 

*** The Taliban in Afghanistan

The Taliban in Afghanistan
Author: Zachary Laub, Associate Writer
July 4, 2014 Mohammad Shoib


The Taliban is a predominantly Pashtun, Islamic fundamentalist group that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, when a U.S.-led invasion toppled the regime for providing refuge to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The Taliban regrouped across the border in Pakistan, where its central leadership, headed by Mullah Mohammed Omar, leads an insurgency against the Western-backed government in Kabul. Both the United States and Afghanistan have pursued a negotiated settlement with the Taliban, but talks have little momentum as international forces prepare to conclude combat operations in December 2014 and withdraw by the end of 2016.

Rise of the Taliban 

The Taliban was formed in the early 1990s by an Afghan faction of mujahideen, Islamic fighters who had resisted the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979–89) with the covert backing of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and its Pakistani counterpart, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). They were joined by younger Pashtun tribesmen who studied in Pakistani madrassas, or seminaries; taliban is Pashto for "students." Pashtuns comprise a plurality in Afghanistan and are the predominant ethnic group in much of the country's south and east.

Taliban militiamen chant slogans as they drive toward the front line near Kabul in November 1997. (Photo: Courtesy Reuters)

The movement attracted popular support in the initial post-Soviet era by promising to impose stability and rule of law after four years of conflict (1992–1996) among rival mujahideen groups. Talibs entered Kandahar in November 1994 to pacify the crime-ridden southern city, and by September 1996 seized the capital, Kabul, from President Burhanuddin Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik whom they viewed as anti-Pashtun and corrupt. The Taliban regime controlled some 90 percent of the country before its 2001 overthrow, analysts say.

Pakistan’s Shia Under Attack

The government is failing to act to prevent the slaughter of Balochistan Shia. 
By Phelim Kine

July 05, 2014

The group of around 300 Shia Hazara pilgrims who had been visiting religious shrines in neighboring Iran never knew what hit them. Within minutes after they arrived at the Pakistani border town of Taftan on June 9, the heavily armed gunmen from the Sunni Islamist militant group Jaish–ul-Islam rampaged through their hotel.

The attackers – including suicide bombers – raked the pilgrims with machine gun fire and tossed hand grenades. At least 30 died, including at least nine women and a child. After a prolonged firefight, Pakistani security forces killed the attackers.

For Pakistan’s beleaguered Shia, who constitute 20 percent of the country’s overwhelmingly Muslim population, the incident was gruesome déjà vu. An attack on a Shia pilgrim bus convoy travelling to Taftan, in southwestern Balochistan province, from Iran on January 21 killed at least 22 pilgrims and injured dozens of others. The government has not arrested any suspects in that incident.

That earlier attack was claimed by the Sunni militant group Lakshar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a Pakistani-Taliban-affiliated organization that views Shia Muslims as heretics and their killing as religiously justified. Pakistani media reported that the government had ignored intelligence warnings of an impending attack ahead of the June 9 massacre. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan responded to the attack by banning Shia pilgrims from traveling by road between Quetta and the Iranian border, saying it was impossible to “fully secure” the route.

The Taftan attacks – and the Pakistan government’s failure to adequately protect the Shia or to apprehend their killers – are scandalously symptomatic of an epidemic of violence that has claimed the lives of thousands of Pakistani Shia since 2008. Human Rights Watch has recorded the killing of 850 Shia by Pakistani Sunni militants in 2012 and 2013 alone. As international attention focuses on the growing threat of Sunni-Shia sectarian violence in Iraq following the incursion of the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a Human Rights Watch report released on June 30 documents an ongoing vicious campaign of violence against the Shia in Pakistan.

Chinese High Speed Rail Leapfrog Development

Publication: China Brief Volume: 14 Issue: 13
July 3, 2014

CHR3 trains under construction at Tangshan factory (Source: Railway Gazette)

Since serious Chinese planning of high-speed rail (HSR) networks began in the 1990s under the guidance of the Ministry of Railways (MoR), rail planners have sought to create independently trademarkable Chinese brands capable of competing in global markets in addition to confronting domestic transport inefficiencies and improving air pollution. This success of this effort to absorb foreign technology has implications for world railway markets, but also serves a case study of China’s approach to technology acquisition.

