1 October 2014

A return to social science

October 1, 2014 
A return to social scienceShiv Visvanathan

The social sciences have declined as part of the imagination of the university. The subject has been appropriated by security agencies, think tanks and marketing outfits which substitute their current interests for democracy

There are moments in history where talent clusters in little pockets to produce a new excitement around knowledge. One senses a wonderful sparkle about scholarship, a sense of excitement and gossip which spreads all over. All one needs is a few books, a café, a lawn and a few scholars committed to chewing on an idea. One’s sense of the world changes as we watch them play with an idea. What then grows is not just an idea, but a group of friends, a community, and a commons of insights which attracts people from all over. I remember one such place used to be the wonderful group Rajni Kothari built in Delhi in the 1970s and the 1980s. Rajni is now almost forgotten but his ideas are still relevant to the problems of today.

This is an era which has seen the literal death of the Congress, the end of the Planning Commission, the rise of new majoritarianism, the decline of the great social moments; yet, one cannot think of one article or one book which captures this world adequately. Adding insult to intellectual injury, we have a whole array of diasporic intellectuals whose ideas of India are literally embarrassing. Their pastiche of nostalgia, didacticism and post-modernity adds little to the study of everyday issues. There have been a few exceptions to this dismal scene. One thinks of Ashis Nandy or U.R. Ananthamurthy. Both realised that the worlds they were critiquing and celebrating were disappearing before them. It is at these moments that one misses the magic of Rajni and his conversations on politics.Studying democracy

The house that Rajni built was a bungalow with a few lawns. At lunch every day, the lawns housed an array of chairs, and scholars came, ate and talked. They discussed politics but what they celebrated was democracy, and democracy in all its variants was something all its scholars were committed to. Studying democracy became a ritual game, where experiment followed experiment. Rajni led the group, coming in largely at lunch time, clutching scraps of paper; many were old envelopes on which he jotted notes. Others would walk in. What one ate for lunch was incidental. What one talked about at lunchtime shaped the ideas of a generation.

Rajni brought his sense of Gujarati entrepreneurship to ideas. He triggered election studies inviting political scientists like Myron Wiener, Robert Dahl and Karl Deutsch to India. But politics was more than elections. Rajni and his colleagues realised that social science needed new experiments, new ways of thinking. He created the China Group so that China could be studied as the relevant other. He encouraged Future studies which was the one place where dissenting intellectuals from Eastern Europe could gather safely. The future was treated as a different country that Stalinist regimes of that time need not be paranoid about. He introduced a voluntary group called Lokayan which became a site for a range of grass-root imaginations. Lokayan went beyond the logic of expertise, the arrogance of intellectuals to listen to the experiences of ordinary people. In many ways, the creativity of the network lay not in its originality but in its ability to listen, adopt, mix and rework points of insight.


01 October 2014 

It is no longer feasible for India-China trade relations to remain insulated from the border question. A final resolution must be sought by 2025, even as an early clarification on the LAC should become time-bound

T he cover of The Economist (September 20-26 ) reads, ‘Xi Who Must Be Obeyed — How One Man Now Rules China’. Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese President, could not have known that the People’s Liberation Army was poised to intrude into Chumar on September 10, as this pre-dated his arrival in India on September 17. The resultant stand-off was timed to coincide with his visit and was fully defused only after a meeting between Foreign Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Wang Yi. With this intrusion, China has raised the bar that high-level meetings can take place even as thousands of PLA and Indian soldiers are locked in confrontation on the disputed border. Last year, under the United Progressive Alliance Government, the visit of Prime Minister Li Keqiang came under a cloud over an intrusion into a nearby sector, Depsang, but the PLA withdrew much before the visit, after high-level diplomatic intervention. At that time, the now ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, then in Opposition, demanded the visit be called off unless the intrusion was vacated. This time around, the more muscular and robust China policy of the BJP yielded to Mr Xi’s charm offensive, and did not call off the talks even as the PLA stayed put.

A Chinese warship and submarine docked in Colombo port from September 7 to 13, left three days before the arrival of Mr Xi in Sri Lanka and will return later this year in October and November. These vessels were there when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Sri Lanka, in obviously another case of unpropitious timing. Mr Xi’s visits to Maldives and Sri Lanka, skipping Pakistan, are calibrated to contain India. In Hambantota Port, whose development was offered first to India, China will have control over four of seven berths for 35 years, and Chinese companies will operate this port as well as Colombo port, both of which lie on international sea lanes of communication from the Gulf to Malacca Straits. China is investing heavily in Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan to counter Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘neighbourhood-first’ policy. This will keep India firmly anchored in South Asia.

Chumar in Ladakh is a strategically important piece of real estate of vantage, where the Chinese keep nibbling away and where India has built dominant observation posts. Demchok, another contested area, is an excellent launch pad for an Indian offensive mechanised operation into Xinjiang province. The PLA’s insecurities emanate from India’s tactical advantages and capabilities to exploit the terrain. Ladakh is contiguous with China’s proposed Kashgar-Gwadar railroad highways, passing through disputed Gilgit-Baltistan. It is understood that the compromise worked out, entailed India dismantling its bunkers at Chumar, which is precisely what the PLA wanted, leaving the PLA constructed road incomplete.

Post November 2012, the new leadership in China is firmly in control of the PLA which postures aggressively and assertively in the border areas, supporting Mr Xi’s dream of National Renewal. Mr Xi has said that China would never compromise on territorial issues including South and East China Sea. Three days after his India visit, he told PLA Staff Commanders to improve their combat readiness and sharpen their ability to win a regional war in the age of information technology. While the signal is clear that local wars may be fought over territorial disputes (India and Bhutan), the PLA’s last battle was in 1979 in Vietnam where it got a bloody nose and Deng Xiao Peng called the PLA bloated and lax.

