29 September 2014

Sachin Nag – a forgotten legend

September 29, 2014 

Sachin Nag claimed the 100m freestyle gold at the inaugural Asian Games and also won two bronze medals at New Delhi in 1951.

He too was a Sachin. A hero, winning laurels for the country. Only he did not play cricket.

Sachin Nag, a distinguished swimmer and a fine role model, has remained unsung despite some sterling performances in days gone by. Amidst the euphoria generated by a bronze-medal show by an Indian swimmer at the Incheon Asian Games, lies the untold story of a gold medallist of the 1951 edition of the Asian sporting extravaganza.

Nag passed away a sad man in 1987. “He yearned for recognition from the government. Not financial considerations but acknowledgement of his service to the sport and the country,” said his 56-year-old son Ashoke Kumar Nag, an insurance agent residing in Kolkata.Plea to government

Nag’s family has made many representations to the Union Sports Ministry for a Dhyan Chand award for the late swimmer. The government has only made promises.

At the inaugural Asian Games in Delhi, Nag earned appreciation from Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru for emerging the fastest swimmer. The 100m freestyle gold is the only first position finish by an Indian swimmer in the Asian Games. In the same edition, in 100m backstroke, Kanti Shah claimed the lone silver for the country.

In subsequent years, Khajan Singh won a silver medal at Seoul in 1986, followed by a bronze each from Virdhawal Khade (2010) and Sandeep Sejwal (2014).

Sejwal, as is widely believed, is not the third but ninth medallist in swimming at the Asian Games. In 1951, Nag also won a bronze in 4x100m freestyle (with Bimal Chandra, Isaac Mansoor and Sambu Saha) and 3x100 medley (with Kanti Shah and Jehangir Naigamwalla). Individual winners, apart from Kanti, were Chandra (bronze in 400m freestyle) and Naigamwalla (bronze in 200m breaststroke).Proficient in water polo

Nag, according to his son, learnt by swimming in the Ganga in Varanasi. “He loved the sport. At the 1948 Olympics, when India beat Chile 7-4 in water polo, my father scored four goals. In fact, he was independent India’s first goal scorer because water polo was held before the hockey competition,’ said Ashoke.

When India hosted the 1982 Asian Games, Nag did not receive an invitation to attend the competition! It may be mentioned that the Asian Games Village at Siri Fort in Delhi has a block named after Sachin Nag.

“I wish my father gets a better form of recognition for this generation of sportsmen to understand that he was a gold medal winner in swimming at Asian Games,” pleads Ashoke.

Islam and its interpretations

September 29, 2014 

What is unique about Islam is that while other religious movements, particularly Christianity, got over their early violent origins, it failed to move on and update its theological precepts 

What is Islam?

I know Islam’s critics will be dying to answer this question, but it is more important to hear it from Muslims themselves because, after all, it is their conflicting interpretations of Islam which are behind so much of the confusion and mayhem around the world. A religion of peace, yet a religion which is invoked to wreak such mindless violence. A religion which is said to accord dignity, respect and equality to women; yet a religion in which a woman’s testimony is only half as good as a man’s. A religion which exhorts its followers to gain knowledge even if it means “going to China”; yet some of whose most noisy campaigners despise knowledge and are prepared to kill little girls for attending school. And a religion which preaches tolerance and coexistence; yet which has become synonymous with hate and intolerance.

So, what is Islam really about?Islamic theology

In his book, What Is History?, E.H. Carr urged people to read the historian before they read his or her history in order to get a sense of where that historian is coming from. Many Muslims will say that the same analogy applies to Islam: its interpretation depends on who is interpreting it. So, extremists will interpret it to suit their own agenda while moderate Muslims would offer a different interpretation. But the trouble with this explanation is that it is at odds with the claim that Islam is so perfect, that it is beyond debate or interpretation. Its teachings and edicts are meant to be immutable. Take it or leave it. This claim itself then takes a knock when we hear so many bewilderingly different interpretations that, let alone non-Muslims, even ordinary Muslims are left confused and frustrated. A healthy internal debate is one thing, but tawdry public disputes over the fundamentals of Islam — jihad, sharia, caliphate — is quite another.

What, then, is the problem?

To be fair, it is not entirely the fault of interpreters, and in this I include those who wilfully misinterpret it to promote their sectarian or extremist ideas. The potential for misinterpretation and misunderstanding lies in Islamic theology itself. The Koranic text is a minefield of ambiguity, allowing people to cherry-pick its equivocal and often contradictory verses to back their argument. Similarly, it is easy to manipulate Hadith (a compilation of Prophet Mohammad’s sayings and teachings), another major source of legitimacy for Islamic acts. This is because they are too numerous, were pronounced in vastly different situations, and compiled many years after his death with the result that their precise meaning was frequently lost in translation. Sometimes they were quoted outside the original context. They are routinely plucked out of context to support bizarre claims.

