12 October 2014

India cannot give Pakistan Army befitting reply

Oct 10, 2014,
(Someone who has spent onethird…)

Major General (Retd) Ashok K Mehta

Ceasefire violations occur cyclically, often premeditated but invariably linked to unresolvable Kashmir masla. Feuding local commanders testing the mettle of new battalions on LoC, tit-fortat responses and infiltration are the usual provocations for exchange of fire across the line.

Someone who has spent onethird of his youthful time astride the line, I understand what the Army calls the dynamics of LoC.

Nine out of 10 times, it is the autonomous Pak military that initiates the firing, though there is no way to ascertain this in the absence of the UNMOGIP (United Nations Military Observer Group for India-Pakistan), sensibly derecognised by India after the Shimla agreement.

This time around, additional reasons have been offered for the current round of firing — political instability, civil-army power struggle, elections in J&K and the creme de la creme testing Modi. "Pakistan should stop ceasefire violations now and understand the reality that times have changed in India," thundered home minister Rajnath Singh. This is reminiscent of BJP leaders asking Pak to lay off Kashmir after the nuclear tests in 1998. Soon Pak did its own nuclear tests, achieving parity.

"There is a new government in India with 282 seats and the world now recognises India" is the common refrain but this will not wash with Pak. With 489 seats late Rajiv Gandhi had to seek a meeting with General Zia ul Haq to defuse Operation Brasstacks in 1986 which was threatening to blow up into a war. The simple fact is that India has not developed a decisive, conventional military superiority to give Pakistan army a befitting reply. So what you get instead is 'Act Tough' rhetoric amounting to disproportionate response — no flag meetings, no DGMO talks and not even political talks unless Pak stops firing.

This is not remotely akin to the frequently touted muscular and robust foreign and security policy of the Modi government. On Air Force Day, on Wednesday, when asked by reporters on border firing, PM Modi responded with five words, "Jaldi sab theek ho jayega." Because this cycle of small arms and mortar fire has caused deaths of mainly civilians on both sides, as soldiers are inside bunkers, and is leading to the law of diminishing results, Mr Modi's words are prophetic.

Pak army has achieved its immediate objective of internationalising Kashmir, pushing in infiltrators and testing Modi. You do not need ISRO scientists to tell you that Modi could not have acted differently from what Army chief General Dalbir Suhag has advised — bullet for bullet, mortar shell for mortar shell but confining the military action to tactical level without escalation.

We in India must get accustomed to increased frequency and intensity of flare-ups on LoC. Some divine force — read US — has managed to restrain Pak army after Mumbai 2008 terror attacks from using its strategic assets like Lashkar-e-Taiba and other loonies from staging cross-border terrorist attacks on Indian mainland. The gap between major attacks is seven years. So watch out for 2015, once US withdraws from Afghanistan and loses interests in the region.

In the interregnum, the punching bag will remain LoC where the Pak army will expresses its rage and defiance over civilian control and arch-enemy India. Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz has been bending over backwards for resumption of dialogue.

Firing will peter out soon setting the stage for next month's Saarc summit in Kathmandu. Mr Modi, the acclaimed new messiah of Saarc spirit, will just have one option — to initiate the revival of needlessly stalled dialogue.

Detractors will contend that it is not PM Nawaz Sharif but Gen Raheel Sharif with whom we should talk. That's baloney.

Flip Side: Words of war

The ‘N’ word, as always, as in nuclear weapons, the only deterrent to adventurism.
Written by Dilip Bobb | Posted: October 12, 2014 

Here’s how the scenario unfolded. India beat Pakistan in the hockey final of the Asian Games. Furious, Pakistan decides that India must pay the penalty, and so the shootout begins, as in the final. The result: the war of words turns into words of war, punctuated by mortar shells. That’s one version but, as always, reality and fantasy merge in the complexity that spells Pakistan, alphabetically speaking. Take a look.

P. Stands for politicians, the PPP, Punjabi aggro, Pathan pride, and Peshawari chappals, a deadly combination. Nawaz Sharif’s hold on power under threat from the oddest couple, a former cricketer and a Canadian cleric. Then there’s the PPP, with Bilawal Bhutto, their very own Rahul Gandhi, promising to take back every inch of Kashmir, a bit like David Cameron pledging to restore the British Empire. P also stands for the poor Press Club of India, after its website was hacked by Pakistani cyber warriors, much to the bewilderment of its members who were wondering why the bar had been raised.

A. Traditionally, the three ‘A’s’ that define Pakistan and its history — Army, America and Allah. As the popular saying goes, most countries have an army, in Pakistan, the army has a country — symbolic of the power it wields. America comes and goes, it has gone off a bit lately, but its annual money handout comes in handy, while Allah is omnipresent, representing the alluring promise of a virgin paradise to jihadis and JCOs alike.

K. The Khan, as in Imran, or ‘Im the Dim’ as a columnist unkindly brands him. As a cricketer, he was a hero, as a politician, a zero. Now starting a more successful second innings, forcing Sharif onto the backfoot but then mysteriously taking himself out of the attack. K, of course, is also for Kashmir, which keeps Indo-Pak relations in a perpetually frayed state, and Pakistan always a step away from being a failed state.

I. The ubiquitous ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency set up with a one-point agenda, to destabilise India. Its operational role is to run training camps for militants, harbour terrorists and criminals like Dawood Ibrahim and the Bhatkals, and making deals with the Taliban, good or bad. Has the distinction of having created a new plausible deniability factor in international diplomacy — non-State actors.