It is hardly surprising that border transgressions/intrusions occur despite a surfeit of mechanisms — at least six since 1993 and the last in 2013 — as the PLA has been ordered to activate disputed and coveted border areas. This along with altering ground realities with the use of civilian graziers and PLA will strengthen their claim lines in any future border settlements. Shaken by Chumar, and to a lesser extent, the mirage of the China-promised $100 billion shrinking to $20 billion in investment, a befuddled Mr Modi called for maintenance of peace and tranquility on the border and for the first time since 2003 sought clarification of the Line of Actual Control. Mr Xi apparently ignored this demand and said in a contradiction of terms, that such incidents will happen as the LAC is not clarified, but that events can be controlled by existing mechanisms.

India should have pressed for the LAC clarification during the formal Hyderabad House talks, due to the obvious failure of the existing mechanisms, and more importantly, the 17 rounds of Special Representative dialogues which broke down over the Chinese interpretation of ‘due interest of populated areas’. Translated on the ground, it signals that China wants possession of Tawang in South Tibet (Arunachal Pradesh) over which it has presented documentary evidence. China is not willing to revert to the LAC clarification process abandoned earlier and replaced with the SR talks which were meant to jump to a political solution, skipping the identification of the LAC. In the joint statement, there was no mention of continuing SR talks even as Special Counsellor Yang Yiechi was present in the Mr Xi delegation. The Indian representative for the border talks, a toss up between former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and NSA Ajit Doval, was expected to be named during this visit. This did not happen, leaving the future of SR talks in doubt.

New Delhi’s choice of returning to the process of defining the LAC is the right one as, according to Beijing, the border problem is a legacy of history and should be left to the future generations to resolve. Mr Modi took Mr Xi by surprise by demanding a clarification of the LAC. He has now to stick to this and jointly explore a new fast-track mechanism to locate and delineate a mutually acceptable LAC and exchange suitably marked maps.

Beijing will be unwilling to accept this as it does not wish to disclose its perception of LAC. It knows that by delaying indicating the LAC, it is imposing a heavy financial and psychological cost and using the undefined LAC as a strategic leverage.

It is no longer feasible that India-China trade and economic relations remain insulated from the border question which has been reduced to managing differences over it. While a three to five year time-frame should be imposed on clarifying the LAC, a final resolution be sought by 2025. Mr Xi and Mr Modi are strong leaders and can do it, provided Mr Xi plays ball.

Making Sense of ‘Modi Operandi’

September 2014

Prime Minister Modi has outlined India’s policy towards its neighbours early in his term. The key to building good relations with neighbours will not only be India’s willingness to adopt a large-hearted approach but, most importantly, the ability to conceive, conclude and complete contracted projects within an accelerated time schedule. A good relationship with neighbours will enable Modi to engage more confidently in future with more powerful and sophisticated nations like China, believes Jayadeva Ranade 

Dispelling any doubts that the new Modi government had not formulated its foreign policy, Prime Minister Modi gave clear indications within three months of his swearing-in that the central pillar of his foreign policy will be to accord priority to India’s neighbourhood and pay particular attention to ensuring friendly neighbours. In the process, he simultaneously defined the contours of his government’s policy for India’s neighbourhood and outlined India’s geographic area of immediate strategic interest. 

Breaking New Ground

The new initiatives were set in motion even before the swearing-in ceremony on May 26 when, for the first time ever, leaders of neighbouring countries, and those in whom India has an abiding interest, were invited to New Delhi for the event. This initiative immediately sent out a number of messages, including that the new prime minister will take active interest in foreign policy issues and would readily engage and communicate directly with these and other world leaders. The initiative strongly signalled that India, as the biggest country with among the largest and fastest growing economies in the region, is eager to tap the existing economic potential, by assisting in the development of its neighbours. It offers all these countries an opportunity to forge a closer, cooperative partnership with India, join in India’s growth and benefit from the enhanced economic opportunities flowing from India’s growth and rise. The resounding popular mandate, not seen in the past 30 years that his party, the BJP, received, strengthens the initiatives that Modi could take, and many relationships will be examined afresh, possibly breaking new ground.

The presence of Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif and Sri Lanka’s Rajapakse at the swearing-in ceremony unambiguously clarified that India’s foreign policy would be decided by the Centre and will not be held hostage to local political considerations or by state governments. The meetings with the Sri Lankan and Nepalese leaders are said to have been quite frank. The ruling BJP’s majority in parliament gives New Delhi a high degree of flexibility in crafting foreign policy.

Parameters for Future Indo-Pak Engagement

India Weighing Nuclear Powered Carrier

By: Sam LaGrone
September 26, 2014 · 

India Weighing Nuclear Powered Carrier

An artist’s conception of INS Vikrant, India’s first domestically-built carrier India is weighing constructing its second carrier with nuclear power. Indian Navy Image

An artist’s conception of INS Vikrant, India’s first domestically-built carrier India is weighing constructing its second carrier with nuclear power. Indian Navy Image

India is considering powering its second domestically built aircraft carrier with a nuclear propulsion plant, according to a Tuesday report by news agency Press Trust of India.

The design of the carrier is ongoing and nuclear power is still an option for the carrier, said Director General of Naval Design Bureau, Rear Admiral Atul Saxena, in response to questions from reporters.

India’s first domestically built carrier — the 40,000-ton INS Vikrant currently under construction in Cochin Shipyard in Southern India — will be powered by four General Electric LM-2500 gas turbines.

The second carrier Vishal is planned to be much larger — up to 65,000-tons — and is still in the conceptual design process, Saxena said.

Last year Indian officials said the two major decisions for the carrier were its power supply and launching and recovery methods for the planned Vishnal.

Though more technically complicated in design and construction stages, a nuclear powered carrier provides greater flexibility to commanders once in operation, Eric Wertheim, author of the Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World, told USNI News on Wednesday.

“Nuclear power frees up space,” he said.

