8 October 2014

Getting to Mars through ‘jugaad’

Published: October 8, 2014 

Karine Schomer
The HinduINNOVATIVE FIX: ISRO built the final model of the orbiter from the start instead of building a series of iterative models, as NASA does. Picture shows scientists and engineers working on the Mars Orbiter vehicle in 2013 at ISRO’s satellite centre in Bangalore. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

India’s Mars mission was made possible by less expensive engineering talent willing to work round the clock and the use of ingenious improvisation to cope with resource constraints

Ten months after its flawless launch on November 5, 2013, when India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) successfully entered orbit around Mars, most of the western world greeted the event with astonishment. A cartoon in the New York Times even went on to ridicule India’s effort to enter the global space elite — of the U.S., Europe and Russia — by symbolically referring to it with the image of a farmer, accompanied by a cow, knocking on the door of the elite space club. The newspaper has rightly apologised for its portrayal of India.

The country’s technological feat, accomplished two days after U.S.’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) project MAVEN orbiter reached the Red Planet, might well have some lessons to offer to other developed countries on the Indian style of innovative fix or ‘jugaad’ as they call it.Lessons from India

What made it possible for India to become the first Asian nation to accomplish its Mars mission on its maiden attempt? What fundamental strength of the Indian way of getting things done, and approach to innovation, accounts for this achievement on a shoestring budget: only $74 million compared to NASA’s $671 million for the MAVEN project? What can NASA learn from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)? What can the mature developed economies of the world learn from what has been accomplished in the resource-constrained environment of an emerging economy?

A passionate marriage of disparate disciplines

Published: October 8, 2014 

Saikat Majumdar

An unlikely integration of disciplines is essential at the highest level of creativity

In September 2014, the Department of Computer Science at Stanford University initiated a five-year pilot programme of two dual majors — Computer Science and Music, and Computer Science and English. The proposal argued that “computational photography, computer-generated music, and computer-based quantitative study of literary texts did not exist a decade ago, but are now active fields that integrate computer science with a more traditional discipline.”

The fact that the proposal for these two dual majors originated in Stanford’s Department of Computer Science — rather than in the English or Music department— says much about the professional culture of Silicon Valley, which, to a large extent, was created by this very department, with its students and alumni creating, among others, Hewlett-Packard, Netflix, Firefox, Yahoo, Google, Cisco Systems, Sun and LinkedIn.

As a humanist living and working in Silicon Valley, it is indeed deeply intriguing to observe its current culture of innovation. It is probably fair to say that the Valley began its road trip with hardware heavyweights like HP, right at that moment when Bill Hewlett won the toss over David Packard in their Stanford dorm room to get his name first in the company title. But as heavy industries moved overseas and then into slow obsolescence, Silicon Valley has become lighter, more ethereal, as borne out by the grail quest of the finest chip. Surveying the Caltrain corridor between San Francisco and San Jose, around the epicentre of Palo Alto, a writer or a musician might feel a dangerous kind of pleasure, as much of the recent tech energy has boomed around what I would call aesthetic, social, or affective inventions — Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Flickr, Instagram. It’s dangerous because of the threats such digital platforms pose to many traditional forms of artistic and social exchange, but it is nonetheless a pleasure to see so much of Sand Hill Road’s venture capital and the New York Stock Exchange throb with excitement at the power of 140-character birdsong or a quirky photo-sharing app devised by a bored frat boy from his dorm room.

Put differently, the newborn alliance between Computer Science and the arts at Stanford looks as evolved from the professional and entrepreneurial culture surrounding it as it does from the older mission of integrative learning deeply embedded within — dare I say — liberal arts pedagogy. While institutions such as Williams, Swarthmore, Kenyon, Oberlin, Smith, and many others were specifically set up to embody this principle, customising a diversified education was always an available option for the American undergraduate across the nation. The dual major institutionalises this option on behalf of disciplines that have not come together often within the university, but which are being increasingly linked together worldwide.

Coal and punishment

Many allottees have been sitting on the coal blocks without utilising them.

Written by Kirit Parikh | Posted: October 8, 2014 

The prime minister said, during his trip to the United States, that he would use the coal allocation turmoil to clean up the sector. I suggest ways to do that without punishing the innocents and in a rational, transparent manner.

The Supreme Court’s revocation of allocations of all but four coal blocks out of 218 raises a question on crime and punishment. In allocating coal blocks by nomination, the Central government was at fault and the culprit. Some of the allottees may have given bribes, so they are also partners to the crime. But surely, not all allottees gave bribes? Taking away their coal blocks is to punish innocents. I thought our system of law ensures that no innocent person is punished, even if it means that many who are guilty escape punishment. The Supreme Court’s order is thus hard to understand, unless, of course, the court has evidence that all paid bribes for the allocation of a block.

Many allottees have been sitting on the coal blocks without utilising them. Some of them may have been delayed for want of clearances from the various government departments at the Centre and the state. Others may just have been hoarding the blocks. A severe penalty should be imposed on the hoarders, at least equivalent to the cost of importing an amount of coal equal to the shortfall in expected production. Some allottees have been selling coal to third parties, in violation of the law and the terms of allotment. They should also be severely punished and fined. These coal blocks should, of course, be taken over by the government. But the Supreme Court should have differentiated between the allottees, separating the guilty from the innocent.

Among the blocks revoked are 44 that produce some 38 million tonnes (mt) of coal per year. We cannot afford any disruption in production as we import more than 100 mt of coal every year. Importing that much more coal would not only burden our current account deficit but also push up the price of coal in the international market. Whatever the court’s reasons for its judgment, the pressing question now is what is to be done.