S. Sibling rivalry leading to Skirmishes, Shelling, even Summits, as in Simla, Lahore and Agra, which have set the Indo-Pakistan relationship needle on a dial between hope and hell. Currently pointing toward the latter.

T. Terrorism, as an instrument of State policy, as in the Taliban, as in Tit for Tat as it currently is on the LoC (in India we call it Tu Tu Main Main), also for Twitter where much of the Indo-Pak cyber battle is being fought, and finally for Trigger which, according to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is a befitting way to finger Pakistan.

A. For Adventurism and Affordability, both phrases used by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, while warning Islamabad that the cost of what he described as adventurism would be made non-affordable, reminding us that Diwali is around the corner, and the bombs and rockets that will rain down on us have become very costly.

N. The ‘N’ word, as always, as in nuclear weapons, the only deterrent to adventurism. N is also for Nobel, as in the 2014 Peace Prize, given to an Indian and a Pakistani, a Muslim and a Hindu, hugely symbolic of the world’s desire that the two sides press the pause button rather than the one marked delete.

- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/flip-side-words-of-war/99/#sthash.vGSs46YV.dpuf

HONOURED GUEST - The gem that India will not call by its name


We do not realize how lucky we are, how profoundly lucky, to have in our midst the rather incredible human being called the Dalai Lama. Two Indians — both naturalized Indians — have won the Nobel Prize for Peace: Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. India lost no time in decorating the Saint of Kalighat with the Bharat Ratna, but only after she had got the Nobel. But the Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel in 1989, has not yet become a Bharat Ratna nor is likely ever to become one.

The reason is a five letter word, China. There is no other. That fear of displeasing another nation should stand in the way of India officially honouring a person the world honours is a matter of shame.

Our official policy has been unambiguous, since the time Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister. It has four parts to it, each simpler than the other: 1. The Dalai Lama is India’s honoured guest . 2. He is so, as a spiritual figure, not as a political exile. 3. Tibet is a part of China. 4. The Dalai Lama will not carry out any political activities from Indian soil.

He has been our guest now for over half a century. He has not once flouted the civil understanding that he should not say or do anything from Indian soil which could be seen as interfering in China’s internal affairs. He has not once embarrassed us. He has done more: he has said repeatedly that he does not want an independent Tibet, that he only wants its cultural and religious uniqueness to be safeguarded. And yet, we are afraid: what will China say?

What can China say? Both India and the Dalai Lama have made it clear that they accept Tibet as a part of China. So what stops us from giving ourselves the satisfaction of honouring the Dalai Lama, as we have done Mother Teresa?

There the National Democratic Alliance and the United Progressive Alliance governments have been on the same page. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not likely to be any different. But the Dalai Lama getting or not getting the Bharat Ratna is not so important as our knowing the great asset we have amidst us in terms of sheer spiritual intelligence. And that is no ordinary asset.

In 2014, Another Empty Nobel Peace Prize

In 2014, Another Empty Nobel Peace Prize
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
An Indian and Pakistani share a Nobel Peace Prize seemingly awarded in order to make a political statement.

By Akhilesh Pillalamarri
October 11, 2014

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was shared between an Indian and Pakistani, at a time when military tensionson the Indo-Pakistani border in Kashmir have reached their deadliest point in over a decade. This, of course calls into question whether the Nobel Peace Prize has again been awarded to make a political statement, especially since it was given to two individuals who, while working for noble causes, did not work together and whose work was only marginally related to the cause of world peace.

The two winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize were Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi. Malala, as she is popularly known, needs no introduction. At 17, she is the youngest recipient of the prize. She is the well-known promoter and symbol of female education in Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for campaigning for the right of girls to attend school. Satyarthi, who is 60, has been a longtime crusader against child slavery. His organization, the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Child Movement) has been credited with saving thousands of children from forced labor and abuses.

Unfortunately, the Nobel Peace Prize, unlike some of the science-oriented Nobel Prizes, has totally lost sight of its original purpose and has instead become a vehicle for the Nobel committee to make political statements or promote social causes. Nobody can deny that the causes that Satyarthi and Malala stand for are good, important and mostly uncontroversial. Yet, the selection of these individuals, and of many individuals in the recent past, seems to deviate from Alfred Nobel’s wish that the Peace Prize be given to someone who pursued the promotion of peace, which is the lack of war. According to Alfred Nobel, the prize ought to be given “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

And yet, according to the Nobel committee, this year’s prize was awarded jointly to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.” This was not a joint struggle between the two individuals and was not coordinated, as they worked on different aspect of children’s rights. These two individuals did not work with each other and did not necessarily work towards a common cause. They did nothing in particular to promote peace and “fraternity between nations.”

India’s illusory nuclear gains

OCT 6, 2014
This is the first of a two-part series on India’s nuclear weaponization.

In May 1998, India conducted five nuclear tests. Even if one were to concede the tests were understandable, the question arises: What did India gain? The short answer, contrary to facile claims of strategic, military or political utility, and cost-effectiveness is: not much.

Unilateral nuclear disarmament is unlikely by any of the nuclear-armed states, including India, and is thus unrealistic as a policy goal. However, a denuclearized world that includes the destruction of India’s nuclear stockpile would favorably affect the balance of India’s security and other interests like development and social welfare, national and international interests, and material interests and value goals.

Although prospects for nuclear disarmament look dim, especially after the Ukraine crisis, the goal of an eventually denuclearized world is both necessary and feasible. For nuclear peace to hold, deterrence and fail-safe mechanisms must work every single time.