Afghanistan and U.S. Sign Long-Awaited Security Pact

SEPT. 30, 2014,
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan and the United States signed a security pact on Tuesday to allow U.S. forces to remain in the country past the end of year, ending a year of uncertainty over the fate of foreign troops supporting Afghans as they take over responsibility for the country's security.

Afghan, American and NATO leaders welcomed the deal, which will allow about 10,000 American troops to stay in the country after the international combat mission ends Dec. 31. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai had refused to sign it despite U.S. threats of a full withdrawal in the absence of legal protections for American forces. U.S. officials have said that the delay in the deal's signing does not affect plans for next year.

President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who was sworn into office a day earlier, told a crowd assembled at the presidential palace in the capital Kabul for the signing ceremony that the agreement signaled a fundamental shift for the positive in the country's relations with the world.

"This agreement is only for Afghan security and stability," he said in comments broadcast live on state television. "These agreements are in our national interest. The Bilateral Security Agreement will pave the ground for Afghanistan to take control," he added.

President Barack Obama hailed what he called a "historic day in the U.S.-Afghan partnership that will help advance our shared interests and the long-term security of Afghanistan," according to a White House statement.

"This agreement represents an invitation from the Afghan Government to strengthen the relationship we have built over the past 13 years and provides our military service members the necessary legal framework to carry out two critical missions after 2014: targeting the remnants of al-Qaida and training, advising, and assisting Afghan National Security Forces," it said.

More than a decade after U.S. forces helped topple the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Afghanistan is still at war with the Islamic militant group, which regularly carries out attacks, mainly targeting security forces.

Newly appointed Afghan national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar and U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham signed the actual document. A second agreement allowing NATO troops to stay in the country was signed during the same ceremony.

Government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who has assumed a post akin to prime minister after signing a power-sharing agreement with Ghani Ahmadzai, also welcomed the security deal.

Agreement Signed That Allows 9,800 U.S. Troops to Remain in Afghanistan

U.S., Afghanistan sign security pact to allow American forces to remain in country

Sudarsan Raghavan

Washington Post, September 30, 2014

KABUL — The United States and Afghanistan on Tuesday signed a vital security deal that allows some American troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond this year, ensuring a continuing U.S. presence in the region.

The Bilateral Security Agreement allows for 9,800 U.S. troops to stay in the country past 2014 to help train, equip and advise Afghan military and police forces. It arrives as Islamist Taliban insurgents are increasingly attacking areas around the country in an effort to regain control as most foreign troops prepare to leave by the end of the year.

The accord was signed a day after Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as Afghanistan’s new president in a power-sharing government in the first democratic handover of power in the nation’s history. Ghani’s predecessor, Hamid Karzai, who had presided over the country since shortly after the Taliban was driven from power in 2001, had refused to sign the agreement, souring relations with Washington.

A separate, status of forces agreement was also signed. It permits a small NATO force to remain in Afghanistan past the end of the year.

Under the BSA, as it is called here, American forces would keep some bases in the country. The agreement also prevents U.S. military personnel from being prosecuted under Afghan laws for any crimes they may commit; instead the United States has jurisdiction over any criminal proceedings or disciplinary action inside the country. U.S. contractors and their employees do not fall into this category and would be subject to Afghan laws.

Tuesday’s signing took place at the presidential palace compound in central Kabul.

Is Moscow Preparing to Annex South Ossetia After Crimea?

September 26, 2014 

The situation in Ukraine continues to quickly evolve, and the Russian annexation of Crimea has already mostly faded away from the 24-hour news cycle. Additionally, Western leaders are now hinting that at least some of the sanctions putting pressure on Moscow may soon be suspended (ITAR-TASS, September 5). Amidst all this, the leadership of South Ossetia—the former Georgian autonomy, which broke away from Georgia with Russian military support in August 2008—is apparently now seriously considering holding a referendum on formally joining the Russian Federation.

The current head of the South Ossetian parliament, Anatoly Bibilov is assumed to be the proposed referendum’s main proponent. Bibilov led the breakaway republic’s United Ossetia (UO) party in its successful parliamentary campaign last summer, in which it received the majority of the votes. UO’s primary slogan was the “unification” of South Ossetia with North Ossetia, an autonomous North Caucasus republic inside the Russian Federation. South Ossetia, according to these plans, would either form a united “Ossetia” within Russia, or seek to become its own region inside the Federation—the Republic of South Ossetia (Voice of Russia, June 24).

The idea of “unification” is not particularly new—the Ossetians spoke in favor of leaving Georgia even during the time of the Soviet Union (republicofsouthossetia.org, accessed September 26). However, at that point, their intentions were masked by calls to make “the union republics equal to the autonomous republics” within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In other words, South Ossetia and Abkhazia wanted to leave the Georgian SSR and become directly subordinate to Moscow, bypassing Tbilisi (Vestnik Kavkaza, March 17, 2010).

Today, the Crimean precedent of March 2014 provides hope to proponents of a similar process occurring in South Ossetia. The difference between South Ossetia and Abkhazia is that the Abkhazian leaders have never expressed a wish to join the Russian Federation. Indeed, the newly elected president of Abkhazia, Raul Khajimba, firmly reiterated his administration’s intention to retain the breakaway republic’s independence (suffragio.org, August 27).

The main puzzle is whether Moscow is prepared to respond to Tskhinvali’s demands and accept South Ossetia into the Federation. If South Ossetia holds a referendum on joining Russia, President Vladimir Putin will face a choice of whether to grant South Ossetia’s demand or not. Not granting this demand would mean Putin losing face inside his country, since Russian society would perceive it as a sign of weakness after the “Crimean triumph.” But granting the South Ossetians their wish would represent yet another example of Russia annexing territory that the vast majority of countries worldwide and all members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—except Russia—still consider to be an unalienable part of Georgia.