Previous Chinese participation in the world HSR market was limited due to the inferiority of its technology relative to established Western and Japanese manufacturers despite lower labor and resource costs and favorable government financing. However, China appears to have pursued a “technology for market access” strategy to enhance the global competitiveness of domestic HSR companies. These policies and the modus operandi of the Chinese government are explicitly stated in official documents and state media which detail the use of technology transfer agreements as a key component in realizing technology development goals. 

Poorly formulated technology transfer agreements may constitute more of a threat to the competitiveness of Western enterprises (particularly ones reliant on high-technology which consume significant amounts of capital and resources in research and development) than that from Chinese cyber economic espionage. The latter is primarily associated with obtaining knowledge such as patents and technical schematics, whereas the former often involves training the receiving party in how to skillfully exploit the knowledge. This not only potentially accelerates rival product development but also reduces financial and time costs of process optimization.

Chinese train-makers and civil engineering companies are now building, participating in or contemplating bidding for HSR construction projects in South America, the US, Saudi Arabia and Russia. In October 2013, State council premier Li Keqiang signed a railway cooperation memorandum of understanding with Thailand, followed by an exhibition of Chinese railway manufactures in Romania in November 2013 attended by 16 leaders from Eastern Europe (Xinhua, May 8). China is also involved in HSR construction in a Turkish project worth $1.27 billion (People’s Daily, January 18) and has signed $3.1 billion worth of deals with Nigeria (Xinhua, May 8). The greatest market potential, however, is in Asia. The Asia Development Bank estimates that $8 trillion dollars will be spent on infrastructure in the region up to 2020. To facilitate Chinese domination of this market, China published an initiative to found an Asian infrastructure investment bank which will provide funds and support for ASEAN countries (China Daily, October 28, 2013).

Chinese Air Force way ahead of IAF

IssueVol. 26.4 Oct-Dec 2011| Date : 05 Jul , 2014


The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 proved to be a boon to China and the PLAAF. Apart from a formidable enemy being neutralised, many displaced scientists, engineers and technicians from the erstwhile Soviet Union found employment in the Chinese military industrial complex. The Russian aircraft industry struggling to survive, was more than willing to sell modern aeroplanes and technology to China. And the booming Chinese economy could afford to import the best that was on offer.

PLAAF : An Emerging Aerospace Power

A visionary, long-term and time-bound approach to military modernisation, supported by a strong and innovative military-industrial capability has transformed the Peoples Liberation Army Air Force(PLAAF) of China, from an antiquated, derelict, poorly trained and over-sized force to a modern aerospace power with increasing proficiency to undertake its stated missions in the 21st Century. The Indian establishment, especially the Indian Air Force (IAF), needs to absorb this reality and restructure its modernisation plans. The Indian security environment is being continuously impacted by China’s rise, militarily and economically as a global power.

The foundations of China’s long term plan for its modernisation programme were laid in 2010 and aims at major progress by 2020. By 2050 China would accomplish its strategic goal of building an ‘informatized’ (net-centric warfare enabled) armed forces capable of winning wars. Perhaps the unstated objective of the plan is to expand China’s ‘comprehensive national power’ beyond the existing regional status. China’s plan to ‘lay a solid foundation by 2010’ appears to have been achieved as demonstrated by the large-scale exercise ‘Stride-2009’ held to coincide with 50 years celebration of communist rule in China. 50,000 troops were moved from regions in the West to the East. The objective of Stride-2009 was to test the ability to move forces on a large-scale from the areas they had trained in to areas they were unfamiliar with. Another aim was to subject the massive rail, road and air infrastructure created over the years to heavy military movement pressure and examine if such pressure adversely affected civilian population. The PLAAF played an important role in this exercise.