For nuclear Armageddon, deterrence or fail-safe mechanisms need to break down only once. This is not a comforting equation. As long as any one country has nuclear weapons, others will want them. As long as nuclear weapons exist, they will be used again someday by design, miscalculation, rogue launch, human error or system malfunction. And any nuclear war fought by any set of nuclear-armed states could be catastrophic for the whole world.

Nuclear weapons may be sought for (1) compellence, (2) defense, (3) deterrence and/or (4) status.

“Compellence” means the use of coercion to force an adversary to stop or reverse something already being done, or to do something he would not otherwise do. There is no demonstrable instance of a nonnuclear state having been cowed into changing its behavior by the threat of being bombed with nuclear weapons. Indian doctrine, backed by deployment patterns, explicitly eschews any intent to use nuclear weapons as tools of coercion.

It is hard to see any role for India’s nuclear armaments as instruments of defense. India’s no-first-use doctrine disavows use of nuclear weapons in response to conventional attacks. Nuclear weapons cannot be used for defense by nuclear-armed rivals whose mutual vulnerability to second-strike retaliatory capability guarantees that any escalation through the nuclear threshold would be mutual national suicide.

India’s nuclear arsenal offers no defense against a major conventional attack by China, Russia or the U.S. — the only three countries with the capability to do so. As for intent, Russia is a diplomatic ally and friend of long standing. Relations with the U.S. have warmed to a remarkable degree, including a just concluded high-profile visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which was remarkable for the fact that a person denied a U.S. visa from 2005 until May 2014 was hosted to a state dinner by President Barack Obama.

Deepening and broadening bilateral Sino-Indian relations, and cooperation on several major international issues based on converging interests in forums like the group of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), provide considerable substance, texture and ballast to that relationship today. During his recent visit, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed agreements to invest $20 billion to upgrade India’s woeful infrastructure.

With nuclear weapons being unusable for defense, their sole operational purpose and role is mutual deterrence. Deterrence stability depends on rational decision-makers being always in office on all sides: a shaky precondition. It depends equally critically on there being no rogue launch, human error or system malfunction: an impossibly high bar. Nuclear weapons have failed to stop wars between nuclear and nonnuclear rivals (Korea, Afghanistan, Falklands, Vietnam, 1991 Persian Gulf War).

To believe in deterrence is to argue that Iran should be encouraged, indeed facilitated in getting the bomb in order to contribute to the peace and stability of the Middle East where presently Israel is the only nuclear-armed state. Good luck and good night.

The subcontinent’s history since 1998 gives the lie to the then-hopes and expectations, on both sides of the border, that nuclearization would prove to be a largely stabilizing factor.

India’s Promising Israel Defense Ties

By Alvite Ningthoujam
October 09, 2014

Stalled on scandals, a missile deal has given the defense relationship a shot in the arm. 

In what could be considered a major breakthrough for Indo-Israeli defense ties, under the newly installed Bharatiya Janata Pary (BJP) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India will finally get its much-needed Barak-1 missile, manufactured by the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). This is a significant step for the new government in New Delhi, particularly considering the depleted defensive capabilities of Indian warships. With delivery scheduled for December 2015, fourteen ships that presently lack missile systems will be outfitted with the Barak-1.

Going back a little more than a decade, Indo-Israeli cooperation were derailed by allegations of bribery and corruption allegations. The issues surfaced when India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted a probe into IAI and Rafael regarding the supply of Barak-1 missiles, in a deal orchestrated by the then BJP-led NDA government in 2000. India’s Defence Minister at the time, George Fernandes, retired Naval Chief Admiral Sushil Kumar, and a number of others were involved in the scandal. It was discovered that the deal had been signed by Fernandes over the objections of the government’s scientific advisor and former Indian President A.P.J Abdul Kalam, and against the advice of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO). Specifically, questions had been raised over the need to purchase Israeli missile systems when India’s indigenously built Trishul was nearly functional.

In the wake of the kickback allegations, India’s left-wing parties, particularly the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), demanded that India refuse all deals with Israel, and particularly with IAI. In the event, neither IAI nor Rafael was blacklisted, and indeed they became two of the most important Israeli defense firms operating in India. Still, the controversies gave the political left, India’s pro-Palestinian groups, and social activists ammunition to pressure the government to curb ties with Israel in general, and defense cooperation in particular.

However, the CBI investigation was closed in December 2013, with the admission that there was no evidenceagainst the accused, including the former defense minister, former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly, a former navy chief, and others. This outcome has breathed new life into India-Israel defense ties, which are now an important pillar of overall bilateral ties. Criticisms notwithstanding, the two countries are working to enhance their defense cooperation, much of which involves boosting the arms trade (worth an estimated $10 billion over the last decade) and moving ahead with joint projects. The framework for the Barak missile deal was laid down by the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, although it fell short of giving the final nod to the acquisition. Last year ended on a positive note as the then government approved the procurement of up to 15 Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) from Israel, which will likely bolster the reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities of Indian armed forces along the borders with Pakistan and China.

The green light that has now been given by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which Modi chairs, for the acquisition of 262 missiles has come much to the relief of the Indian Navy, given its rapidly dwindling stock of anti-ballistic missiles for its frontline battleships. The Indian Navy has been voicing concerns over its deficiencies, with ships operating without missile defense systems. New Delhi’s announcement of the procurement at a whopping cost of $144 million is thus a welcome move. It is also a the first major advance in Indo-Israel defense ties since Modi took power.