In Putin’s Shadow

Quick post, but there’s a very good article by Peter Pomerantsev over at The Atlantic on Russia’s new breed of information warfare. Of particular note is the speed at which the Kremlin has managed to manufacture into importance the concept of ‘Novorossiya’ as a term to define the sections of Ukraine that Russia threatens to separate from Ukraine, or annex outright. Pomerantsev’s points about wanton unreality, and the general attack on the notion of objectivity reminded me, in a tangential fashion, of one of my favourite quotes on power from the A Song of Ice and Fireseries. Before continuing, I’d like to point out that this is in no way an attempt to say that anything from George R.R. Martin’s pen is directly relevant to the situation in Ukraine. Rather, it’s an interesting way to think about the interaction between power and truth, and that interaction is important in regards to Ukraine. No “What can Buffy the Vampire Slayer tell us about people dying in Donetsk?”, etc. Since the quote is well reproduced in Game of Thrones, I’ve included the clip below (Safe for work, unlike half the programme, and spoiler free):

For those without headphones at work, the books don’t delve into the riddle’s answer (although arguably the entire series is an attempt at one). Varys (a royal advisor, of sorts) tells Tyrion:

In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. ‘Do it,’ says the king, ‘for I am your lawful ruler.’ ‘Do it,’ says the priest, ‘for I command you in the names of the gods.’ ‘Do it,’ says the rich man, ‘and all this gold shall be yours.’ So tell me- who lives and who dies?

In the TV version, this conversation continues:

Tyrion Lannister: Depends on the sellsword.
Lord Varys: Does it? He has neither crown, nor gold, nor favor with the gods.
Tyrion Lannister: He has a sword, the power of life and death.
Lord Varys: But if it’s swordsmen who rule, why do we pretend kings hold all the power? When Ned Stark lost his head, who was truly responsible? Joffrey? The executioner? Or something else?
Tyrion Lannister: I’ve decided I don’t like riddles.
Lord Varys: Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick. A shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow.

In my mind, if we think of the riddle as a question of power, then the answer to the riddle lies outside its formal structure. The person with the true power is Varys, because Varys is the person able to set the categories and terms which constitute the riddle itself. This is similar to the control of belief and ideology epitomised in George Orwell’s 1984. But as a comparison to Russia’s information war, a 1984 comparison doesn’t work. Russia exercises power in setting the terms of debate, but it doesn’t control this in a unilateral fashion. Russia’s power lies in its ability to destroy or undermine faith in the truth of any basic ‘assumed’ categories present in the narratives of others. Where this connects to Pomerantsev’s piece is that he highlights the Kremlin’s ability (via Russia Today and other media channels) to introduce an inescapable element of doubt into almost every area of the debate. In other words, Russia doesn’t need to persuade, instead by coughing up enough static, it can attack the basis of discussion itself.

Controlling narratives, undermining basic precepts for discussion – it’s hard to say which is more powerful. Although nihilistic, the latter might be more important. After all, Varys’s riddle is only a puzzle if one believes that kings are the ultimate political authority, priests are holy and that merchants are rich. If one can’t trust those three basic ideas as true, then the riddle is unsolvable. The best answer to a world order dominated by rich western states which set the terms might be to destroy the assumptions upon which it operates.

Russia and the Menace of Unreality

How Vladimir Putin is revolutionizing information warfare

At the NATO summit in Wales last week, General Philip Breedlove, the military alliance’s top commander, made a bold declaration. Russia, he said, is waging “the most amazing information warfare blitzkrieg we have ever seen in the history of information warfare.”

It was something of an underestimation. The new Russia doesn’t just deal in the petty disinformation, forgeries, lies, leaks, and cyber-sabotage usually associated with information warfare. It reinvents reality, creating mass hallucinations that then translate into political action. Take Novorossiya, the name Vladimir Putin has given to the huge wedge of southeastern Ukraine he might, or might not, consider annexing. The term is plucked from tsarist history, when it represented a different geographical space. Nobody who lives in that part of the world today ever thought of themselves as living in Novorossiya and bearing allegiance to it—at least until several months ago. Now, Novorossiya is being imagined into being: Russian media are showing maps of its ‘geography,’ while Kremlin-backed politicians are writing its ‘history’ into school textbooks. There’s a flag and even a news agency (in English and Russian). There are several Twitter feeds. It’s like something out of a Borges story—except for the very real casualties of the war conducted in its name.

The invention of Novorossiya is a sign of Russia’s domestic system of information manipulation going global. Today’s Russia has been shaped by political technologists—the viziers of the system who, like so many post-modern Prosperos, conjure up puppet political parties and the simulacra of civic movements to keep the nation distracted as Putin’s clique consolidates power. In the philosophy of these political technologists, information precedes essence. “I remember creating the idea of the ‘Putin majority’ and hey, presto, it appeared in real life,” Gleb Pavlovsky, a political technologist who worked on Putin's election campaigns but has since left the Kremlin, told me recently. “Or the idea that ‘there is no alternative to Putin.’ We invented that. And suddenly there really was no alternative.”

The Kremlin's Troll Army “If previous authoritarian regimes were three parts violence and one part propaganda,” argues Igor Yakovenko, a professor of journalism at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, “this one is virtually all propaganda and relatively little violence. Putin only needs to make a few arrests—and then amplify the message through his total control of television.”

Edward Snowden’s Russia Erecting Digital Iron Curtain: ‘Speeds Up Bid To Tighten Grip On Web’

Edward Snowden’s Russia Erecting Digital Iron Curtain: “Speeds Up Bid To Tighten Grip On Web” 

Paul Sonne, and Olga Razumovskaya, writing in this morning’s (Sept. 25, 2014) Wall Street Journal, notes that the Russian Duma passed legislation yesterday (Wednesday), designed “to speed up measures to tighten control over foreign Internet companies such as Google, Twitter, and FaceBook — raising concerns over state pressure on social networks that have become one of the country’s few remaining spaces [outlets] for dissent.” The new law moves up the deadline — from January 1, 2016, to the new date of January 1, 2015 — requiring foreign Internet companies to store the personal data of users from Russia, and within Russia’s territorial borders. Mr. Sonne and Ms. Razumoyskaya write that the acceleration of this deadline “would create a near-impossible challenge for U.S.-based Internet firms –that have millions of Russian users; but, generally store [this] data outside Russia.” The bill is expected to become law well before the end of this year.