A fragile arrangement

There are concerns among Abdullah’s supporters that he may be reduced to a mere figurehead or that Ghani, as president, could still seek to extend his powers.

Posted: October 8, 2014 

By: Aryaman Bhatnagar

With Ashraf Ghani sworn in as the new president, Afghanistan can finally move on from what has been an exceptionally long electoral process. As the new government settles in, its ability to deal with the challenges before it will depend to a large extent on how it manages its relations with a variety of actors. While reviving the peace process with the Taliban and seeking better relations with neighbouring countries are likely to be among Kabul’s top priorities, keeping the national unity government together may prove to be as daunting a task.

According to the new arrangement, the losing candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, is accommodated in the government as chief executive. This lies at the core of the agreement between the two leaders. But this is not a system that has been in the making over the last few years. It was created to break the recent political deadlock. It does not even have any legal or constitutional backing at the moment. As such, its durability depends largely on the “the commitment of both sides to partnership, collegiality, collaboration”.

There are concerns among Abdullah’s supporters that he may be reduced to a mere figurehead or that Ghani, who, as president, remains the most powerful person in the country, could still seek to extend his powers. There is always the danger that if Ghani makes any attempt to assert himself or if Abdullah’s team feels that Ghani is deviating from the terms of the agreement, it could provoke an adverse reaction.

How well the two leaders manage to control their respective support bases will also be crucial for the smooth functioning of the government. During the election campaign, both leaders had made promises to a number of regional powerbrokers in order to secure their support. With government positions now shared between both parties, it remains to be seen how factions that feel short-changed or completely excluded from the promised benefits will react.


By C. Raja Mohan

What stands out at the end of Narendra Modi’s whirlwind tour of New York and Washington is the prime minister’s demonstration of political will and diplomatic ingenuity to rekindle the romance with America that had gone cold in recent years. In less than a week, Modi has turned the gathering pessimism about India’s relations with the US into an optimistic storyline. The results from the visit might be a while coming, but Modi and President Barack Obama have restored direction and energy to bilateral relations.

After Obama’s visit to India nearly four years ago, bilateral ties hit a plateau and headed soon enough to the south. In its first term, the UPA surprised the world with its openness to transforming the relationship with the US. In its second, it returned India to its bad old ways.

Delhi signalled it was not open for political or economic business with America. It preferred to posture rather than engage on differences and was hesitant about building on the many possibilities for partnering with America that emerged. Above all, the UPA government was paralysed by an ideological ambivalence towards America.

During his visit to the US, Modi sought to convince the American corporate sector that India is back in business, signalled a readiness to engage on difficult issues like climate change and trade, and seized the moment for deepening defence and security cooperation. Modi also ran an impressive campaign of public diplomacy to mobilise the Indian American community and the political classes in Washington in favour of rejuvenating the bilateral partnership.

None of this was foreseen either in Delhi or in Washington. Coming from where he did, Modi, it was widely assumed, had little incentive to warm up to the US. His party, the BJP, had turned negative on America when it sat on the opposition benches during the decade-long rule of the UPA. It abandoned the legacy of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had declared that India and the US were natural allies, and joined hands with the CPM in opposing the civil nuclear initiative. On top of that, America made Modi a political untouchable by withdrawing his visa for 10 long years. Indeed, many in Delhi argued that Modi should not travel to the US unless there was an apology from Washington.

In overruling these sentiments and taking the first opportunity to visit Washington, Modi recognised that expanding cooperation with the US is critical to effectively pursuing India’s domestic development agenda as well as to raising its relative position in the world.

The joint statement issued after his talks with Obama stated Modi’s appreciation of the US unambiguously: “Prime Minister Modi emphasised the priority India accords to its partnership with the US, a principal partner in the realisation of India’s rise as a responsible, influential world power.”

This thesis is certainly not new. The idea was first articulated by the Bush administration in 2005, when it stated that it was in America’s interest to assist India’s rise to great power status. If there was much scoffing at this in the foreign policy establishment, the Congress virtually panicked at the thought of drawing close to the US. Even as he underlined the importance of American partnership in facilitating India’s rise, celebrated shared democratic values and highlighted the common interests in the region and beyond, Modi set his own terms for an equitable and mutually beneficial relationship.

On the question of economic reform, Modi made it clear that he was going to do it his own way and was not going to simply tick off the American checklist. The PM promised to make it easy for Americans to invest and do business in India, and invited them to take commercial decisions on the basis of practical evaluation of the new possibilities in the country rather than an abstract discussion on reforms.


By Ajey Lele and Munish Sharma

On Sep 24, soon after the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was placed in the orbit of Mars, the tweeter handler of Curiosity Rover of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), @MarsCuriosity greeted: “Namaste, @MarsOrbiter! Congratulations to @ISRO and India’s first interplanetary mission upon achieving Mars orbit.”

With the success of MOM, India has entered the ‘ivy league’ of space-faring nations capable of executing such technologically challenging space missions to other planets. Such missions are commonly known as deep space mission because they travel millions of kilometre distance in the outer space. Just two days before the entry of MOM in the Martian orbit another spacecraft of the United States called Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission or MAVEN has also stabilized itself in the vicinity of the Mars. It is expected that the data generated by both MAVEN and MOM would be shared by both the states to undertake further research.

Following the reimbursable agreement between ISRO and NASA on spacecraft communications and navigation support for India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, the deep space navigation and tracking services support was provided by NASA, during the non-visible period of the Indian Deep Space Network, a network of large and powerful antennas and communication facilities.

Indo-US space collaboration has a long history and the present visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US offers a golden opportunity for both the countries to pave the way to take such collaboration to the next level. Ahead of this visit, the union cabinet gave nod for signing of six MoUs in sectors, including environment and space science.