Then there is the problem of “inauthentic” Hadith — sayings attributed to the Prophet which he may or may not have uttered. Even many authentic Hadith have been found to be flawed because of misinterpretation or contextual errors.On jihad

We have seen a great deal of quibbling over the meaning of jihad. Muslims insist that the “real” concept of jihad does not involve violence and bears no resemblance to Islamists’ interpretation of it. The “real” or “greater” jihad, they say, means a peaceful inner spiritual struggle. An armed struggle against an external enemy is regarded as “lesser” jihad and permitted only in specific circumstances — for example, in self-defence. Theoretically true. Yet, it is also true that around the dining table in Muslim households, the term jihad is invariably used in its violent sense and mentioned in the same breath as “kaafirs.” I grew up in an extremely liberal environment, but I don’t recall, in private conversations,jihad ever being referred to in its philosophical sense. In Indian Muslim discourse, the term normally used for personal struggles, whether social, economic or emotional, is “jaddo jehad” derived from Urdu.

Hong Kong police use teargas, but protesters defiant

Sep 29, 2014

Riot police use tear gas against protesters after thousands of people blocked a main road at the financial central district in Hong Kong on September 28. (AP photo)

HONG KONG: Police repeatedly fired tear gas in clashes with protesters fighting for democracy as parts of Hong Kong descended into chaos on Sunday with tens of thousands on the streets to demand Beijing grant the city full universal suffrage.

The rare scenes — in which crowds faced down riot police in the international financial hub — forced protest leaders to warn supporters to "retreat and save their lives" if rubber bullets were fired.

Protesters screamed "Shame!" at officers, many in gas masks and riot gear, as they tried to shield themselves from the clouds of tear gas which was last used in Hong Kong in 2005.

It marked a dramatic escalation of protests in the city, which rarely sees such violence, after a tense week of largely contained student-led demonstrations exploded into mass angry street protests.

Protesters have defiantly stuck to their demands for full universal suffrage after Beijing last month said it would allow elections for the city's next leader in 2017 but will vet the candidates — a decision branded a "fake democracy".

An AFP reporter at the scene early on Monday morning estimated ten thousand protesters were dug in for another night as the unrest spilled over into other areas beyond the main site for the first time — with thousands launching a sit-in across the harbour.

Protest leaders on Sunday called on demonstrators to pull back if police used rubber bullets, with rifles slung over the shoulders of many officers, or if they felt their lives were threatened.

Protesters take rest at a main road in the financial central district after riot police use teargas against them as thousands of people blocked the road in Hong Kong on September 28, 2014. (AP photo)
"This is a matter of life or death. If their lives are threatened they should retreat and save their lives," said professor Chan Kin-man, a co-founder of the Occupy Central group which threw its weight behind the protest on Sunday.

Al-Qaida leader warns of revenge for airstrikes

Sep 29, 2014

The photo shows Syrians inspecting the rubble of damaged houses following a Syrian government airstrike in Aleppo, Syria.

BEIRUT: The leader of al-Qaida's Syria affiliate vowed Sunday that his group would "use all possible means" to fight back against airstrikes by the US-led coalition and warned that the conflict would reach Western countries joining the alliance. 

The US views the affiliate, known as the Nusra Front, as a terrorist group, but Syrian rebels have long seen it as a potent ally against both the Islamic State extremist group — which is the main target of the coalition — and Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces. 

Syrian rebels, activists and analysts have warned that targeting the Nusra Front will inject more chaos into the Syrian conflict and indirectly help Assad by striking one of his main adversaries. The US insists it wants Assad to step down, but is not targeting his forces, which are best placed to benefit from the airstrikes.

In a 25-minute audio recording, Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani portrayed the US-led coalition as a "Crusader alliance" against Sunni Muslims and vowed to fight back. 

"We will use all that we have to defend the people of Syria ... from the Crusader alliance," al-Golani said. "And we will use all possible means to achieve this end," he said, without offering more details. 

He went on to warn Western countries against taking part in the alliance in words that echoed those of the late founder of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden. 

"This is what will cause the battle to be transported to the hearts of your own homes; because Muslims will not stand idly by and watch Muslims be bombed and killed in their countries, while you are safe on your countries. The price of war will not be paid by your leaders alone. You will pay the biggest price," he said. 

The recording appeared genuine and corresponded with Associated Press reporting. 

The United States and five Arab allies launched an air campaign against Islamic State fighters in Syria on Tuesday with the aim of ultimately crushing the extremist group, which has created a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border. The US has been carrying out airstrikes against the group in neighboring Iraq since August. 

Some of the initial strikes targeted the Nusra Front, hitting several of its facilities and killing dozens of its fighters. Washington said it was trying to take out an al-Qaida cell known as the Khorasan Group that was actively plotting attacks against Americans and Western interests. 

Syrian rebels have expressed anger at the coalition airstrikes, both because they have targeted the Nusra Front — which they see as an ally — and because they are not hitting pro-government forces, which are the best placed to benefit from any rolling back of the Islamic State group. The Nusra Front's ultimate goal is to impose Islamic law in Syria. But unlike the Islamic State group, it has fought alongside other rebel groups, seeing the overthrow of Assad as its first priority. 

Al-Golani warned the airstrikes would weaken the rebels. 

"Those of our men who were targeted in the shelling... the effect of their loss will be witnessed by the entire conflict, not just on the (Nusra) Front alone." 

The Nusra Front leader also warned other rebel groups not to coordinate with the US-led alliance. Washington has promised to arm and train more Syrian rebels to help fight the Islamic State group. 

The al-Golani speech came hours after the group's spokesman warned that Muslims would attack countries taking part in the coalition air raids. 