China is determined in developing modern military aerospace capabilities. Having generated a certain quantum of expertise in the field, including learning from the designers, technicians and scientists imported from CIS countries where they had been rendered unemployed…

Shadow of Brutal ’79 War Darkens Vietnam’s View of China Relations

JULY 5, 2014

Ha Thi Hien along a rail line in Lang Son connecting Hanoi and Beijing. CreditJustin Mott for The New York Times

LANG SON, Vietnam — She was 14 when Chinese artillery fire echoed across the hills around her home in northern Vietnam, and hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers swarmed across the border. She remembers sprinting with her parents through the peach trees, her waist-length hair flying, as they fled the invaders. They ran straight into the enemy.

Her mother was shot and killed in front of her; minutes later, her father was wounded. “I was horrified. I didn’t think I would survive. The bullets were flying all around. I could hear them and smell the gunfire,” said Ha Thi Hien, now 49, fluttering her hands so they grazed her head to show how close the bullets came on the first day of the short, brutal war.

The conflict between China and Vietnam in 1979 lasted less than a month. But the fighting was so ferocious that its legacy permeates the current sour relations between the two Communist countries now at odds over hotly contested waters in the South China Sea.

Both sides declared victory then, though neither side prevailed, and both armies suffered horrendous losses.

The gravestone of Ms. Hien’s mother, who was killed in the 1979 conflict with China. Ms. Hien’s father was wounded. CreditJustin Mott for The New York Times

If a war erupted over territorial rights and the recent positioning of a Chinese oil rig off the coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea, China, with its increasingly modernized navy, would likely win, military experts say. So in a situation some liken to that of Mexico astride the United States, Vietnam must exercise the art of living alongside a powerful nation, a skill it has practiced over several thousand years of intermittent occupation and more than a dozen wars with China.

But with China, far richer, militarily stronger and more ambitious than at any time the two countries have faced each other in the modern era, how far to needle Beijing, when to pull back, and how to factor in the United States are becoming trickier.

During the current tensions, the anti-Chinese sentiments of the Vietnamese people seem to have run ahead of the country’s ruling Politburo.


By Emre Tunç Sakaoğlu

The Chinese government banned Ramadan fasting for the Uighur minority in the country. Various public agencies, schools, newspapers, and official websites issued notices on the ban.

According to posts on official websites belonging to various public institutions, from grade schools and universities to the forestry and weather bureaus, students, teachers, civil servants, and party members, together with their families, are forbidden to observe Ramadan, which began at sundown on June 28.

Beijing deems fasting detrimental to students’ health and performance according to statements on several official websites of local governments such as the one in Yili. And in some cities such as Bole, municipal authorities as well as teachers are physically stopping Uighur children from going to mosques, according to media reports.

Harsh restrictions against Uighurs have also come to the fore in the counties of Zhaosu (Mongolkure), Ruoqiang (Kargilik), and Hotan, according to media reports. Moreover, in Turpan County, Muslims are even forbidden from performing the Salat prayer ritual at mosques.

Due to the indiscriminate implementation of the ban in many cities and counties of Xinjiang this year, many Uighurs who are to benefit from public services such as healthcare, are forced to sign documents pledging that neither them nor their families will take part in traditional fasting during the Islamic holy month.

A spokesperson for the exiled rights group World Uighur Congress told AFP that Chinese authorities were even inspecting houses in the region to see if people were fasting, and keeping record of the ones who were.

‘Business as usual’

Students of Uighur origin have not been allowed to wear clothes associated with their religious faith in Xinjiang in the past, and the ban continues to date. Moreover, students and teachers are still not allowed to participate in daily prayer even outside their schools.

Such restrictions on Muslim students have been implemented for years in order to protect them from ‘religious influences’, according to officials.

The Communist Party, which is officially atheist, stands against the “promotion of religion” in China. It is said to be wary of religious activities and groups because they can lay the ground for organized opposition to its single-party rule.

Worship is more strictly controlled in Xinjiang and neighboring Tibet because these are autonomous regions harboring minorities with distinct and well-established religious identities. And Uighurs are under close scrutiny due to their strong sense of ethnic and religious identity which easily differentiates them from the Han Chinese majority and the Communist Party.