The visit is significant in terms of fostering greater ties and taking forward the Indo-US relations from the bonhomie developed over the civil nuclear agreement in 2005-08. President Barack Obama and the then prime minister Manmohan Singh had agreed to scale up joint India-US space collaboration for the benefit of humanity. The leaders had pledged to build closer ties in space exploration and earth observation through a Joint Civil Space Working Group meeting, established in 2011.
India-U.S. Space Cooperation: The Synergies

The US is collaborating with India in the area of space since India decided to establish its space programme during 1960s. The first sounding rocket launched by India from Thumba (southern parts of India) in November 1963 carrying instruments for conducting ionospheric experiments, named Nike-Apache, was made in the US. The Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) in the mid-1970s was conducted by India in collaboration with NASA, which involved deployment of Direct Reception TV sets in about 2,400 villages across six states of India to receive educational programmes, one of the world’s largest sociological experiments. Under the coveted Indian National Satellite (INSAT) System, all the four satellites of INSAT-1 series were built by a US-based firm to India’s specifications, with US launch vehicles used for three of the satellites for their placement in the orbit.

India was one of the first countries to establish a reception station for receiving data from NASA’s Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS), later renamed as LANDSAT, in the remote sensing domain. As a result, India gained vital experience in the reception, processing and application of data gathered from remote sensing satellites. Presently, the constellation of India’s remote sensing satellites is the largest in the world in the civilian domain, and the gathered data is being put in use for applications in resource management, including water, food and agriculture. This data has also been made available to other states in the world on commercial basis.

In recent times, Chandrayaan-I, India’s unmanned lunar mission, has been the pivot of Indo-US cooperation in space exploration. ISRO’s Moon mission had carried two payloads from NASA, a Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar to map ice deposits on the lunar surface and a Moon Mineralogy Mapper to assess mineral resources of the Moon. This has been executed under the framework of an agreement with NASA to carry out lunar exploration, signed in July 2008. Subsequently, scientists from both the nations succeeded towards making a path-breaking discovery about the presence of water on the Moon based on the data generated from this mission.


By Vijay Sakhuja

The recent attempt by the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the new wing of the Al Qaeda, to take control of PNS Zulfiqar, a Pakistan Navy frigate berthed in Karachi harbour and use it to attack US Navy warships has showcased the continued vulnerability of naval platforms to terrorists. The purported plan was to take control of the frigate and use other militants who would embark the ship by boat and stay onboard as ‘stowaways’ and sail out. When on the high seas, the ship would ‘get close to the U.S. ships…..and then turn the shipboard weapon systems on the Americans.’

The unsuccessful AQIS raid left 10 terrorist dead including a former Pakistan Navy officer Awais Jakhrani, who is reported to have had links with Jihadi elements. Further interrogations have led to the arrest of three other Pakistan Navy personnel in Quetta in Baluchistan who were attempting to escape to Afghanistan.

The attack exposed chinks in Pakistan’s naval defences particularly strategic infrastructure which host millions of dollars worth of naval hardware such as ships, submarines and dockyards. It is important to mention that this is not the first time that terrorist groups have managed to penetrate Pakistan’s naval defences. In the past there have been at least two other attacks on highly sensitive naval platforms and on foreign naval personnel. In 2002, 14 persons including 11 French naval engineers working on the submarine project were killed and 23 others were injured when an unidentified man blew himself up with his car after ramming it into a 46-seater Pakistan Navy bus outside the Karachi Sheraton Hotel.

The second attack was on Pakistan’s naval air base Mehran and was the handiwork of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a coalition of militant groups based in the tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan. As many as 15 attackers from the ‘Brigade 313’ of the Al Qaeda-Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami group led by Ilyas Kashmiri, took part in the operation which left 18 naval personnel killed, 16 wounded and two US built P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft destroyed. Significantly, the attackers had good knowledge of the naval base including security arrangements, exit and entry points, and the details of the hangers and aircraft.

These attacks showcase that Karachi is a staging point for maritime terrorism particularly for those groups who have taken a liking for naval targets. In fact, Karachi has been labeled as the ‘terror capital’ and is a paradise for terrorists, gunrunners, and drug smugglers. The city is rife with ethnic strife and home to crime syndicates particularly Dawood Ibrahim who is wanted in India for a number of crimes including the 1993 Mumbai blasts. The city is also known for the ‘point of departure’ for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks by the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) who sailed from Karachi on three boats and later hijacked the Kuber an Indian fishing off Porbandar, on the Gujarat coast and landed on unsecured waterfronts in south Mumbai.

The Islamic State's Potential Recruits in Pakistan

October 03, 2014

Omar Khalid Khorasani

There is evidence that the terrorist outfit is actively recruiting fighters in the troubled country. 

Tanned, green-eyed, long-bearded Pashtun crossing the border from Afghanistan have never been so feared in Peshawar, the capital city of the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. Through history this region has been one of the busiest in Central Asia, connecting travelers, traders and storytellers to India and beyond. But the recent decade has been agonizing for local Pashtun, with their identity and geography appropriated by militant groups like al-Qaeda and the Taliban, as well as their various factions in the region. This week brought the biggest blow yet, when the formidable Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS and ISIL) was discovered openly recruiting in the city.

Local fighters in Peshawar and FATA were seen to be showing around about a dozen men who had crossed over from Afghanistan to Pakistan to promote the cause of the caliphate. These men in turn distributed hundreds of pamphlets in Peshawar and its environs.