The Islamic State group — an al-Qaida breakaway faction rejected by the global terror network — controls a vast tract of land stretching from the Turkish border in northern Syria to the western outskirts of Baghdad, where it has declared a self-styled caliphate ruled by its brutal version of Islamic law. Its aggressive push across Iraq over the summer spurred the US to form a coalition against the group. 

On Sunday, explosions lit the sky for two hours in the northern Syrian town of Tel Abyad as airstrikes, likely by the coalition, targeted a refinery operated by the militant group, said an eyewitness and activists. 

"Our building was shaking and we saw fire, some 60 meters (65 yards) high, coming from the refinery," said Turkish businessman Mehmet Ozer, who lives in the nearby Turkish border town of Akcakale. 

The Turkish news agency Dogan said the strikes targeted an oil refinery and the local headquarters of the Islamic State group. US Central Command, which is overseeing the air campaign, did not immediately comment on the strikes. 

The West confronts Islamic State

Air strikes limited to helping Iraqi forces on the ground
Harsh V. Pant

THE recorded beheadings of two Americans by Islamic State (IS) forced the Obama Administration to finally recognise the threat and to come up with a new policy approach which some argue will end up creating an open-ended US military commitment against IS. After suggesting that the US had no strategy to deal with the much-dreaded IS, Barack Obama finally made a case to American people that the IS poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East — including American citizens, personnel and facilities — and underlined that if left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States.

In light of this, Obama made Washington's policy clear: “We will degrade and ultimately destroy [IS] through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.” His Secretary of State John Kerry also told the US Congress that the IS “must be defeated, period, end of story. And collectively, we are all going to be measured by how we carry out this mission.”

The US Congress has gone ahead and approved President Obama’s plan to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels. Part of Obama’s strategy is to train and equip Free Syrian Army rebels to “strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to the extremists” and to prevent US troops from “being dragged into another ground war.” Facing resistance from war-weary lawmakers in Obama’s own Democratic Party, the administration reached across the aisle to Republicans for support, a rare bipartisan moment in an otherwise polarised US Congress. Opinion polls show that while Americans support Obama’s campaign of air strikes against Islamic State militants, they largely oppose a long military campaign against the group. With this in perspective, the US and its allies will not do the fighting on the ground. But they will provide the key enablers —air power and the means to ensure that the application of that air power is effective.

The West has framed the use of Western air power so far largely in terms of helping Iraqi forces on the ground. But debate has already begun if this will ultimately lead to pressure for putting western troops on the ground. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the US, Martin Dempsey’s comment regarding the prospect of greater involvement of US “advisers” on the frontlines against IS has underscored the tensions in the West’s military strategy. He admitted that President Obama has left open the possibility of employing US troops in more exposed combat-related roles on a “case-by-case basis.” The White House was forced to clarify that no US combat troops would be deployed to Iraq or Syria.

The strategy of the West is also complicated by the ground realities in the Middle East. Though the Syrian government is fighting IS, The West remains reluctant to have any explicit links with Damascus. Clearly in this is a case of my enemy’s enemy is not my friend. It is the chaos in Syria that has helped IS establish itself and then export its brand of barbarism back into Iraq. The focus of the West on IS has freed the Syrian government to put its military might behind exterminating the moderate rebel forces.

For its part, IS will relish the prospect of confronting a superpower. The imagery of their murderous behaviour is perfect: They can slaughter Americans like sheep, giving them not only publicity but also credibility in the unique regional milieu. The scale and scope of IS marks it out from other jihadist groupings insofar as it already controls a significant swathe of territory across Syria and Iraq. It continues to be well-funded and well-organised. Its success is also making it possible for it to attract a large number of foreign fighters.

Resolving the Absurd Indo-Bangladesh Border Complexities

By Matthew Phillips
September 26, 2014

A resident shows a land ownership document issued by Indian authorities at Dashiarchhara Indian enclave in June 2004.

The Modi government is making a push to settle India’s long-running border disputes with Bangladesh. 

For decades, India has tried to curb illegal immigration and smuggling along its 4,000 kilometer border with Bangladesh. It has installed thousands of kilometers of barbed wire and floodlights, and its Border Security Force (BSF) even adopted a controversial “shoot-on-sight” policy to deter those who might cross illegally. In 2001, the dispute acquired a new dimension when incursions by the border guards of both countries culminated in the first armed conflict between India and Bangladesh. This skirmish resulted in the deaths of three members of the Border Guards Bangladesh and sixteen members of the Indian BSF.

Despite these clashes, the significance of the Bangladesh-India border is too often underestimated. Among India’s priorities are improving access to its underdeveloped and volatile northeastern states, reaching advantageous water sharing agreements, and increasing connectivity with Southeast Asia as part of New Delhi’sLook East Policy. All of these objectives will be difficult to achieve without Bangladesh’s support. Resolving the border crisis would grease the wheels for future cooperation, development, and trade in the region. In this respect, India’s regional objectives complement the United States’ desire to accelerate economic development throughout South and Southeast Asia, in part to counterbalance expanding Chinese influence.