Pakistan’s Dangerous Game of Brinkmanship

October 10, 2014

Insecure Pakistan in the backdrop of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is faced with the twin dilemma of international marginalization as part of fast receding regional relevance and political and economic instability. These fears are heightened by India’s rapidly developing economy, political stability and fast paced modernization of its armed forces. For Pakistani fed on the belief, as Christian Fair puts it ‘accepting the status quo with India is a defeat’, such a scenario is an anathema that it is loathe to accept. This ideological perspective remains the driver that is forcing the Pakistani army in taking calculated military risks as a manifestation of its continued struggle which it must continue and persevere. According to Fair this behaviour of Pakistan is a result of it being fundamentally a dissatisfied state which seeks to increase its prestige through spread of its ideology and religion in pursuit of its revisionist policies.

Why Continued Firing along the LoC?

Within the above backdrop the firing along the LoC has three possible manifestations. At one level it is an attempt to keep the pressure on Kashmir and create insecurity along the border by the combined nexus of Pakistan army, ISI, the terrorists under the United Jihad Council (UJC) supported by the separatists in the J&K. The aim is to keep the status quo in flux. By putting stories of great efforts by the Pakistani army to thwart Indian security forces nefarious designs, an attempt is being made at national mobilisation. It is also to gain public sympathy and support for the army providing it greater flexibility in the flawed civil-military relations. In short, it is an orchestrated plan to provoke India. The Pakistani army believes that it can take such a risk of escalation in the back drop of its effective nuclear capability.

Second is the “K” factor. Over the last few years there has been a perceptible decline in militancy and cross border terrorism. Kashmiri separatist leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani are too old and Mirwaiz Umar Farookh too weak to sustain the so called separatist struggle. Other leaders like, Yasin malik and Shabir Shah are attempting to pick the gauntlet but have yet to establish their credibility.

It is in this milieu that Pakistan is now trying to revamp its entire apparatus in the Kashmir valley, with eye on the forthcoming elections (likely to be postponed to Mar-Apr 2015 owing to floods). This is being done by attempting to induct nearly 1000 militant cadres, reported to be waiting to infiltrate across the LoC. What is worrisome for Pakistani is that militancy and terrorist strikes are not providing any tangible results, or attempts to exploit post-floods anger working.

In the last one month alone nearly 17 terrorists have been killed in the Kashmir Valley (including dozen of them attempting to cross the LoC). In addition, owing to effective counter infiltration and terrorism operations over the last one year there is no worthwhile terrorist leadership left in the valley capable of leading disruption of impending polls or spread antipathy and instigate civil strife during the forthcoming months. Thus it has become an imperative to induct and embed terrorist leadership before the onset of winters.

Interestingly, attempts at infiltration in North and South Kashmir, traditional focus of infiltration has been far and few. There appear to be two reasons: one, Pakistan does not want to be seen as disrupting the flood relief work in the valley, something which could become potential source of alienation and second, vulnerability of its lines of communication should India resorts to massive retaliation. For these apparent reasons the focus of Pakistani firing and escalation has shifted to South of Pir Panjal.

Ceasefire Violations: Has the time come to call the Pakistan’s bluff

10 Oct , 2014

Heavy firing by Pakistani troops from across the International Border in RS Pura sector in Jammu region began on the night of Oct 5th. Since then it has been “continuing intermittently” as I write. Most of the casualties on the Indian side happened when shells landed in Arnia village during the initial salvos.

The naivety of Jawahar Lal Nehru who halted the winning Indian army in its tracks and went to UNO for help managed this issue to get internationalised, the consequences of which are still suffered by India till date.

Indian security forces have responded effectively and extensively. They have swiftly gained an upper hand in this heavy exchange of mortar fire witnessed so far. On the night of 9-10 Oct the border largely remained peaceful as the firing was reported only in Samba sector for about 15 minutes. Arun Jaitely’s warning and response of our security forces seems to have worked.

On the 9th of Oct, the Indian Defence Minister Mr Arun Jaitely issued a stern warning to Pakistan over its continued firing across the International Border escalating tensions. He said addressing a press conference, “If Pakistan persists with this adventurism our forces will make the cost of this adventurism unaffordable.” He further said “India is a responsible state. It is never an aggressor. But at the same time, it has a paramount duty to defend its people and its territory. Our Armed Forces particularly the Army and the BSF in this case have only one option – that is to respond adequately and defend our territory and our people.”

Soon in response to Arun Jately there was a statement from the Pakistani counterpart. Pakistan’s Defence Minister Mr Khawaja Asif said that the country is capable of responding “befittingly” to Indian actions on the border of Jammu and Kashmir. Reminding India of Pakistan’s nuclear umbrella, he said, “We do not want the situation on the borders of two nuclear neighbours to escalate into confrontation,” Mr Khawaja Asif advised India to demonstrate caution and behave with responsibility.

Pakistan has fought three major wars with India in the past. The 1947-48 Jammu and Kashmir conflict was the first war between the two countries. India claims victory in the fact that they prevented the Pakistanis from annexing the state by timely armed intervention. This was initiated under the internationally accepted legal framework in case of accession. On the contrary Pakistan draws comfort in the fact that the armed intervention by its tribal’s supported by the military, she could manage to grab a large portions of the state of Jammu and Kashmir which otherwise was next to impossible. The naivety of Jawahar Lal Nehru who halted the winning Indian army in its tracks and went to UNO for help managed this issue to get internationalised, the consequences of which are still suffered by India till date.