For fighters and militant commanders in Pakistan, the Islamic State is an object of awe. Most militants, individually and in groups, romanticize the idea of Islam and sharia spreading across the world. In essence, the idea and ideals of a unified caliphate has aroused jihadists everywhere, multiplying the Islamic State’s following in Pakistan and Afghanistan much more rapidly than was achieved even by heavyweights like the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Amanullah Khan, a former professor at Peshawar University who worked for many years trying to de-radicalize youth, said that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is an appealing figure for young followers with a jihadi mentality, with his background as an Islamic scholar playing a stronger bonding role for impressionable youth. Unlike Osama Bin Laden and Aymen al-Zawahiri, respectively an engineer and doctor, jihadists who were less immersed in knowledge of Islam, Baghdadi offers both a traditional Islamic education and an abundant jihadist resume. “That legitimacy can definitely turn a lot of al-Qaeda and Taliban supporters in the region, and in fact it is already happening,” says Khan.

With at least 48 known jihadist groups in Pakistan, IS would seem to have plenty of potential to grow within the country.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned militant group that wants to establish Pakistan as a Sunni Muslim state, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, and offshoots of al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Network are just a few of these groups. The Pakistan military has long been accused of providing opportunities, logistics and sponsorship to these groups in exchange for their proxy services. With the popularity of right-wing religious parties swelling in every city, Pakistan has become a hotbed for new recruits. IS is now tapping these resources, and given Pakistan’s porous borders with its neighbors, it could give the group the foothold it needs to establish a presence in South Asia.

Interview: Ashraf Ghani The Diplomat’s interview with the new president of Afghanistan.

October 02, 2014

Among political figures in Afghanistan, Dr. Ashraf Ghani is unique. Unlike the majority of the established political players in the country, the economist turned politician does not share a Mujahideen past. The former World Bank executive first entered the popular consciousness after 2001 when he returned to his motherland from the United States, leaving a secure job as an academic and economist to join the interim government. He subsequent brought far-reaching economic changes in the country as a finance minister, among them a new currency.

Now president, Ghani’s ascendency takes place at a critical time. The local economy is struggling, the majority of international troops are set to leave the country, and the Taliban is making a concerted effort to wrest initiatives from the elected government.

The Diplomat’s Sanjay Kumar spoke with Ghani after the elections and before he took office about his vision for a new Afghanistan. In a wide-ranging interview, he outlined his vision for the future of Afghanistan. (Ed.: This interview was conducted before the power-sharing arrangement was finalized.)

What will your first steps be after taking over the government?

On the first day, I would appoint a commander-in-chief. That is a constitutional duty, so that every eight hours I have a report. The second would be to call a meeting of the National Economic Council so that we can address the issues of national unemployment. This council would meet every week with business leaders and other stakeholders to be able to move forward. The third would be to initiate reviews of all ministries in the provinces, this I have done in the past. This would be a consultative exercise. In thirty days we would redefine the functioning of the ministries.

In the process we are going to change the character of the national government. Forty percent of the national budget is going to go to the sub-national governments directly, thereby changing the process that [currently] allows a transfer of money in a roundabout system. There would be a sense of public participation; we are going to engage the public in the capital city. The first order would be to deal with traffic and second would be to focus on housing and then with jobs.

How will you create jobs?

We will harness Afghan money. [Private sector money] has not been harnessed due to corruption and a lack of security. Afghan businessmen have been kidnapped in a very organized manner and they are spending millions of dollars on their personal security. We are going to establish a single office where all public land is concentrated in that office. A law will be made where all the land is distributed in a legal manner to create jobs. I will personally see to it.

Second, we have commitments from the international community. We have not been able to utilize all the money coming from the donor countries. I will devise a plan and strategy to utilize the funds for the public good.

The social model I will draw from the West. We need to define the model for the economy of a country like Afghanistan which is landlocked. Our goal is to transform Afghanistan into transit hub for the region and that means we have to create the conditions for that.

'A Terrible Slaughter Is Coming'


On the Turkish border, the world stands idly by as ISIS threatens a massacre in a Syrian town.
A cradle left behind by Syrian Kurdish refugees at the Turkish-Syrian border in late September (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

The theme of the week in the Syria conflict—that airstrikes are of only limited use in the struggle to degrade and destroy the Islamic State terror group—isabout to be underscored in terrible fashion in the besieged border town of Kobani, which is under sustained, and mainly unanswered, assault by as many as 9,000 ISIS terrorists armed with tanks and rocket launchers.

I just got off the phone with a desperate-sounding Kurdish intelligence official, Rooz Bahjat, who said he fears that Kobani could fall to ISIS within the next 24 hours. If it does, he predicts that ISIS will murder thousands in the city, which is crammed with refugees—Kurdish, Turkmen, Christian, and Arab—from other parts of the Syrian charnel house. As many as 50,000 civilians remain in the town, Bahjat said.

"A terrible slaughter is coming. If they take the city, we should expect to have 5,000 dead within 24 or 36 hours," he told me. "It will be worse than Sinjar," the site of a recent ISIS massacre that helped prompt President Obama to fight ISIS. There have been reports of airstrikes on ISIS vehicles, but so far, Bahjat said that these strikes have been modest in scope and notably ineffective.

Kobani is located on the Turkish border, but Bahjat said he is receiving reports that Turkey is pulling its troops back, rather than risk armed confrontation with ISIS. "It's unbelievable—Turkey is in NATO, so you literally have NATO watching what is happening in this town. Everyone can see it—the TV cameras are there, watching. It's terrible."

He went on, "This just can't be allowed to happen. I'm upset personally as a Kurd, seeing my brethren killed. I'm upset as a secularist seeing the hope of freedom being murdered and I'm upset as a human being, watching these monsters commit genocide."