Part of what makes the Bangladesh-India border dispute so difficult to resolve is the peculiar way their territories are divided. Along Bangladesh’s northern border with India, there are 162 officially recognized enclaves – portions of one country that are fully surrounded by the land of another country. In total, the Indo-Bangladesh enclaves contain 24,268 acres of land and a population of around 50,000 people. There are 111 Indian enclaves (17,158 acres) in western Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves (7,110 acres) in India’s West Bengal. This muddled border is also home to the world’s only third-order enclave. This enclave within an enclave within an enclave is an Indian jute field encircled by a Bangladeshi village which is contained by an Indian village surrounded by Bangladesh’s Rangpur Division. This absurd situation raises two questions: How did this border come to be and why does it still remain today?

Like many anomalies of political geography, the Indo-Bangladesh enclaves are products of neglect, imperialism and politics. According to popular myths, the enclaves were created when neighboring kings gambled with tracts of their land or when a drunken British officer spilled ink on an official map. More likely, the enclaves resulted from the Mughal Empire’s partial conquest of the region of Koch Bihar (in modern-day West Bengal). Unable to dislodge certain chieftains loyal to the Maharaja of Koch Bihar, the Mughals captured as much land as they could control – creating the enclaves in the process. Content with this arrangement, the Mughals formalized the border in a 1713 treaty with Koch Bihar.

Exclusive: Lt Gen who led Kashmir rescue says, "Past cannot be swept away by floods"

by Ajaz Ashraf Sep 26, 2014 

Northern Army Commander Lt Gen DS Hooda led the massive rescue effort was undertaken in Jammu and Kashmir, which is still reeling from the devastating floods. In this interview conducted over the email, Lt Gen Hooda speaks on the needless politicisation of a human tragedy.

Lt Gen DS Hooda led the rescue effort in Jammu and Kashmir. AFP

To what extent the rescue and relief operations of the Army were delayed because the soldiers too reeled under the floods, particularly in Srinagar?

The first response from soldiers on the ground is automatic. Nobody issues orders, and you see it almost on a daily basis in rescue operations during accidents, medical emergencies, etc. Even before the extent of the tragedy became evident on the third day of incessant rains, soldiers were out and rescuing those who were marooned, in South Kashmir and Jammu region.

The major impact of floods in Srinagar was on 7 September when there were major breaches on the banks of Jhelum. Prior to that rescue equipment like boats were already being flown in. The Badami Bagh Cantonment, which was the Headquarters and coordinating all rescue operations, was under 15 feet of water. Electricity, water supply and civil communications had collapsed. Did this delay rescue operations? Obviously they did, but only for a few hours and only in Srinagar.

Was the Army’s response far more robust, say, in Anantnag and Pulwama districts than in Srinagar because of the pattern of troop deployment in the Valley?

As I stated above, rescue operations started in South Kashmir as this was the area most affected in the initial three days. It also has something to do with the deployment. The army has small pockets of troops in a number of places in Pulwama and Anantnag and each of these pockets helped those they could.

The Army does not operate in Srinagar and their presence is limited to the Badami Bagh Cantonment and the area of the airfield. Srinagar is a huge city, and so when you ask about the robustness of the response: the soldier who worked round the clock, even after his own house was flooded and he had lost everything, would say – ‘What more could I have done?’ The task in Srinagar was too enormous and whatever the relief agencies (army, air force, NDRF) could do would still not be enough. This is where we have to acknowledge the efforts of the local volunteers who have contributed immensely.

Over the past one week I have spoken to several Kashmiris, from journalists to students to ordinary folks. They suggest that it isn’t as if the Army didn’t do much, as some claim, but they feel insulted by the national media which wants Kashmiris to forget the past because of the rescue and relief work undertaken by the soldiers. Don’t you think the hyper-coverage by the national media has unwittingly led to the politicization of the floods? Do you think it has undercut the efforts of the Army?

The Short-Term Future of Pakistan’s ISI Intelligence Agency

Daunting agenda awaits ISI chief

Abbas Nasir

Dawn (Karachi) , September 26, 2014

IN an environment where promotions, transfers and appointments to key military positions are the subject of obsessive speculation, army chief Gen Raheel Sharif has acted decisively.

His decision announced earlier this week of who’ll replace the six retiring three-star generals over the next several weeks must now spell the end of the speculation that a ‘cabal’ was manoeuvring to secure extensions through dirty politics and was responsible for the political instability in the country.

On the other hand, the appointments also demonstrated that the army chief is his own man and is consolidating his hold over vital policy areas. It’ll be interesting to see if he introduces policy changes or carries on in the old tradition.

He may have appointed freshly promoted younger lieutenant-generals in key positions such as the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence and the corps commanders at Peshawar and Karachi but all three have hands-on experience of counterterrorism, anti-militancy operations in one form or the other.
The most interesting choice and the one which will generate most speculation is that of Lt-Gen Rizwan Akhtar.

The most interesting choice and the one which will generate most speculation is that of Lt-Gen Rizwan Akhtar. The soft-spoken yet articulate officer became a familiar face during his tenure as head of Sindh Rangers as he made multiple TV appearances when his paramilitary force and the police launched the so-called operation against criminals in Karachi.

Promoting U.S.-Pakistan Relations: Future Challenges and Opportunities


Speaker: Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Presider: Mary McInnis Boies, Counsel, Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP; Member, Board of Directors, Council on Foreign Relations

September 26, 2014, New York

Council on Foreign Relations

MCINNIS BOIES: Good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for coming. We are very pleased today to have with us Sartaj Aziz, who served -- who is the adviser to the prime minister on national security and foreign affairs since 2013. He has served in Pakistan as minister of state for food and agriculture, as finance minister, and as foreign minister. He is the author of two books, "Rural Development: Learning from China," and "Between Dreams and Reality: Some Milestones in Pakistan's History." He graduated from Punjab University and has an MA from Harvard. 