Russian authorities are attempting to portray this acceleration as a prudent measure to protect against foreign threats and U.S. spying; but, rights advocates and social media users claim the “Kremlin is pursuing the measure as part of a broader drive to curtail freedom of information; and, intensify scrutiny of Internet activity,” according to the Wall Street Journal .

Separate — but related legislation — is also being pursued that would limit foreign firms to 20 percent ownership of media outlets, a move that risks curbing press freedoms in a country already dominated by state-controlled media, the paper added. 

Yevgeny Fyodorov, a Duma Deputy from the ruling United Russia Party, and co-author of the bill that passed Wednesday, “warned this month that the Internet was an instrument of what he described as “orange interventions,” or Western-backed anti-government uprisings. “That’s where the censorship and revision of the events taking place in Russia come from.” Mr. Fyodorov said in an interview earlier this month with the Russian newspaper – Izvestia — which is strongly controlled by Russia’s ruling oligarchs. Mr. Fyodorov added that “all the information stored there and used against Russia. To avoid this; and, protect the country, we have to take these objects under national control,” — referring to the foreign firms’ storage servers. 

Mr. Sonne, and Ms. Razumoyskaya add that “Russian lawmakers acknowledge that it would be near impossible for foreign companies such as Google to build their own data-storage centers in Russia in just over [the] three months [remaining in 2014].” “But, if a company wants to operate on the territory of the Russian Federation, there are a wide-range of rental opportunities,” said Alexander Yushchenko, a Communist Party Deputy in the Duma, and co-author of the bill.

Is Russia Making Preparations For a Great War?

Andrzej Wilk

Is Russia Making Preparations For a Great War?

September 19 saw the start of the strategic military exercises entitled East-2014 in the Far East of Russia. Even against the background of the systematic increase in the number and scale of the Russian Army’s exercises, which have been effectively conducted almost without a break since February 2013, this project has been distinguished by its long duration and the size of the forces and resources involved, which allow them to be classified along with the largest Soviet army exercises. 

At the same time, the European part of Russia and the Arctic are witnessing other large-scale exercises by the Russian Federation’s Armed Forces, and their involvement in the conflict in Ukraine is also continuing. In total, these armed exercises involve over 200,000 soldiers and several thousand combat vehicles, hundreds of planes and helicopters, and about a hundred ships. The Russian army’s activity has also been accompanied by preliminary information, disclosed on 18 September, on the shape of the Russian budget for the years 2015 to 2017, which show that in the situation of an apparent slowdown, military spending has become the undisputed priority of Russia’s financial policy.

For 2015, this will reach the value of 4.0% of GDP (compared to 3.5% of GDP in 2014), a rise of more than 10% in real terms (to a level of at least US$84 billion). The increase in the Russian army’s activity and military spending is being accompanied by an information campaign which is increasingly intense, and is being channeled to meet public expectations, according to which Russia must defend itself against the aggression of the West.

In the near term, it should be assumed that the principal objective of Russia’s clear demonstration of power is to exert pressure on the West, to force it to make further concessions on the issue of Ukraine and confirm the Russian Federation’s position as a superpower. However, given the length and scale of the enterprise – an increasingly prominent effect of which is the progressive militarization of the state – the consequences of these apparent preparations for war may be far more serious. 

At present, it is increasingly relevant to question whether the spiral of militarization which the Kremlin has set in motion has already reached the point of no return. The only way out in such a situation would be, in the best case, to achieve a spectacular success along the lines of Russia reducing the whole of Ukraine to a vassal state, by means of a permanent demonstration of and a (so far) limited use of force; and in the worst case, for Moscow to start a war on a far bigger scale than its actions in Georgia in 2008, or currently in Ukraine.

More and more activity …

Taliban Devise New Strategy in Afghanistan: Territorial Control and War on Afghan Intelligence Headquarters

September 26, 2014 

Afghan soldier on patrol (Source: NATO Training Mission Afghanistan)

On September 10, 2014, Kunduz province’s police chief, Ghulam Mustafa Mohseni, announced that a longtime Taliban stronghold, the Chahar Dara district of northern Afghanistan, had been cleared of insurgents. Mohseni added that the Taliban lost around 210 members in the operations (ToloNews, September 10). The large number of Taliban casualties in Kunduz is one of the many instances of the widening insurgency in Afghanistan. Militants increasingly have been able to carry out attacks with hundreds of people fighting Afghan government forces for days and weeks in order to gain territorial control over specific strategically located areas of Afghanistan.

Along with these major and well-coordinated battles in the field, insurgents are now being used as assets in a clearly drawn intelligence war targeting the Afghan security establishment, with a particular focus on the Afghan domestic intelligence agency. The latest of these attacks was conducted in early September with a group of 19 suicide attackers targeting the National Directorate of Security (NDS) provincial headquarters in Ghazni province. The attack, which lasted for a few hours, was highly sophisticated and brutal, killing and wounding around 180 civilians and security personnel (Daily Mail, September 4).

Large groups of Taliban fighters in combat and an intelligence war are the two main pillars of a strategic shift in the broader strategy of the Afghan insurgency. This shift demonstrates that the Afghan insurgency has changed dramatically in 2014, as the country is heading toward a transformed role for NATO forces left in Afghanistan coupled with a political transition that has been underway for the last five months. Success for various groups of insurgents operating under the Taliban’s banner could be a game changer and would allow the reemergence and reestablishment of a brutal regime in Afghanistan.