Kurdish fighters are outnumbered by ISIS, and they have no heavy weaponry. There are reports coming out of Kobani that at least one female Kurdish suicide bomber has struck at ISIS terrorists already. The situation is grim, growing grimmer, and one in which hesitation by the international community may not be easily forgiven.


By Michael Lelyveld

As China’s economic growth sags, the government is reporting greater success in cutting energy waste, lifting hopes that the country can meet its environmental goals.

In recent years, China has missed its official conservation targets that measure energy consumption per unit of economic output, or gross domestic product (GDP).

Under its current Five-Year Plan, the government has aimed to lower its “energy intensity” in 2015 by 16 percent from the level of 2010, although reductions have fallen short of annual benchmarks so far.

In the past, analysts have blamed China’s focus on economic growth for poor performance on environmental concerns, forcing energy efficiency to take a back seat.

According to one efficiency measure used by the World Bank, China’s economic output per unit of energy in 2011 was 31 percent lower than that of the United States, 48 percent lower than Japan’s and nearly 55 percent less than Germany’s.

But this year, Premier Li Keqiang has claimed major progress, announcing on Sept. 10 that energy efficiency rose 4.2 percent in the first half from the comparable period in 2013.

The improvement from an efficiency gain of 3.7 percent last year could put China on track to meet its five-year goal.

Li reported the first-half result and a similar drop in carbon intensity of “about 5 percent” at last month’s Summer Davos Forum in Tianjin, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The rates are critical to China’s longer-range goal of achieving a 40 to 45-percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per unit of GDP by 2020 compared with 2005.

China first set the target at the United Nations summit on climate change in 2009 and reaffirmed it at the latest summit in New York on Sept. 23.

Speaking at the summit, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said China’s carbon intensity dropped 28.5 percent from 2005 levels last year, suggesting the country is well on the way toward its 2020 goal.

In announcing the figures for the first half of this year, Li credited the new government’s drive for “structural adjustment to improve growth quality,” Xinhua said.
Stimulus package

While slower economic growth has raised expectations of another big stimulus plan, the better efficiency numbers may be seen as a benefit of the government’s resistance to pump-priming that relies on wasteful building projects and infrastructure investment.

“In the first half of the year, the growth of investment and production of industries with high energy consumption noticeably slowed down,” Li said.

Much of the earlier trouble with meeting the five-year target stemmed from after-effects of the previous government’s massive 4-trillion yuan (U.S. $651-billion) stimulus package that spurred GDP growth in 2009.

In 2011, total energy use jumped 7 percent thanks largely to the building boom, causing the government to undershoot its annual 3.5-percent target for efficiency improvement with a gain of just 2.01 percent.

While the latest results are far better, the per-unit numbers may mask the real prospects for reducing smog-causing emissions because GDP in the first half still rose 7.4 percent. Even with greater efficiency factored in, total energy consumption increased by some 3 percent.

The prevalence of both smog and global warming may paint a darker picture than China’s progress toward its targets suggest, highlighting the problem with relying on per-unit measures.


By Pramod Jaiswal

China is steadily extending its reach into South Asia with its growing economic and strategic influence in the region. It has huge trade surpluses with all South Asian countries and it reciprocates these surpluses with massive investment in infrastructural development, socio-economic needs and energy production in those countries. It also provides them with low-cost financial capital. The largest beneficiaries of such economic assistance are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Due to China’s rising interest and influence in South Asia, India appears perplexed. Hence, it has changed its foreign policy gesturing. With the election of Narendra Modi as the Indian prime minister, New Delhi has given highest priority to its South Asian neighours. Inviting the heads of the South Asian countries during his swearing-in ceremony and making his first foreign visit to Bhutan and later to Nepal are the clear indications in those directions.

China’s Inroads in Nepal

Given the claims that Nepal may be used by the US for its larger strategy of encircling China, Beijing is concerned about Kathmandu being manipulated by other external powers. Security experts on China state that Beijing increased its interest in Kathmandu due to the perceived threat to Tibet via Nepalese territory – particularly due to the prolonged state of instability and transition in Nepal.

Ever since the March 2008 uprising, when the Tibetans strongly started the global anti-China protests on the eve of the Beijing Olympic Games, there has been a major shift in China’s policy towards Nepal.

The Nepalese King, the then Commander-in-Chief of the Nepalese army, used to be China’s trustworthy partner and served Beijing’s security interests. However, after Nepal became a republic in 2008, China found it expedient to cultivate the Maoists to do the same. They wanted to curb underground activities of the approximately 20,000 Tibetan refugees settled in Nepal. Ideological affinities made Maoists in Nepal cast sympathetic eyes on China. China accepted the friendly hand extended by the Maoists when they were in dire need of support from a strong power. The former Prime Minister of Nepal, Prachanda’s, acceptance of China’s invitation to attend the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics not only made him the first prime minister to break the tradition of making India the destination for the first foreign visit following assuming office, but also proved his inclination towards China.

Maoists view India and the US as ‘imperialist powers’ and have stated that they were fighting against their interference in Nepalese politics.

India expressed serious concern over Prachanda’s action. The Indian media went overboard stating that India has lost Nepal from its sphere of influence and that it would affect India’s security in the long run. Interestingly, China supported the Maoist Party only after they emerged as the single largest party in the Constituent Assembly election of April 2008, while, it was the only country to supply arms to King Gyanendra to suppress the Maoist insurgents at a time when India, the US and the UK had refused to provide help of such nature.