This is a very interesting time. There are many changes going on in Pakistan. We will hear about them. And we welcome you, Mr. Aziz. 


AZIZ: Richard Haass, participants, I am indeed very honored to have this opportunity to speak again at the Council on Foreign Relations. Whenever I have been here, this has been a very stimulating experience, so I hope this one, too. 

The topic for today, of course, is U.S.-Pakistan relations, its challenges and opportunities. And let me start off by saying that our relations with USA is not only important, but is also unique in many respects, and that is something that is not commonly appreciated. 

It has gone through many ups and downs. Both countries have seen different facets of this. But importantly, we have never differed too apart from each other. Despite all the crises, we have always stayed within certain limits. 

We have had several historical milestones and turning points which must be considered in our -- in the total context, because these milestones in terms of our work together in Afghanistan, when we started in 1979, before that, initially in the Cold War years of '60s, then later on in Afghanistan, and then war against terrorism, in which one of these became much closer together, in between there were difficulties of one kind or another. 

But these milestones and these historical episodes must be kept in mind to recall why Pakistan -- the people of Pakistan, not just the government -- feel about certain things in a certain way. And so generally, there is a perception that our security concerns have not received enough attention, and, therefore, while USA needed us, it -- we helped them, but then after that, they either walked away, as they did in '90s or earlier in the '70s, but generally I think people still realize that the relationship is important. 

I think more recently, the security compulsion coming out of Afghanistan have driven us together. And we became very close allies in that sense. And now that Afghanistan -- U.S. forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan, there is a new phase, much more positive in that sense, when this relationship can move further forward. 

And therefore, we are at a very basic crossroads in this relationship, because of these factors that I mentioned, but there are two key developments, one internal, one external, which can fundamentally alter the course of this relationship. 

Internally, Pakistan has undergone a very silent revolution. Some of you who observe Pakistan may have noticed that we are a changed country. Today we share more with the USA than we differ or disagree with. First of all, we have a vibrant economy, democracy, although democracies are always noisy, and you may hear the duster noise here and there, but it is a very vibrant democracy. And more recently, when an attempt was made to dislodge an elected government through agitation, the entire parliament came together, all the opposition parties came together and said, no, this precedent of any elected government being dislodged by demonstration is not right. So that shows the vitality of the democratic process. 

Pakistan Rising?

September 26, 2014 

The current crisis could be seen as an opportunity for democracy to flourish. 

Once again, Pakistan is getting international attention because of a crisis. For several days, a series of rallies and sit-ins against the elected government closed all shops, banks and offices in Islamabad.

Although a march of thousands over tens of kilometers, culminating in a violent sit-in in front of the Parliament sounds “chaotic,” or like it might be a sign of “a crisis,” and “deepening instability,” a closer look might reveal quite the opposite. Protesters still linger in front of the Parliament, but it seems clear that the current government will survive this ordeal. After more than sixty years of shaky democracy in Pakistan, the current government’s ability to withstand some public pressure and avoid a military takeover demonstrates democracy is firmly taking root in Pakistan.

Pakistanis, like Americans, love to criticize their government and its politicians, but in this case, despite their grievances over the shortage of electricity, higher prices and poor security, the general public did not join the “revolution.” Contrary to the image of massive protests in the streets, the current protests have been staged by two different, relatively small political groups: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), led by Imran Khan, with a total of thirty-three seats out of 446 in the two houses of Parliament, and Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), which has no seats in the Parliament.

During the first week of the shut down, I went to a major shopping area. A small ice cream vendor with his portable machine was open. I asked him why he didn’t go closer to the demonstrators, as they were asking for food and snacks. He replied, “No, thank you. I don’t need that kind of a degrading income. I can see beyond the slogans. What they are doing is not in favor of our country.”

The root of the current crisis is far from the media image presented of the people railing against a bad government. Rather, it comes from the ongoing struggle between civilian and military authority.

There was a time in Pakistan’s history when any uprising would become a reason for a military takeover. Once in power, the military would start tampering with the Constitution and maneuvering the Judiciary to legitimize their rule. We have spent nearly half our independent existence under military rule.

In the past, political parties would also maneuver to get the military to undermine their opponents. However, in 2006, towards the end of President Musharraf’s reign, the two main political parties signed a pact called the Charter of Democracy, which not only framed the major structural changes that both parties would support to ensure strong independent democratic institutions, but also prevented them from making deals with the military, no matter who won the election.

Afghanistan’s Re-Emerging Baloch

By Karlos Zurutuza
September 26, 2014

Several generations of Baloch line up in Kandahar, southeast Afghanistan

The war-torn country is witnessing the unprecedented revival of a long-neglected community. 

“We are the only nation that has fluent relations with all the rest in the country,” claims Abdul Sattar Purdely. A former MP during the rule of Mohammad Najibullah (1987-1992), Purdely today is a professor, writer, and one of the main advocates for the Baloch language and culture in Afghanistan. In his late sixties, he looks tireless.