Settling border disputes with Nepal and Bangladesh

October 10, 2014


The new government’s policy of greater engagement and cooperation with India’s immediate neighbours can pave the way for solving some of the vexed boundary disputes straining bilateral relations. While border disputes with China and Pakistan would be difficult to resolve in immediate future given the intense rivalry and huge territorial claims, borders disputes with Nepal and Bangladesh can be settled amicably in the coming years as the disputes are positional in nature, i.e. relating to the alignment of the boundaries and frameworks for their settlement have already been agreed upon. What remains to be done is translating them from the sheets of paper and implementing them on the ground.

A beginning towards this object has already being made in July 2014 when India and Nepal agreed to address all their border related issues through a bilateral mechanism. For this purposes, they decided to constitute a Boundary Working Group (BWG) which would devise technical frameworks for resolving the contentious boundary issues including disputes over Kalapani and Susta. The BWG comprising Surveyors General of India and Nepal held its first meeting between 17th and 19th September 2014. During the meeting, two subordinate bodies – the Survey Officials` Committee and the Field Survey Team were established and their Terms of Reference (ToR) were finalised. The main tasks of the Committee would include construction and restoration of new and damaged boundary pillars, their GPS observation, developing procedures for resolving encroachments as well as crossholdings along the boundary, and providing technical inputs to the foreign secretaries of India and Nepal for resolving outstanding boundary issues.

As the first step, the survey team will locate and identify missing pillars along the border and construct new pillars. According to the Nepalese government estimates, of the 8000 boundary pillars along the border, 1,240 pillars are missing, 2,500 require restoration and 400 more need to be constructed. The team will conduct survey of the border pillars based on the strip maps prepared by the Joint Technical Level Nepal-India Boundary Committee (JTLNIBC). The JTLNIBC was set up in 1981 to demarcate the India-Nepal border and after years of surveying, deliberations and extensions, the Committee had delineated 98 per cent of the India-Nepal boundary, excluding Kalapani and Susta, on 182 strip maps which was finally submitted in 2007 for ratification by both the countries. Unfortunately neither country ratified the maps. Nepal maintained that it cannot ratify the maps without the resolution of outstanding boundary disputes, i.e. Kalapani and Susta. India, on the other hand, awaited Nepal’s ratification while at the same time urging it to endorse the maps as a confidence building measure for solving the Kalapani and Susta disputes. In absence of a ratification, the process of demarcating the India-Nepal boundary could not be undertaken.

The decision to undertake the survey of the border based on the strip maps is, therefore, a positive step. It demonstrates that both India and Nepal have shown flexibility in their earlier stands. While India has agreed to discuss the Kalapani and Susta disputes as part of a comprehensive plan to resolve all border disputes, Nepal has given tacit consent to demarcate the boundary according to the strip maps. Demarcation of the India-Nepal boundary is an urgent need because absence of border pillars has left large stretches of the boundary undefined resulting in numerous cross holdings and increasing encroachments of no man’s land along the border. While some of the boundary pillars are missing because of damage and destruction caused due to lack of maintenance or natural calamities, most often than not the pillars are found to be missing because of their removal by local residents with the objective to encroach upon no-man’s land. Such encroachments have often led to violent clashes between the local populations causing frequent tensions between the two countries. The need of the hour is therefore to complete the demarcation of the India-Nepal boundary at the earliest so that tensions caused due to an ill-defined boundary can be prevented. Recognising the urgency, the BWG meeting has finalized a three year tentative programme for field works along with an agreement that the Survey Officials’ Committee would meet before December 2014. It is hoped that the joint survey teams of India and Nepal will sustain the momentum and complete the task within the stipulated period.

Similarly, the India-Bangladesh boundary has been completely delineated on the map. The work for settling the entire boundary had started after the constitution of the India-Bangladesh Joint Working Groups (JWG) I and II in June 2001. While JWG I dealt with the issue of delineating the 6.1 km of undemarcated stretch, JWG II concentrated on devising a framework for settling the issue of exchange of 162 enclaves and surrender of approximately 6000 acres of adverse possessions between the two countries. Unfortunately, strained bilateral relations did not permit the Group to make much headway in the initial years, but the situation improved after a change in the political dispensation in Bangladesh. In 2007, India and Bangladesh conducted a joint survey of all the enclaves and adverse possessions. Subsequently, in July 2011, a joint Census was conducted in the enclaves to ascertain the number of population. Meanwhile, modalities for the surrender of adverse possessions and alignment of the undemarcated stretch were carried out and the entire boundary was delineated on strip maps.

Fiddling While Kobani Burns


Turkey is talking tough about the Islamic State. But it’s still not ready for war.
OCTOBER 7, 2014

Last week, the Turkish Grand National Assembly voted to authorize the use of force in Syria and Iraq. Turkish legislators also voted to permit the deployment of foreign forces in Turkey for the purpose of fighting against the Islamic State (IS). The votes were heralded in the Turkish and U.S. media as proof that Ankara is a dependable ally in the ongoing battle against the Islamic State. So why are Turkish forces sitting idly along the border while jihadist militants advance toward the border?

The Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani, along the Turkish frontier, is on the verge of falling to IS. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declaredTuesday that a ground invasion will be necessary to rescue the city. But Ankara has stood by for weeks as the jihadists have laid siege to the city. Even while Erdogan insists that it will take a ground invasion to keep Kobani from the hands of the self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Turkish tanks stand sentry along the border within view of the fight, doing little more than observing.

It turns out that Turkey's authorization of the use of force was less about fighting Baghdadi than about giving Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu the maximum amount of domestic political flexibility given the multiple dilemmas the Turkish government confronts in Syria, Iraq, with the Kurds, and at home.