Linking Via Railways

China is planning to extend the Qinghai-Tibet Railway to Nepal by 2020. The rail link is expected to be extended to the borders of India and Bhutan as well. Through Qinghai-Tibet Railway, China connected its existing railway system to Tibet’s capital Lhasa in 2006 – which passes through challenging peaks on the Tibetan highlands, touching altitudes as high as 5,000 meters as part of government efforts to boost economic development in the neglected region. In August 2008, six additional rail lines were proposed to connect to Qinghai-Tibet railway – such as the Lhasa-Nyingchi and Lhasa-Shigatse in the Tibet Autonomous Region, the Golmud (Qinghai province)-Chengdu (Sichuan province), Dunhuang (Gansu province)-Korla (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region), and the Xining (Qinghai Province)-Zhangye (Gansu). The project is expected to be completed before 2020 while the Lhasa–Shigatse segment was completed in August 2014.

A New Type of Great Power Relationship between the United States and China: The Military Dimension

Added September 03, 2014 
Type: Monograph 
89 Pages 
Download Format:
Cost: Free 

Brief Synopsis

The relative economic and military rise of China is likely to lead a major shift in the world’s strategic architecture. The form that China's new role takes will have a decisive impact on the interests of the United States and its allies and partners in the region. For the outcome to be generally beneficial, China needs to be dissuaded from hegemonic aspirations and retained as a cooperative partner in the world system. President Xi Jinping's recent suggestion that a newly empowered China and the United States adopt a relationship that is new and different from previous relations between the great powers provides an ideal opportunity for the United States to consider its strategic options in the region. Given the importance of the issues at stake, and the difficulty of the task, all of the levers of American power, both “hard” and “soft” will need to be brought into play. Since the Asia-Pacific Region is primarily a maritime theater, a leading role wi1ll need to be played by the U.S. Navy, Marines, and Air Force. The U.S. Army will have a substantial supporting and facilitating role in shaping the new relationship with an emergent China.

China’s cyber-war costing US companies billions, FBI chief tells 60 Minutes

OCTOBER 06, 2014 

The head of the FBI has likened Chinese hackers to “drunk burglars”. Source: Getty Images

CHINA is waging an aggressive cyber-war against the United States which costs American business billions of dollars every year, Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey said Sunday.

The FBI chief told CBS television’s 60 Minutes program China topped the list of countries seeking to pilfer secrets from US firms, suggesting that almost every major company in America had been targeted.

“There are two kinds of big companies in the United States,” Comey said. “There are those who’ve been hacked by the Chinese, and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked by the Chinese.” Annual losses from cyber-attacks launched from China were “impossible to count”, Comey said, but measured in “billions”.

Asked which countries were targeting the United States, Comey replied: “I don’t want to give you a complete list. But ... I cant tell you top of the list is the Chinese.” Comey cited the historic case of five members of China’s People’s Liberation Army indicted with hacking US companies for trade secrets, a move which outraged China when announced in May.

The case is the first-ever federal prosecution of state actors over cyber-espionage.

The PLA unit is accused of hacking into US computers to benefit Chinese state-owned companies, leading to job losses in the United States in steel, solar and other industries.

“They are extremely aggressive and widespread in their efforts to break into American systems to steal information that would benefit their industry,” Comey said of China’s hackers.

Comey said China was seeking to obtain “information that’s useful to them so they don’t have to invent”. “They can copy or steal to learn about how a company might approach negotiations with a Chinese company all manner of things,” he said.

JPMorgan Chase revealed a massive data breach last week. Source: AFP

Colloquium Brief: The Chinese People's Liberation Army in 2025

August 27, 2014 

Key Insights. 

Domestic, external, and technological drivers of China's military modernization are examined. 
Three plausible scenarios for the modernization of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) that result from these drivers are explored. 
Implications of these futures for regional dynamics, the international system, and U.S.-China strategic dynamics are considered. Also, the potential "wild card" events which could undermine the futures discussed are explored. 


Leading experts on the Chinese military gathered at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, on February 21-23, 2014, for a discussion on “The PLA in 2025.” The conference was convened by The National Bureau of Asian Research, the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, and the U.S. Pacific Command.

Over the past 20 years, leading scholars and experts on the Chinese military have gathered at the annual People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Conference to discuss important trends in the modernization of China’s military. The series of annual volumes that result from these conferences has become an authoritative benchmark on the pace, scope, and scale of China’s military modernization.

For the foreseeable future, China’s military modernization will be of significant consequence for security in the Asia-Pacific region and for U.S. national interests. In an effort to better understand critical trends in China’s military modernization, the 2014 PLA Conference asked authors to “look over the horizon” and conduct an assessment of the PLA in 2025-30. This analysis builds upon years of retrospective analyses at Carlisle.

Conference participants examined three plausible futures for the PLA’s modernization. The futures considered by conference participants are not exhaustive, but they provide a common analytical starting point for examining the breadth of potential trajectories in China’s military modernization. To assess various components of these alternative futures, conference organizers structured the discussions as follows:

• Conference participants first examined the domestic, external, and technological drivers of China’s military modernization.

• Participants then explored three plausible scenarios for PLA modernization that result from these drivers.

• Last, participants considered the implications of these futures for regional dynamics, the international system, and U.S.-China strategic dynamics. As well, participants explored the potential “wild card” events which could undermine the futures discussed.

Projecting into the Future: Cautions and Limitations.

Future-oriented assessments of the PLA must be made cautiously, and any attempt to project into the future will face several limitations. First, dynamic and interconnected inputs produce a wide spectrum of potential trajectories for China’s military modernization. For example, military procurement plans and China’s more enduring national security interests may support the assumption that the PLA’s modernization will be somewhat linear and predictable. However, the interplay among the multiple domestic and external drivers of the PLA’s modernization, as well as the possibility of low probability, but high impact “wild card” events, could plausibly derail such a straight-line projection.