“In coordination with the Afghan Ministry of Education, I have written the schoolbooks in Balochi up to the 8th grade (15 years old) and they’re already being used at three schools,” Purdely tells The Diplomat just before producing the full set of volumes.

In the absence of comprehensive census data, Purdely puts the population of Afghan Baloch at about two million, “not all of them being Balochi speakers.” However, the Baloch in Afghanistan are just a tiny portion of a people divided today by the borders of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, living in a vast swathe of land the size of France. Theirs is a rugged terrain that boasts enormous deposits of gas, gold and copper, untapped sources of oil and uranium, as well as a thousand kilometers of coastline near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz.

But despite the wealth under their sandals, the Baloch inhabit the most underdeveloped regions of their respective countries. Afghanistan is no exception.

The three schools the professor points to are in Afghanistan’s remote Nimroz province, the only one that shares borders with Iran and Pakistan. In Nimroz, Afghanisan’s Baloch minority are the majority.

Zaranj, the provincial capital located 900 km southwest of Kabul, lies within walking distance of the official border with Iran, across the Helmand river. For centuries, the local Baloch have lived on the banks of one of the country’s main water sources, but the droughts of the past ten years have forced many families to leave their native land. Officials at the water supply department in Zaranj told The Diplomat that Iran is to blame for diverting and storing water from the Helmand river. But accusations go beyond interference in the water supply.

The Civil Transition in Afghanistan: 2014-2016

SEP 24, 2014

Creating an effective transition for the ANSF is only one of the major challenges that Afghanistan, the US, and Afghanistan’s other allies face during 2014-2015 and beyond.

The five other key challenges include: 

• Going from an uncertain election to effective leadership and political cohesion and unity.

• Creating an effective and popular structure governance, with suitable reforms, from the local to central government, reducing corruption to acceptable levels, and making suitable progress in planning, budgeting, and budget execution.

• Coping with the coming major cuts in outside aid and military spending in Afghanistan, adapting to a largely self-financed economy, developing renewal world economic development plans, carrying out the reforms pledged at the Tokyo Conference, and reducing the many barriers to doing business.

• Establishing relations with Pakistan and other neighbors that will limit outside pressures and threats, and insurgent sanctuaries on Afghanistan’s border.

• Persuading the US, other donors, NGCO, and nations will to provide advisors to furnish the needed aid effort through at least 2018, and probably well beyond. 

Losing the "Forgotten War" The U.S. Strategic Vacuum in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia

SEP 26, 2014

The U.S. is now engaged in a major national debate over how to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Afghanistan, however, has become the “forgotten war” at a time when the Taliban is making steady gains, civilian casualties are rising, there still is no clear U.S. plan, and its allies lack clear plans for any post-2014 aspect of transition. 

Afghanistan is also only part of the story. Pakistan is as critical to any meaningful definition of strategic success in the fighting as Afghanistan. Pakistan, however, is in political chaos, has rising tensions with India, has only made uncertain progress in its latest military campaign, and has made no progress in the mix of economic and educational reforms that are critical to a stable future. Few Americans see Pakistan as having been anything but the most reluctant ally since 9/11 and many see Pakistan’s ISI as part of the enemy.

U.S. forces have effectively left Central Asia, but the U.S. has not announced any strategy to deal with Central Asia in the future, or how to adjust to the growing tension with Russia.

The end result is that United States has failed to define meaningful future strategies for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia. It is cutting its presence in Afghanistan so quickly that its Transition efforts may well fail, and it has no clear future strategy for Pakistan or Central Asia.

As a result, the Burke Chair is issuing a study that examines the overall mix of problems in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region. It suggests the best solution for the U.S. in dealing with the complex problems in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia may be the simplest and most minimalist approach. No vital U.S. national security priorities are currently involved that require sustained, major U.S. intervention, and strategic triage indicates that other areas and problems have a higher priority.

At the same time, there is still a chance that the U.S. can at least make Transition work in Afghanistan if the new Afghan government is unified and acts quickly enough to show it can be a credible partner, and if the Obama Administration is willing to provide the needed advisors and aid on a conditions-based level, rather than reduce the U.S. presence to an unworkable level by the end of 2015.

This paper is entitled Losing the “Forgotten War”: The U.S. Strategic Vacuum in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia, and is available on the CSIS web site here.

The Chinese War Machine A 1979 book is an amazing look back at Beijing’s military

In the days before the Internet, it was difficult to find detailed, timely information on foreign armed forces. Secretive, backward China was a particularly difficult country to assess.

The Chinese War Machine changed that. The 1979 book was, for a long time, the best look at the Chinese armed forces an ordinary person could hope to get. The authors and contributors — including a youthful Bill Sweetman—hailed from highly-regarded institutions including Sandhurst, the Warship Society, the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute, the Rand Corporation and Jane’s.

And The Chinese War Machine is still useful. It’s a reminder of how far Beijing’s military has come in just 35 years. The People’s Liberation Army inThe Chinese War Machine wore spinach-color army uniforms, practiced aerial tactics with toy airplanes and sailed in green coastal waters.

By contrast, today’s Chinese armed forces wear the latest camouflage, train in high-tech simulators and sail all over the world.

In 1979, Deng Xiaoping had just risen to lead China. In coming years, he would loosen government restrictions, open up China to the rest of the world and shift his country to a market economy.