Report on Japan’s Ocean Surveillance Ships

July 5, 2014
Japan’s Ears on the Sea: The Cold War history of Japan’s unarmed ocean surveillance ships
James Simpson
War Is Boring

Strategically speaking, Japan’s expansive archipelago is a barricade. Japan’s near seas include many of the most important choke-points granting other countries access to the Pacific. Dominating these key straits is one of Toyko’s top priorities.

For this task, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force’s two ocean surveillance vessels are particularly important. Hibiki and her sister ship Harima are mobile sonar listening stations that can track Russian and Chinese submarines in the seas around Japan.

Tokyo developedthe Hibiki class in response to the Soviet navy’s increasingly quiet submarines of the 1980s. The Soviet navy launched a new standard in silent runners—the Kilo-class hunter-killer submarines. These diesel-electric subs come covered in acoustic-absorbent anechoic tiles, significantly reducing their noise signature. They were so quiet that NATO naval personnel referred to them as “black holes.”

In 1988, there were as many as seven Kilo-class submarines operating in Japan’s backyard. These stealthy boats threatened Japan’s economic lifelines—its shipping lanes. Additionally, Japan’s northern frontier faces the Sea of Okhotsk, a sanctuary for Soviet nuclear missile subs.

Unseen and unheard by standard naval anti-submarine patrols, these underwater threats were nevertheless vulnerable to Japanese and American measurements surveillance, like Hibiki’s hydrophone arrays.

AOS 5201 Hibiki — the first in her class. Maritime Self-Defense Force photo

Acoustic measurement ships

Hibiki and Harima operate out of the major naval base in Kure, Hiroshima under the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s oceanographic command. Tokyo designates them as acoustic measurement ships, but their official English designation is “Ocean Surveillance Vessel.”

Unarmed, Hibiki and Harima are more like survey vessels than warships. They carry one of the most powerful sonar arrays in service—the AN/UQQ-2 Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System. Working alone and far from busy sea lanes, they unfurl long twin-line hydrophone arrays and patrol for months intently listening to long-range naval traffic.

Like much about Hibiki, SURTASS is American-made … and secret. Details of its effectiveness are classified, but SURTASS gained notoriety after environmentalists blamed its modern low-frequency active sonar component forkilling marine mammals.

Like the broadly similar American Victorious class surveillance ship, Hibiki has a hydrofoil-like design known as SWATH—small waterplane area twin hull. This strange configuration looks like two submarines supporting an oil rig. It places the bulk of the ship’s displacement under the surface of the sea, resulting in a more stable ride at low speeds.

Hibiki differs from its American counterparts at its rear. It has a large aft helicopter deck to allow for resupply flights during long voyages. The Hibiki class has a reported mission radius of 3,000 nautical miles and can patrol for 60 to 90 days at a time. Having the ability to take on supplies by helicopter gives Hibiki a major logistical advantage over its U.S. Navy cousins.

Asia's Nightmare Scenario: A War in the East China Sea Over the Senkakus

America & Japan vs. China. Who wins?
July 5, 2014 

It is clear that an armed clash between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands is a real possibility. If that happens Washington would face a very serious choice. Failing to support Japan militarily would fatally weaken the US-Japan alliance, torpedo President Obama’s ‘Pivot’, and undermine America’s whole position in Asia. But supporting Japan would mean going to war with China. Whether that would be wise depends, as much as anything, on how a US-China war over the Senkakus would play out. 

Of course no one knows for sure. There has not been a serious maritime conflict for decades, nor war between two nuclear-armed states so we cannot be sure how the fighting would go. Nor do we have any real experience of war between nuclear-armed states, so that factor too adds to uncertainty. But there are some broad judgments that can be offered. If these judgments seem even moderately likely to be right, the implications for America’s choice about war over the Senkakus are rather sobering. They suggest that this would be a war that America would not win, could not control, and should not undertake. And that of course has huge implications for America’s position in Asia.