Turkey, the Kurds and Iraq: The Prize and Peril of Kirkuk

Geopolitical Weekly
By Reva Bhalla

In June 1919, aboard an Allied warship en route to Paris, sat Damat Ferid Pasha, the Grand Vizier of a crumbling Ottoman Empire. The elderly statesman, donning an iconic red fez and boasting an impeccably groomed mustache, held in his hands a memorandum that he was to present to the Allied powers at the Quai d'Orsay. The negotiations on postwar reparations started five months earlier, but the Ottoman delegation was prepared to make the most of its tardy invitation to the talks. As he journeyed across the Mediterranean that summer toward the French shore, Damat Ferid mentally rehearsed the list of demands he would make to the Allied powers during his last-ditch effort to hold the empire together.

He began with a message, not of reproach, but of inculpability: "Gentlemen, I should not be bold enough to come before this High Assembly if I thought that the Ottoman people had incurred any responsibility in the war that has ravaged Europe and Asia with fire and sword." His speech was followed by an even more defiant memorandum, denouncing any attempt to redistribute Ottoman land to the Kurds, Greeks and Armenians, asserting: "In Asia, the Turkish lands are bounded on the south by the provinces of Mosul and Diyarbakir, as well as a part of Aleppo as far as the Mediterranean." When Damat Ferid's demands were presented in Paris, the Allies were in awe of the gall displayed by the Ottoman delegation. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George regarded the presentation as a "good joke," while U.S. President Woodrow Wilson said he had never seen anything more "stupid." They flatly rejected Damat Ferid's apparently misguided appeal -- declaring that the Turks were unfit to rule over other races, regardless of their common Muslim identity -- and told him and his delegation to leave. The Western powers then proceeded, through their own bickering, to divide the post-Ottoman spoils.

Under far different circumstances today, Ankara is again boldly appealing to the West to follow its lead in shaping policy in Turkey's volatile Muslim backyard. And again, Western powers are looking at Turkey with incredulity, waiting for Ankara to assume responsibility for the region by tackling the immediate threat of the Islamic State with whatever resources necessary, rather than pursuing a seemingly reckless strategy of toppling the Syrian government. Turkey's behavior can be perplexing and frustrating to Western leaders, but the country's combination of reticence in action and audacity in rhetoric can be traced back to many of the same issues that confronted Istanbul in 1919, beginning with the struggle over the territory of Mosul.

The Turkish Fight for Mosul

Under the Ottoman Empire, the Mosul vilayet stretched from Zakho in southeastern Anatolia down along the Tigris River through Dohuk, Arbil, Alqosh, Kirkuk, Tuz Khormato and Sulaimaniyah before butting up against the western slopes of the Zagros Mountains, which shape the border with Iran. This stretch of land, bridging the dry Arab steppes and the fertile mountain valleys in Iraqi Kurdistan, has been a locus of violence long before the Islamic State arrived. The area has been home to an evolving mix of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Yazidis, Assyro-Chaldeans and Jews, while Turkish and Persian factions and the occasional Western power, whether operating under a flag or a corporate logo, continue to work in vain to eke out a demographic makeup that suits their interests.

In Hong Kong, the Democrats Will Go Down Swinging

October 6, 2014

Royals Sweep Angels to Win AL Division Series

Some pro-democracy protesters began to remove barricades in parts of Hong Kong Sunday, after police warned of taking all necessary measures to clear the streets by the beginning of the work week. Meanwhile, protesters in the crowded suburb of Mong Kok were divided as leaders urged them to pack up and head to the Admiralty district, adjacent to the city's main business district. Fight till the end, others chanted - and the crowd appeared to grow. Police officers ? wearing cameras and carrying pepper spray ? continued to break up scuffles between pro-democracy campaigners and crowds--claiming to be weary local residents--calling for the students to leave.

It is hard to read the news reports and watch the TV footage of Hong Kong’s democratic protest against China’s heavy hand without wondering, “Are we all Hongkongers now?” All hail these brave men and women—young and old, rich and poor, influential and ordinary—for insisting on their right to representative government. 

So it is hard to conclude this after tens of thousands of resolutely nonviolent demonstrators were attacked late last week by knife-wielding thugs and triad gangs plainly doing Beijing’s dirty work: Good enough this movement goes down swinging, but go down it will, and probably in very short order. 

It is a tragedy but not a Grade 1 tragedy. Syria is Grade 1; Egypt, Gaza, and Eastern Ukraine are Grade 1. In my view, what we will now witness is the Singaporization of Hong Kong. Singapore is a prosperous nation lying somewhere between a democracy in name only and a soft police state. And what’s that as tragedies go? Grade 3 or 4 maybe? 

Having dwelt in both places, I blame no Hongkonger for resisting as the future presents itself. To become another Singapore is an awful fate if you think democracy matters, but it isn’t fatal. In the best outcome, Beijing will have learned a lesson and Hong Kong people can live to fight another day, just as the more conscientious Singaporeans do, if silently. 

Two paradoxes have driven this crisis since the mainland prompted it over the summer, when it declared that Hong Kong people could elect their own leader in 2017, as long promised, but Beijing must approve the slate of candidates. 

First, Beijing’s deal is an out-and-out swindle, but it is lawful. Second, the protest movement is entirely justified in its demands, but it stands on weak legs and speaks too much from the heart, not enough from the head. 

The Sino-British pact signed in 1984, under which Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 after a century and a half as a colony, committed Beijing to universal suffrage precisely to prevent the Chinese Communist Party from denying representative government to what is now designated a Special Administrative Region, the “SAR.” 