Struggle for Territorial Control

Since June, the Taliban have waged four major direct assaults in four Afghani provinces. The largest operation conducted so far has been in Helmand province. Reports suggest that 800 to 1,000 Taliban insurgents were involved in major assaults on the Sangin, Nawzad, Mua Qala and Kajaki districts (BBC, June 25). Fighting there continued for weeks until the Taliban were defeated and areas were cleared; around 100 militants were reportedly killed during the fighting. The Taliban then shifted their operations to northern Afghanistan’s Kunduz province where they fought for weeks to take control of the Khan Abad, Chahar Dara and Dashte Archi districts. As a result, they lost tens of their people and fought the Afghan security forces for weeks (ToloNews, August 24). Eastern Nuristan was another target of the Taliban in late August. Afghan security forces waged an eight-day operation to regain control of the province’s Doa Ab district, killing around 30 Taliban (ToloNews, August 29). After being repulsed on three fronts, more than 1,000 insurgents then launched another operation in northwestern Farayab province in a struggle for territorial control of the Qaisar and Ghormach districts. The attacks continued for around a week and resulted in over 130 insurgent casualties (Pajhwok, August 18).

The deterioration of the security situation and a drawn-out, disputed political process have paved the way for the undertaking of a new strategy by the Taliban in Afghanistan. A senior security official in the Afghan government told Jamestown on the condition of anonymity that the Taliban’s efforts for major gains in territorial control is planned mainly for 2015 when the NATO-led ISAF forces will be fully withdrawn and a fragile and weakened Afghan state will have the burden of stabilizing Afghanistan alone. Due to the political instability that emerged during the long-time disputed elections and an uncertain NATO presence, however, the Taliban began implementing their new strategy in 2014, a strategy that the Afghan official termed as a defeated one. [1]

Intelligence War

The Rise of the Military-Space Faction

By: Willy Lam
September 25, 2014 

Lin Zuoming, President of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), is was promoted to the Central Committee at the 18th Party Congress in 2012. (Credit: AVIC)

Much has been written about the growing influence of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) generals on China’s foreign policy. Little has been said about military entrepreneurs and other non-combatant PLA personnel moving into China’s domestic governance. Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, an unprecedented number of senior cadres from the country’s labyrinthine jungong hangtian (military-industrial and space-technology) complex are being inducted to high-level Party-government organs or transferred to regional administrations. Given the perception that officials with military backgrounds tend to be more conservative and unquestionably loyal to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership, the partial militarization of the civilian Party-state apparatus will have far-reaching implications for the prospects of political and economic reforms, among others.

Uptick Under Xi Jinping

Until Xi Jinping became Party General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Military Commission at the 18th Party Congress two years ago, China’s ten major military and space-related yangqi (centrally controlled conglomerates) assumed a relatively low profile. [1] These multi-billion yuan state-owned enterprises (SOE)—which are supervised by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), a unit under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT)—were thrust into the limelight at the Congress, when an unprecedented number ofjungong hangtian entrepreneurs and researchers were made members of the policy-setting CCP Central Committee. Four CEOs from the military-space establishment were admitted to the Central Committee as full members. They were Lin Zuoming (born 1957) of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC); Xu Dazhe (1956) of the China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp (CASIC); Ma Qingrui (1959) of the China Aerospace Science & Tech Corp (CASC); and Zhang Guoqing (1964) of the China North Industries Group Corp (Norinco). By contrast, only two top managers from non-military yangqi—Jiang Jiemin, then president of China National Petroleum Corp, and Xiao Gang, then Bank of China president—made it to the elite body (CEweekly.cn, November 6, 2012; People’s Daily, November 5, 2012).

Moreover, a number of guofang hangtian officials from the Sixth-Generation corps of cadres (officials born in the 1960s who are positioned to move up the Party hierarchy at the 20th Party Congress in 2022) were elevated to the Central Committee as alternate, or second-tier, members at the 18th Party Congress. They included Cao Shumin (born 1969), Director of the MIIT Research Institute; Jin Donghan (1961), Chief Engineer at the China Shipbuilding Industry Corp (CSIC); Jin Zhuanglong (1964), General Manager of the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd. (COMAC); Liu Shiquan (1963), CASIC Vice-President; Ma Weiming (1960), Professor and Chief Engineer of the PLA Naval University of Engineering; Qian Zhimin (1960), General Manager of the China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC); Ren Hongbin, President of the China National Machinery Industry Corp (Sinomach); Wu Mengqing (1965), a top researcher at the China Electronics Technology Group Corp (CETC); and Yang Xuejun (1963), President of the National University of Defense Technology (360doc.com, November 26, 2012; Xinhua, November 14, 2012).

It was during the Hu Jintao–Wen Jiabao administration (2002­–2012) that jungong hangtian talents, in addition to CEOs of automobile and energy companies, began to take up important posts in the civilian Party-state hierarchy. For example, Hao Peng (born 1960), a senior researcher and manager at AVIC, was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region in 2003. Hao was promoted to be the Governor of Qinghai province last year. Also in 2003, Xu Fushun (1958), a former assistant general manager at CNNC, was appointed Vice-Governor of Qinghai. Xu was named Vice-Chairman of the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) late last year. Renowned rocket scientist Zhang Qingwei (1960), a former CASC General Manager and President of COMAC, was appointed Deputy Party Secretary and acting Governor of Hebei province in 2011. In early 2012, deputy general manager of CASC Yuan Jiajun (1962) was named a member of the Standing Committee of the Ningxia provincial Party Committee; Yuan was recently promoted Executive Vice-Governor of Zhejiang province (Xinhua, August 13; Ta Kung Pao [Hong Kong], July 16, 2013).