Turkish parliamentarians have given their government the permission to use force in Iraq and Syria either seven or nine times since 2003, depending on how you count. The thing is that all but two of these allowances focused specifically on fighting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq -- the very same forces that are fighting against the Islamic State. In October 2012, the Grand National Assembly granted the government's request to deploy Turkish forces in Syria and renewed its mandate for military operations against the PKK. Last week's resolution, passed on Oct. 2, does much the same as the 2012 legislation but, in the current regional context, the pro-Erdogan press -- and a surprisingly large number of foreign media outlets -- led people to believe that it was a specifically anti-IS resolution.

ISIS Pouring Reinforcements Into Attack on Syrian Town of Kobani Despite Airstrikes

ISIS Intensifies Siege of Kurdish Enclave in Syria

Eric Schmitt and Kareem Fahim

New York Times , October 11, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Islamic State is pouring reinforcements into the besieged Syrian city of Kobani, underscoring its goal to seize that Kurdish enclave near the Turkish border and deal a significant setback to the United States-led air campaign, American officials said Friday.

The rush of heavily armed Islamic State fighters toward Kobani from multiple directions has provided allied warplanes with an array of tanks, artillery and armed vehicles to strike easily from the air, a senior Pentagon official said. Elsewhere in Syria and Iraq, Islamic State fighters have in recent days dispersed to avoid the American attacks.

Although a last-ditch barrage of 45 airstrikes around Kobani in the past week may have inflicted heavy damage on the Islamic State, American officials acknowledged on Friday that they had failed to prevent the militants from seizing about one-quarter of the town amid fierce fighting with Kurdish defenders.

“Kobani hangs in the balance,” a senior Pentagon official said. The Islamic State “very badly wants to take Kobani for the propaganda value.”

As the noose tightened, Turkish troops just across the border remained in place, despite growing pressure on the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to intervene to avoid a possible massacre of the remaining civilians. In Ankara, the Turkish capital, the American envoy coordinating the coalition against the Islamic State, Gen. John R. Allen, wrapped up two days of meetings with Turkish officials and NATO’s new secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, with no apparent shift in how Turkey would help.

With the Islamic State gaining ground in both Syria and Iraq, despite the daily airstrikes, the Pentagon announced that Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would meet on Tuesday at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington with his counterparts from the more than 20 countries now involved in the fight against the Islamic State to discuss war strategy.

When Bombs Aren’t Enough

OCTOBER 10, 2014

Smoke rises over Kobani, in northern Syria, following fighting between the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham and Kurdish armed groups, October 9, 2014.CREDITPHOTOGRAPH BY EMIN MENGUARSLAN / ANADOLU AGENCY / GETTY

Disaster is looming in Syria, again. Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, the fanatical group that has conquered swaths of the country, are pushing into Kobani, a Syrian town with a mostly Kurdish population that sits near the Turkish border. Thousands of Kurds have fled, but thousands remain. American and Turkish officials have said that Kobani probably can’t be saved.

This is precisely the sort of debacle that President Barack Obama appeared to be aiming to stop when he announced, last month, that the U.S. military would begin carrying out air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria. (It had been bombingISIS in Iraq since early August.) American jets have begun hitting the group’s trucks and compounds in Syria, including targets near Kobani, but these attacks have not stopped the ISIS advance. Why is the situation turning out so badly?

The answers are pretty simple, and they aren’t exactly heartening. The first concerns our main ally in the region, Turkey, a NATO member and a democracy whose President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, promised to help the United States in destroying ISIS. The White House would like Turkey, which shares a five-hundred-mile border with Syria, to help rescue the people of Kobani, an effort that could possibly include sending troops or directing military support across the border. At the same time, the Kurds inside Syria simply want the Turkish government to allow reinforcements to pass through Turkey from other parts of Syria on their way to Kobani. So far, Erdoğan has been happy to let the people of Kobani face ISIS alone. Turkish soldiers are watching the encirclement of Kobani from their positions a few hundred yards away.

India-China Relations in a Fast Changing World.

This century has been good for India, so far. Its economy has been bounding along finally reflecting a closer correlation between promise and performance. The demographic trends have never been so propitious. Given current trends and informed forecasts India’s GDP is expected to double every seven or eight years. It is climbing closer to $2 trillion now. Thus by, say 2050, we could be looking at a GDP in real terms of over $ 40 trillion. If the current trend were to do slightly better and keep it up, by 2050 or even earlier, India could conceivably emerge with the world’s largest GDP. While this potential may not be realized by India’s ever squabbling, petty minded and greedy elite, many knowledgeable people abroad seem fully aware of it. Some almost certainly would be contemplating tripping us up on the way to this tryst with destiny?

How we fare during these next crucial decades depends a great deal on how we perceive ourselves? This psychological factor is critical to sustained economic growth. Economics thinkers now seem to have come full circle in their reasoning’s. Classical economics was linked closely with psychology. Adam Smith’s other great work was “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” and dealt with the psychological principles of individual behavior. Jeremy Bentham contemplated a good deal on the psychological underpinnings of utility. It was the neo-classical economists who distanced themselves from psychology and sought explanations for economic behavior with what passed off as scientific and rational methods. It is not as if the switch was complete. Many great economists like Vilfredo Pareto, John Maynard Keynes and Joseph Schumpeter continued to base their analysis on psychological explanations. In more recent times this school of economics has been given greater importance and is reflected in the award of Nobel Prizes to behavioral economists like Herbert Simon and Gary Becker. Every politician worth his salt knows that national mood and perceptions are decisive in determining national outcomes. Thus defending India physically implicitly implies defending its national mood.

The changed nature of economics.