But the agreement between London and Beijing was a slippery business from the first. As a correspondent in Hong Kong at the time, I viewed it as Britain’s face-saver, a way to turn 7 million over to a Communist government and still feel O.K. looking in the mirror. 

Then as now, it is difficult to argue the treaty trumps sovereignty, and Hong Kong became sovereign real estate when Prince Charles dropped the Union Jack for the last time. Equally, China’s strategy—have your elections, here’s the slate—transforms the question into one of legal interpretation, a letter-of-the-law issue. They are won or lost in courts, not streets. (And which courts is the next queasy-making question.) 

As to the protesters, one is full of admiration but not brimming over. They are right and act on their convictions. What’s not to like, as we say. But they felt it without thinking it through. 


The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held its two-day summit in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, on Sep 11. SCO, an inter-governmental organization, founded in Shanghai on June 15, 2001, has China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as its members.

Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan are observer states, while Belarus, Turkey and Sri Lanka are dialogue partners. The SCO has two permanent organs – the Secretariat in Beijing and the Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) in Tashkent.

The SCO is seen as being dominated by Chinese interests and largely focussed on economic and security (or the “three evils” defined by China) issues. However, for the second successive year, Kazakhstan has sought to widen the agenda of the summit to include water security issues. This article examines the import of Kazakhstan’s request.
SCO Summit 2014

The SCO Summit 2014 was the 13th SCO annual Summit and was presided over by the Tajik President Emomali Rahmon. The summit saw several initiatives being proposed by both China and Russia. On the conclusion of the summit in Dushanbe, a communiqué was issued which stressed that conflicts and problems challenging the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) should be resolved by peaceful means, including national dialogues and there was support for Afghani efforts at national reconciliation and reconstruction. The next SCO summit will be held in Russia’s city of Ufa on July 9-10, 2015 along with the 7th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) Summit

The Dushanbe Summit also formalised the legal, administrative and financial requirements for admitting new SCO members, during the Russian presidency. India has applied for full membership of the SCO after Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj submitted a formal application. Pakistan and Iran also applied for SCO membership.
Kazakhstan’s Proposal

At the SCO Summit 2014, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev raised the issue of water shortage which is threatening the stability and security of the region. He recommended the creation of a Water Committee (as suggested by Kazakhstan), and that it be recognised as a practical mechanism for addressing water security matters. This issue was previously raised in September 2013 during the SCO Summit at Bishkek, where again Nazarbayev had called upon the Central Asian leaders to address water sharing problems; particularly related to Amu and Syr daryas.

He had said Central Asian countries have to resolve their water disputes by themselves through an open dialogue in the region as it was becoming a national security problem. Nazarbayev said that SCO should become the platform for an open dialogue on the issue. The question of trans-boundary water management was also raised during Nazarbayev’s visit to Beijing in April 2013. In January 2014, the Kazakhstan foreign ministry had issued a similar appeal urging other Central Asian nations to form a committee to solve water sharing issues through coordination of the fundamental principles of guaranteed use, protection and division of trans-boundary water resources.

VP Biden Apologizes for Telling Truth About Turkey, Saudi and ISIS

The vice president’s remarks last week provoked a diplomatic firestorm among key Sunni allies in the region. But he was just telling it like it is. 

Vice President Joe Biden is apologizing again for speaking the truth. After talking for an hour and a half at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy Forum last Thursday, he took a question from a student who asked a wise question: “In retrospect do you believe the United States should have acted earlier in Syria, and if not, why is now the right moment?" 

Biden, predictably, said “the answer is ‘no’ for two reasons.” The first being the unreliability, incompetence and radicalism of the forces the United States would have been supporting on the ground. No real surprise there. But then he said what everyone in the region knows and The Daily Beast has reported extensively

“My constant cry was that our biggest problem is our allies — our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria,” Biden told his listeners in remarks subsequently posted on the White House YouTube channel (go to 1:32:00 if you want to skip the earlier speech). 

“The Turks were great friends,” he notes, adding that he recently spent considerable time with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and they have “a great relationship.” Ditto the Saudis and the Emiratis. But when it came to Syria and the effort to bring down President Bashar Assad there, those allies’ policies wound up helping to arm and build allies of al Qaeda and eventually the terrorist “Islamic State.” 

“What were they doing?” Biden asked rhetorically. “They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad — except that the people who were being supplied were al Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” 

Note that Biden did not say the intent of any of these allies was to supply terrorists, only that a hell of a lot of the arms and the money wound up in the hands of people who are sworn enemies of the West as well as of Assad. 

“Now you think I’m exaggerating,” said Biden. “Take a look! Where did all of this go?” 

“They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad — except that the people who were being supplied were al Nusra and al Qaeda." 

The point he wanted to make, in a very Bidenesque way, was that over the summer things changed. 

“All of a sudden everybody’s awakened because [of] this outfit called ISIL [or ISIS], which was Al Qaeda in Iraq,” said Biden. He sketched the organization’s history: it was “essentially thrown out of Iraq” but “found open space in territory in eastern Syria,” then it worked with the al Qaeda subsidiary al Nusra, which the United States “declared a terrorist group early on.” And, still, according to Biden, “we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them. So what happened? Now all of a sudden — I don’t want to be too facetious — but they have seen the Lord, [and] the President’s been able to put together a coalition of our Sunni neighbors, because America can’t once again go into a Muslim nation and be seen as the aggressor. It has to be led by Sunnis to go and attack a Sunni organization. So what do we have for the first time …” At that point the recording ends. 

As blogger Sharmine Narwani pointed out on Saturday, news of these remarks was first headlined by the Kremlin’s mischievous English language news channel Russia Today, while the American news networks ignored them and highlighted the utterly trivial remark by Biden that being VP is “a bitch.”