Undocumented Uyghur Migrants Find New Route to Southeast Asia

September 10, 2014 

Since 2013, increasing numbers of Uyghurs from Xinjiang Province have attempted to migrate illegally through China’s South Asian neighbors—Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia—to Thailand and then Malaysia, often with the hope of flying to Turkey. This trend marks a change from the 1990s and mid-2000s, when disaffected Uyghurs most often left Xinjiang through Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia. The cooperation of Central Asian governments with Chinese authorities in extraditing undocumented Uyghurs, especially dissidents, likely spurred Uyghurs to abandon that migration route in favor of Southeast Asia in recent years.

The uptick in migration to Southeast Asia coincides with rising levels of violence in Xinjiang since 2013. In July 2014, militants assassinated Jume Tahir, the pro-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) head imam in Kashgar, only two days after 100 people were killed in an attack in nearby Yarkand (South China Morning Post [SCMP], July 30). There have also been terrorist attacks by Uyghur militants in China that were praised by the Pakistan-based and Uyghur-led Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), including a car bombing in Beijing in October 2013; a mass stabbing in Kunming, Yunnan Province, which borders Burma and Laos, in March; and suicide and car bombings in Urumqi in May. Like the earlier groups of Uyghurs who migrated to Central Asia in the 1990s, many of the more recent groups of Uyghur migrants to Southeast Asia appear to have been connected to the ongoing violence in Xinjiang, thus spurring their decision to leave.

This article reviews the reasons behind the migration of Uyghurs to Central Asia in the 1990s and mid-2000s and the more recent trend of migration to Southeast Asia. The article also analyzes the likelihood of this trend to continue and the security and geopolitical effects of Uyghur migration to Southeast Asia on China and its relations with Southeast Asian countries.


After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the five newly independent Central Asian countries—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan—had minimal capacity to regulate cross-border migration. Uyghurs who were dissidents because of their participation in “separatist” uprisings or who sought economic opportunities outside of Xinjiang were able to cross illegally into Central Asia with relative ease. The human geography of Central Asia also made it an attractive destination for Xinjiang’s Uyghurs: Southeastern Kazakhstan and northeastern Kyrgyzstan have indigenous Uyghur communities; Uyghur language is mutually intelligible with Uzbek and similar to Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Turkmen; and from 1996 until the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban allowed Sunni Muslims to enter the country without formal documentation (about 99 percent of Uyghurs are Sunni Muslims).

The biographies of Uyghurs who were captured by U.S. and Pakistani forces in Pakistan in 2001 and 2002 and transferred to Guantanamo Bay illustrate the motives and methods of the migration patterns during the 1990s (the biographies were made available via leaked State Department cables). For example:

Chinese Designs on the Arctic?

By: Matthew Willis
September 25, 2014 

It is not fashionable, these days, to downplay China’s interest in the Arctic. Recent news that Beijing plans to publish a guidebook on Arctic shipping, that China will receive preferential treatment along the Northern Sea Route (NSR), or that Chinese investors plan to finance Russian gas extraction in the Yamal all creates the impression the country is moving into the Arctic in a big way (Barents Observer, June 20; Barents Observer, May 21; Reuters, April 30). A steady stream of analysis, mainly from Western commentators leaning heavily on the notion that the Chinese are both revisionist and far-sighted, suggests that something more sinister is afoot.

Purporting to expose a “long game,” “emerging play” or “long con,” this analysis alleges that Beijing ultimately aims to “control the awarding of select Arctic energy and fishing-related concessions as well as the [...] political arrangements governing the use of strategic waterways...” (Macdonald-Laurier Institute Commentary, September 2013; The Diplomat, November 14, 2013; Center on Foreign Relations, April 4). Even academic efforts have contributed to China’s looming shadow in various ways, including by analyzing Beijing’s “national Arctic strategy” when, in reality, no strategy has ever been released (Naval War College Review, vol. 66 no. 2, Spring 2013; Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, April 2013). Coupled with China’s 2013 admission as an observer to the region’s leading intergovernmental forum, the Arctic Council, these articles and others have persuaded some analysts that China is planning a hostile takeover of the region.

There is no denying that China’s international persona can be abrasive and its interpretation of international law unconventional. However, when it comes to the Arctic, it has hardly been the menace some claim. Many Chinese commentators hold uncontroversial views on China’s future role in the region, and diplomats from several Arctic states have made a point of emphasizing how sanguine their governments are about China’s presence. A comparison of China’s interests to those of other non-Arctic states reveals that there is little to set it apart from the likes of India or Singapore. Indeed, what unites all three is the domestic origins of their northern interests. As for China’s recent admission to the ranks of the Arctic Council observers, a foreign policy success but certainly no coup, Beijing arguably made more concessions than gains en route to the prize.

Reporting on China: a Critical Look at Critical Coverage

Western perceptions of China’s attitude toward the Arctic have been shaped by highly selective reporting, particularly regarding governance and access to resources. As an example, remarks by Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo more than four years ago—to the effect that no nation has sovereignty over the Arctic and that China’s sheer size gives it an “indispensable role”—are still being cited (IISS Strategic Comments No. 6, March 6). Readers will no doubt also be familiar with the statements of Guo Peiqing, at Ocean University, who has said that “[c]ircumpolar nations have to understand that Arctic affairs are not only regional issues but also international ones” (Center for Strategic & International Studies Report, January 2012). These statements, typically framed within a “China threat” narrative and treated as timeless, continue to be quoted by Western analysts, perhaps because they validate entrenched prejudices concerning China and suspicions of its strategic aims.