Suppose that fighting starts between China and Japan with a small armed clash near the islands, in which losses are sustained by both sides. It is possible this kind of incident could be quickly contained without further fighting, but only if both Tokyo and Beijing acted with tact, forbearance and political courage. No one would bet on that, so it is at least equally likely that the clash would escalate, and if so Japan would quickly ask America to help.

What happens next if America joins the fight depends first on the strategic aims of each side? China’s primary aim might be to land forces to take control of the islands, and at the minimum it would want to exclude Japanese and US forces from the air- and sea-space around them. America’s and Japan’s aims might well look the same. Tokyo might decide that the time had come to put its control of the islands beyond dispute by stationing forces on them, and at a minimum it would want to prevent further challenges of the kind we have seen recently by excluding Chinese forces from around the islands.

Indonesia Avoids Open Territorial Dispute, Despite Concerns

Publication: China Brief Volume: 14 Issue: 13
July 3, 2014

Over the past few months, criticism by Indonesian officials of China’s conduct in the South China Sea has fueled speculation about a policy departure in Southeast Asia’s largest state (Jakarta Globe, March 13; PacNet, April 1; Strat.Buzz, April 2). While this does signal rising concern about Beijing’s assertiveness and Indonesia’s willingness to address it, it does not in and of itself constitute a policy shift. While concerned about China's territorial claims, Indonesian governments have tried to avoid letting them define a generally positive relationship and to maintain the country’s status as a non-claimant. But, as it witnesses the pressure put on neighboring countries---and increasingly comes in contact with Chinese vessels—it is becoming harder for Jakarta to maintain this position.

While Indonesia technically is not a claimant state in the South China Sea disputes, it is an interested party. China’s “nine-dash line” map overlaps with Jakarta’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) generated from the Natuna Islands chain, which contains one of the world’s largest offshore gas fields and is a rich fishing ground. Beyond this, China's claims also undermine the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which is the basis for the territorial integrity of the world's largest archipelagic state (Jakarta Post, April 7). Jakarta is also fully aware that the disputes between China and the four ASEAN claimants (Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam) could undermine regional stability.

In response, Indonesia has used a careful mix of diplomatic, legal and security measures since the 1990s to both oppose China’s contentious claims while not officially legitimizing them as well as facilitating dispute resolution between South China Sea claimants while maintaining its own status as a non-claimant. In the diplomatic domain, it has repeatedly sought clarification from China about the extent of its claims. At the same time, Jakarta has not officially included China in the list of ten neighbors with which it must settle maritime boundaries, since doing so would lend credence China’s claims (Jakarta Post, August 8, 2011). Since 1990, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry has also organized an annual workshop on “Managing Potential Conflict in the South China Sea” to build confidence between rival claimants (Jakarta Post, October 31, 2013).

In the legal realm, Indonesia has worked assiduously with other willing ASEAN countries to conclude the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties (DoC) and move towards a legally binding code of conduct (CoC). Jakarta has also sought to build up its own capabilities to protect its territorial integrity, and the Natunas have been a critical part of Indonesia’s military modernization plans since the 1990s. For instance, when Indonesia learned that Beijing had included the Natuna Islands chain in a map detailing its South China Sea claims in 1993, it increased air patrols around the area and then conducted one of its largest-ever joint military exercises there in 1996 (Straits Times, April 24).

Indonesia’s Growing Concerns

China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea over the past few years has placed Indonesia’s delicate approach under strain. In the legal domain, Beijing’s official submission to the UN of its nine-dash line map for the first time in May 2009, which included parts of Indonesia’s EEZ, frustrated Jakarta because it was out of step with UNCLOS. China’s pressure on Cambodia on the South China Sea issue during the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in July 2012, which led to the regional grouping’s unprecedented failure to issue a joint communiqué, as well as its continued foot-dragging on a CoC, also directly undermined Jakarta’s focus on ASEAN unity and diplomacy in the resolution of the disputes, a key priority for Indonesia repeatedly expressed by Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (Japan Focus, 2012). Natalegawa also firmly told China earlier this year that Indonesia would not accept an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea (Straits Times, February 18).