Deng’s changes would revolutionize the People’s Liberation Army. Opening up China meant regional, if not global, responsibilities. A growing market economy would generate more money for defense. Prodded—and occasionally shocked—by outside events such as the 1991 Gulf War, the once-insular Chinese military modernized.

Chinese amphibious warfare training. From The Chinese War Machine

The shrinking army

In 1979, the ground forces of the People’s Liberation Army were the largest in the world at 3,600,000-strong. The main force consisted of 40 army corps, each with around three infantry divisions of 13,000 men apiece. There were also up to a dozen armored divisions with 30o tanks each plus three airborne divisions.

The ground forces followed China’s “People’s War” doctrine. Drawing on wartime experiences fighting Japan, People’s War envisioned drawing an invader—the Soviet Union or the United States—deep into the Chinese interior, where Beijing’s huge army would destroy it.

At the time, the PLA ground forces suffered from serious technological deficiencies. Infantry divisions were foot-mobile, without armored personnel carriers or even trucks to transport troops. The T-59 was the main battle tank, a derivative of the 1950s-vintage Soviet T-55 tank. The PLA relied on towed guns for anti-tank warfare and machine guns and light cannons for air defense.

The late 1970s brought rapid change. China had just ended a disastrous war with Vietnam, in which Beijing lost 300 men a day for an entire month. The war exposed serious problems—antiquated equipment and tactics, and a supply system unable to keep troops supplied just 10 miles inside Vietnam.

As The Chinese War Machine was being written, Beijing was considering a massive import of foreign weapons to rearm its ground forces. Franco-German Milan anti-tank missiles would help defeat Soviet armored spearheads the Chinese expected to enter northern Manchuria in wartime.

China was also evaluating the Anglo-American Harrier jump jet, speculating that it could operate from primitive forward airstrips in order to harass the enemy—a kind of flying guerrilla fighter, perfect for People’s War. China was even in talks to purchase the A-10 tank-killer from the U.S.

The Real Threat from China's Military: Going "Rogue

September 26, 2014 


Why a series of recent incidents along the disputed China-India border could be a sign of a much bigger problem.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping was humiliated during his just-completed meeting with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, turning the long-awaited summit into a “fiasco,” according to one observer. Sino-Indian relations, which were supposed to be propelled to new heights last week, now look troubled, at least in the short term.

In mid-September, Chinese troops crossed the Line of Actual Control, the demarcation of the disputed China-India border, in the Chumar section of eastern Ladakh, high in the Himalayas. Reinforcements brought their number up to battalion strength, about 1,000 soldiers, according to reports. Although the Sino-Indian boundary there is ill defined, it was clear China’s commanders intended to create a provocation as they advanced several kilometers on the Indian side of the temporary line.

Last Wednesday, while meeting Modi in Ahmedabad, Xi said he had ordered his forces to return to the Chinese side of the border. On Thursday, in New Delhi, Chinese officials told their Indian counterparts that the troops had in fact been directed to return to their original position. In fact, China’s commanders added soldiers late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.

“Even such small incidents can impact the biggest of relationships just as a little toothache can paralyze the entire body,” Modi told Xi on Thursday, after it was clear the People’s Liberation Army had not returned to China’s side of the line. The tense standoff, perhaps the worst in years, continued Friday, when Xi ended his three-day visit. The incident—actually a series of intrusions—lasted into the weekend.

At the same time, there was a “civilian confrontation” at Demchok, a village also in Ladakh. There, Chinese yak and pony herders set up tents about a half kilometer on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control, clearly at the direction of Chinese authorities, most likely the army.

Indian government officials, in the words of the Times of India, are “pretty sure” that the incursions “were timed to coincide” with Xi’s visit to India. If so, who timed the provocations? Some believe it was Xi Jinping himself, engaging in a particularly duplicitous form of diplomacy.

The argument that Xi is the villain begins with the notion, shared by almost all China watchers, that he is in full control of the armed forces. If he is, the Chinese leader, by talking peace while deploying his military, was exhibiting a typical Chinese tactic toward the Indians. After all, this would not have been the first time in recent years that Mr. Xi had combined soft and hard tactics against the Indians. For instance, in April and May of last year, on the eve of Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to New Delhi, Chinese troops in platoon force marched about 19 kilometers into India, in the Daulat Beg Oldie sector of Ladakh. They stayed about twenty-one days and left only after the Indians threatened to cancel Li’s visit.

China's Climate Change Challenge

September 26, 2014

At the UN Climate Summit this week in New York, Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said it all: “China will make greater effort to more effectively address climate change;” announce further actions “as soon as we can;” and achieve “the peaking of total carbon dioxide emissions as early as possible.” According to oneWestern environmental NGO official, “China’s remarks at the Climate Summit go further than ever before. Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli’s announcements to strive to peak emissions ‘as early as possible’ is a welcome signal for the cooperative action we need for the Paris Agreement.” Other media outlets trumpeted: “China pledges to cut emissions at UN climate summit” and “China shifts stance on climate change.”