Little effort is required to turn up a wealth of uncontroversial—even conventional—statements as well. In 2013, Yang Huigen, head of the Polar Research Institute of China, stated, “We insist that [the Arctic’s] resources are not ours, and China's partnership with Arctic countries in the [energy] sector will come naturally as it is part of the widening economic co-operation among countries in the context of globalization” (China Daily, June 6, 2013). Qu Tanzhou, head of the Chinese administration in charge of Arctic and Antarctic exploration, observed in 2012 that “[a]s the world is increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change, it is fairly natural for China to embark on and step up Arctic research missions” (Xinhua, January 31, 2012). Gao Feng, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s delegate to the Arctic Council, explained to the author his government’s interest in Arctic affairs by saying, in part, that “[t]he issues relating to the Arctic are mostly regional ones, but some of them are trans-regional such as climate change and marine shipping. Arctic states and non-Arctic states need to work together to cope with [those ones]” (Email correspondence, August 8, 2013). Every country has its hawks, but the debate in China appears about as balanced as anywhere else. This more balanced debate is crucially missing from Western coverage – and only Western coverage: analysis out of Russia, Japan and Singapore has hinted at China’s supposed ulterior motives as well.)

China's Deadly Miscalculation in the Making

September 26, 2014

China thinks it can defeat America without battle

Mr. Axe’s otherwise excellent article (“China Thinks It Can Defeat America in Battle”) starts with one huge non sequitur.

The bad news first. The People’s Republic of China now believes it can successfullyprevent the United States from intervening in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or some other military assault by Beijing (emphasis mine).

Let’s call that assertion—with which I totally agree—the apples. Here come the oranges:

Now the good news. China is wrong—and for one major reason. It apparently disregardsthe decisive power of America’s nuclear-powered submarines (emphasis mine).

The bad news “apples” have to do with American intentions or will, that is, the psychologicalcomponent of security planning. The good news “oranges” relate to U.S. military capability, the physical or technological component. By itself, the latter—the ability to prevail in actual combat—cannot compensate for the absence of the former—the willingness to intervene—or even the perception that it is lacking.

Effective deterrence requires both the willand the capabilities—and the proper communication to the adversary that we are armed with both.

As for communicating to the People’s Republic that we have the wherewithal to defeat it in a naval battle, say in the Taiwan Strait, Mr. Axe’s article generously lays out the Navy’s underwater prowess: numbers of subs on station, numbers of missiles on each boat, offensive capabilities, etc. 

Of course, all that information is in the public domain, aside from the more granular secrets that China manages to buy or steal. So it is rather startling for Mr. Axe to conclude that, until the publication of his piece, “the PLA seems to have ignored Washington’s huge undersea advantage.” 

China's Deadly Miscalculation in the Making

Second, our media and politicians keep telling the world that Americans are war-weary except—at least for a while and from the air against monstrous ISIL, which happens to lack nuclear-armed missiles. Would Taiwanese being slaughtered by Chinese planes and missiles arouse the same public and official revulsion as the beheading of two Americans when missiles could also be directed at “hundreds of U.S. cities” as another PLA general threatened? Beijing presently guesses not, a very risky assumption on its part.

Third, there’s something called the doctrine of strategic ambiguity by which the U.S. will not state outright that it will defend Taiwan against Chinese aggression. Instead, we say “it would depend on the circumstances.” Possibly we have said tougher things privately so only the Chinese can hear and can decide whether they just heard a credible red line. In diplomacy and deterrence, words matter, and words said publicly and unequivocally by an American president or secretary of state or defense would matter a lot.

Had the right words been used in December 1995 when China’s officials directly asked Assistant Secretary Joseph Nye about a possible U.S. response to an attack on Taiwan, perhaps Beijing would not have been encouraged to spend the next two decades building the capabilities Mr. Axe ably describes. That is, if they hadn’t told his interlocutors that “circumstances” (rather than strategic principle) would dictate U.S. policy, maybe the Chinese would not have set about with such determination to create the uncomfortable circumstances we now confront.

Fourth, China was an observer, and a participant, in America’s protracted limited wars in Korea and Vietnam, and learned much about the sustainability of U.S. commitment in such conflicts.

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.

Economic tumult in China is, at this point, inevitable—even if the Chinese government reverses the one-child policy today. Why? Because those who will constitute the working-age population of the 2020s and the 2030s have already been born; the size of this particular subset of the population cannot increase.

Although the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) announced a relaxation in the one-child policy (allowing some families where only one parent is an only child to have more than one child, as opposed to previous policy that required both parents to be only children), studies estimate that this will allow for only 1 million additional births, a meager increase in the context of China’s typical experience of 16 million births per year.

Opinion: No more Dalai Lamas? Not so fast

By Robert Barnett, Special to CNN
September 24, 2014 

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama teaches the Buddhist faithful near Leh, India, on his 79th birthday.

Dalai Lama's comments about his next reincarnation set off a media kerfuffle 
Reincarnation produces charismatic leaders, but has structural flaws, says Robert Barnett 
Hinting he might not return is a reminder to Beijing that time is running out 
At 79, Dalai Lama needs to push China urgently to resume dialogue 

Editor's note: Robert Barnett is the Director of the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia, an adjunct professor and Associate Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia, and author of Lhasa: Streets with Memories (Columbia University Press). The opinions expressed here are solely his.

(CNN) -- The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, set off a media kerfuffle this month when he spoke about his next reincarnation.

Not a man afraid to surprise people, he told two German journalists that he didn't see a need for there to be more Dalai Lamas in the future.

The German newspaper concluded that this meant he was not planning to return as a reincarnation. A French news agencyannounced that there would be no more Tibetan spiritual leaders.

The Dalai Lama's office in India protested that he had beenmisquoted.

Eventually, people began to listen to the original interview, where it was noticed that the Dalai Lama had clearly said "I hope and pray that I will return." End of palpitations for his loyal followers and Tibetan nationalists, who very much want him to come back.

Robert Barnett is the director of the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia

In fact, the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising by Tibetans against Chinese rule, has often spoken about major change in the institution he embodies. He's said that there might be no more Dalai Lamas, that the next one could be elected rather than discovered, thatit would be good if she were a woman, and even that he might not be the actual Dalai Lama anyway.

But these are always marked as forms of speculation.