Really? In the face of such facts as China now emits more tonnes of carbon than the United States and European Union combined (not surprising since it consumes more coal than the entire world put together and its population is greater than that of the United States and EU combined) and, more surprisingly and less understandably, posts higher per capita emissions than the EU, Zhang’s statement seems to be an understatement. Indeed, it amounts to little more than Beijing will do as much as it can whenever it can, without providing any indication of what or when that might be. As Diplomat writer Shannon Tiezzi has noted, China’s biggest actual commitment was to pledge $6 million to promote south-south cooperation on climate change, by any measure a drop in the bucket. How is it that such a vague statement of intent can provoke such positive assessments? Without delving into the reasons that some observers are prone to jump the gun when it comes to applauding China for statements of intent as opposed to observable measures, the real question is whether there are any facts to back up such an optimistic outlook for China’s contribution to meeting the global climate change challenge.

There are indeed some positive signs. As journalist Matt Sheehan has pointed out, both Chinese coal imports and consumption dropped for the first time in a decade, and the country continues to increase the weight of nuclear, solar, wind, and natural gas in the country’s energy mix. The bad news is it isn’t clear whether the drop in coal is primarily from environmental measures to reduce coal consumption domestically (from setting coal caps and deploying tough new fines for coal miners that exceed national production levels) or from slowing Chinese economic growth; if the latter, coal consumption may well rebound if and when the Chinese economy does. Moreover, as Sheehan has reported, the drop in consumption was so slight that some analysts are reluctant to attribute any staying power to it. Also, as China shuts down power plants and coal mining in the eastern provinces, they are planning to move the plants and mines to the country’s western regions. Thus, while some of China’s major coal-related initiatives will do much to improve domestic air pollution in the coastal provinces, they won’t produce the same benefits for climate change.

China's Self-Created Demographic Disaster Is Coming

September 25, 2014

China is missing out on its biggest economic asset: its people.

Economist Nicholas Eberstadt estimates that, even if Beijing were to eliminate its one-child policy today, Chinese economic growth would still decline in the 2020s, because the next generation’s working-age population is already so markedly small.

Since implementation in 1979, the one-child policy has reduced China’s population by an estimated 400 million people. In addition to creating a gender imbalance, numerically favoring men over women, the policy also skewed the age demographic.

Economists estimate that China’s elderly population will increase 60 percent by 2020, even as the working-age population decreases by nearly 35 percent. This type of demographic shift is unprecedented and presents serious challenges to the economic health of the nation. Studies suggest that as a direct result of the one-child policy, China’s annual projected GDP growth rate will likely to decline from 7.2 percent in 2013 to around 6.1 percent by 2020.

Projected GDP growth rate is driven by three factors: labor, capital and total factor productivity. The one-child policy has directly impacted two of these three factors by reducing the labor supply and inadvertently decreasing the ratio of working-age population to the elderly population. As the population ages, and there are no able-bodied replacements, total factor productivity will undeniably decline.

China and the ISIS Threat

By Gary Sands
September 26, 2014

Already grappling with a home-grown terrorism problem, should Beijing fear the Islamic State? 

The Islamic State (IS), also widely known as ISIS and ISIL, is apparently attempting to make good on its promise to attack nations who oppose them. A week ago, in the largest counterterrorism operation in Australian history, 800 federal and state police officers raided more than a dozen properties across Sydney, sparked by intelligence that IS was planning a public street killing as a demonstration of its reach.

The arrests in Sydney follow the arrest of two men in Brisbane last week for allegedly preparing to fight in Syria, recruiting jihadists and raising money for the al-Qaeda offshoot group Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the Nusra Front. Australia estimates about 60 of its citizens are fighting for IS and the Nusra Front in Iraq and Syria. To date, 15 of those fighters had been killed, including two young suicide bombers. Within Australia, the government believes around 100 Australians are actively supporting extremist groups, recruiting fighters and coaching suicide bombers, as well as providing funds and equipment.

Australia is not alone in taking the threat from IS seriously: The New York Police Department’s top counterterrorism official stepped up security in Times Square on Wednesday following a recent Internet posting – purportedly authored by IS – that urged “lone wolf” terrorists to attack Times Square and other tourist spots. Also this week, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Yemen living in upstate New York, arrested earlier this year on charges of plotting to kill members of the U.S. military and others, faces new charges that he tried to aid the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Obama’s decision to go after IS, announced on September 11, deliberately harked back to the response of George W. Bush on that same day 13 years ago, when he promised to “find those responsible and to bring them to justice.” And much as world leaders in Israel, Russia, the Philippines, Algeria, Egypt, India and Tunisia followed Bush’s lead in cracking down on terrorist activity back then, world leaders will again consider the emergence of IS as a rallying call to heighten counteroffensive action against domestic terrorism.

The U.S. and Australia are obvious targets for IS, but how dire is the threat for China? According to comments made in July by Wu Sike, China’s special envoy to the Middle East, up to 100 Chinese citizens may be fighting for IS. Wu believes the Chinese fighters are Uighurs from Xinjiang, a Muslim Turkic-speaking ethnic minority group.

A recent meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), whose members include China Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, saw its members sharing the same fear Europeans and Americans have of their fellow citizens who have joined IS in Iraq and Syria returning to their home countries. In addressing the heads of state of SCO in Tajikistan, President Xi Jinping confirmed “(We) should make concerted efforts to crack down on the ‘three evil forces’ of terrorism, extremism and separatism.” Zhang Xinfeng, the group’s director of the Regional Anti-Terrorism Agency also spoke on the members’ concern of returning IS soldiers, saying, “These people have started returning to their homeland, which constitutes a major threat to regional security.”