The inexorable growth of China’s GDP has been the dominant event of the past three decades. China having surpassed Japan a few years ago, is now taking aim at that of the USA ($14 trillion), whose economy is at present more than two and a half times bigger than it. It took China a little less than a decade to make a similar leap to overtake Japan. But then Japan has hardly been growing since 1995 and its GDP has been roller coasting between $4-5 trillion.

Overtaking the USA will still take some years and some effort as that country has begun posting some smart growth after the gargantuan Obama stimulus package pump primed, not just the US economy but also the world's economy, and particularly of countries like China which have a symbiotic economic relationship with it. Despite this, Chinese GDP is expected to surpass that of the US well before 2020 when it will be about $24.6 trillion as to the USA’s $23.6 trillion.

But GDP alone does not make a nation wealthy? China’s current per capita income keeps it in the company of countries like Algeria and Albania. Even in 2050 when the Chinese GDP will be much bigger than that of the US, its per capita income will still be less than a fifth of the American per capita. Neither does GDP alone make a nation powerful. Midway in the 1800’s when Britain was at the peak of its world power, its GDP was about 5% of WGDP. The GDP’s of many Arab countries exceed Israel’s, but we know where they are in terms of power.

If India keeps growing at the present rate of about 7%, its GDP will surpass that of China by 2045 and if India’s population stabilizes in 2050 at 1.6 billion, then in all likelihood its GDP too will surpass China’s. It is now about one third of China’s. But what does this imply for the world’s power structure? True the world’s economic fulcrum will shift to Asia. Already Asia’s GDP exceeds that of the USA and EU. By 2050 it will account for about over 52% of WGDP, with India or China having the biggest GDP. In its report “Asia 2050: Realizing the Asian Century.”, the ADB makes the following observations: By the middle of this century, Asia could account for half of global output, trade, and investment, while also enjoying widespread affluence.

By nearly doubling its share of global GDP (at market exchange rates) from 27 percent in 2010 to 51 percent by 2050, Asia would regain the dominant global economic position it held some 250 year ago, before the Industrial Revolution. Some have called this possibility the “Asian Century”. In this scenario, Asia’s GDP (market exchange rates) would increase from $16 trillion in 2010 to $148 trillion in 2050, or half of global GDP. (See table)

China's Vast, Strange, and Powerful Farming Militia Turns 60

OCTOBER 8, 2014 

The government entity, colloquially called the 'Bingtuan,' employs almost 12 percent of everyone in Xinjiang. 

China has just marked 60 years since the founding of one of its more peculiar entities. It's a vast farming militia that cultivates cotton, tomatoes, and lavender, and dabbles in mining and textiles -- when it's not fighting terror. The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), known as the Bingtuan in Chinese, was established by then-Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong in 1954 with a mandate to stabilize the volatile Xinjiang region abutting Central Asia. Another facet of the XPCC mission was self-sufficiency: the Chinese who pioneered the country's western frontier thousands of miles from Beijing were determined not just to create outposts, but to carve farms and cities out of the vast stretches of desert characterizing the region, only formally named the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in 1955. So they tilled, and built hospitals and schools, prisons, and theaters, essentially becoming a state within a state within a military-style organizational structure. 

Its mission far from accomplished, the XPCC remains active -- even expansionary -- today.

Its mission far from accomplished, the XPCC remains active -- even expansionary -- today. The newest XPCC city, a town called Shuanghe or "Two Rivers" near the border with Kazakhstan, constructed "out of nowhere" in April, to use Chinese state media's verbal formulation. State media says the central government has plans for the XPCC to build more cities as part of an anti-terror campaign. Beijing believes more urbanization and development will help win over the region's approximately 10 million Uighurs, a Muslim, Turkic-speaking people whose members are coming into increasing conflict with the region's Han, who comprise the vast ethnic majority in most of China. China's government says the XPCC's expansion is meant to pacify disgruntled Uighurs by improving their lives, and says the billions it has poured into infrastructure in the region has improved matters for everyone. But the XPCC in many ways exemplifies why Uighurs chafe under the government's development model. 

A ragtag force of about 175,000 people when it was founded, the original XPCC comprised either former Nationalist army forces pressed into service by the Communists, or young people from coastal areas convinced to go west as part of their revolutionary duties. Nick Holdstock, author of The Tree That Bleeds, a book about Xinjiang, toldForeign Policy via email that many of the original XPCC forces "were coerced, or misled, and had a very hard time of it." Veterans like 74-year-old Hu Youcai today give tours in Shihezi, the main XPCC base, reminiscing how in those days, he and his fellow soldiers like him slept in overcrowded mud huts on wet straw mattresses and were rationed just one uniform per year. Holdstock said that while some early arrivals made the effort to learn the Uighur language, that's no longer the case. "Those who came later have tended not to learn Uighur and are generally more resented," he said. XPCC forces now number over 2.7 million, comprising about 11.9 percent of all of Xinjiang's population, according to the Beijing News. 

In 1998, the XPCC was given a bureaucratic status equal to that of Xinjiang's regional government. It's also a militia, although it does not replace the People's Liberation Army or the local police, both active in the region. A government-authored white paper on the XPCC's historyreleased Oct. 5 said the XPCC "played crucial roles in fighting terrorism and maintaining stability," noting that XPCC militia forces had patrolled the streets of Urumqi and guarded key installations following ethnic riots in 2009. It also runs prisons in Xinjiang.

Sanctions and the OSCE’s Mission in Ukraine


Since September 26, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe(OSCE) has been monitoring a ceasefire in the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine.

The Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine is observing how the Ukrainian forces and the pro-Russian rebels in the self-proclaimed “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk establish ceasefire lines and a buffer zone. The Russian and Ukrainian governments are also part of this mechanism, which is aimed at ending months of fighting in this part of Ukraine.

For Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, the ceasefire could be his chance to getWestern sanctions lifted, something that some EU countries are beginning to advocate
 But Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, who has ended up being one of Europe’s toughest advocates of imposing sanctions on Russia, is standing firm. Such measures are the EU’s only leverage over the Kremlin’s policies in eastern Ukraine.

On September 29, Merkel said there was no scope to ease sanctions against Russia. “Unfortunately, we are a very long way from that,” she stated. “The situation in eastern Ukraine is . . . anything but satisfactory.”

“The basic question of the ceasefire is not yet cleared up, let alone the future status and cooperation between the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and the Ukrainian central government,” Merkel added. She explained that there was “no protection of the border along the entire area of Luhansk and Donetsk, no control, no buffer zones. All of these things are the minimum conditions for us to be able to consider revoking sanctions.”

Ex-Soviet states bicker as Putin tries to unite them


MINSK Fri Oct 10, 2014

Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks at the summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Minsk, October 10, 2014.

CREDIT: REUTERS/ALEXEI NIKOLSKYI/RIA NOVOSTI/KREMLIN(Reuters) - Vulgar chants about Vladimir Putin before he arrived for a regional summit in Belarus did not augur well for the Russian president's hopes of bringing the leaders of former Soviet republics closer together.

Matters got even worse when bickering broke out at the start of the meeting, revealing fault lines over the Ukraine crisis and deepening doubts about the future of the loose grouping known as the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Jibes between Putin and the leader of Moldova, and barbs aimed at the absent Ukrainian leader, raised new questions about his ability to woo countries to the Eurasian Economic Union he is creating to try to rival the European Union's economic might.

"Unfortunately disintegration tendencies are growing in the Commonwealth, especially considering attempts by individual well-wishers to bury the CIS," Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko told the leaders, seated at a vast, ornate round table in the huge Independence Palace in the capital Minsk.

Underlining the need to end the bloodshed in Ukraine, he said: "The fighting directly affects the security and undermines the economic development of both Ukraine and the entire post-Soviet region as a whole."

Lukashenko is a supporter of the CIS but his warning showed the extent of the problems Putin faces trying to rebuild ties between countries that were once part of the Soviet Union but are wary of letting Moscow come to dominate them again.

As Russia seeks to avoid international isolation because of Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict, tension is growing rather than falling among the former Soviet states. Strains among some, such as Armenia and Azerbaijan, go deep.

Iraq’s Limited Air Power Constrains Ability to Fight Islamic State

By The Editors, 
Oct. 8, 2014

An Iraqi Air Force Cessna 208 flies over Iraq on a training sortie, Nov. 9, 2008 (U.S. Air Force photo). 

Earlier today, fighters from the so-called Islamic State (IS) shot down an Iraqi military helicopter. In an email interview, Rick Brennan, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation and former senior adviser to the U.S. military in Iraq from 2006-2011 who led a RAND study entitled “Ending the U.S. War in Iraq: The Final Transition, Operational Maneuver and Disestablishment of United Sates Forces —Iraq,” discussed the current air capabilities of the Iraqi military and its significance for both internal security and external defense.

WPR: What air assets does the Iraqi army currently have, and what purchases—on order and planned—are expected to expand its air capabilities in the near term?

Rick Brennan: The preponderance of the Iraqi military’s air capability resides in the helicopter fleet controlled by the Iraqi Army Air Corps. The current fleet consists of three (of six planned) Mi-35M Hind and three (of 30 planned) Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopters purchased from Russia. While Iraq planned to purchase 24 AH-64 Apache helicopters from the United States, Congress delayed the purchase because of fears they would be used to target civilians. The Army Air Corps’ operational fleet also includes: 30 Bell-417 armed scout helicopters, 10 Bell-206 light reconnaissance helicopters, 60 Mi-17 Hip medium utility helicopters and 15 UH-1 Iroquois helicopters configured for medevac missions.

The biggest shortfall in Iraqi air capabilities is its fixed-wing fleet. In 2011, Iraq ordered 36 F-16s from the United States, but none have been delivered. As a result of the current threat from IS, Iraq recently procured 12 used Su-25 air-to-ground attack fighters from Russia and Iran. The Iraqi air force also has 15 medium transport aircraft which includes 9 C-130 Hercules aircraft. Finally, the Iraqi air force has 37 airframes dedicated for ground reconnaissance, to include three Cessna-208 Caravans that have been modified to carry Hellfire missiles.

WPR: How well-trained are Iraqi pilots, and how capable are ground and air forces of engaging in joint operations?

Brennan: The capability of Iraqi helicopter pilots is considered good for the region; however, their ability to conduct night operations is extremely limited. As discussed in the 2013 RAND study, “Ending the U.S. War in Iraq,” the Army Air Corps has demonstrated an ability to conduct air movement of ground forces and casualty evacuation, but has very limited capability to provide air-to-ground attack aviation support. As for the air force, it has the capability to conduct troop movements and provide limited intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). As of August 2014, only two of the 18 Iraqi pilots that are being trained at a U.S. Air Force base near Tucson, Arizona, had progressed far enough to be certified as a lead pilot. It is most likely that the Su-25s recently provided to the Iraqi air force by Russia and Iran are being piloted by Iranians. Because of limited training, the Iraqi air force has virtually no capability to provide air-to-ground tactical support of troops in contact.


October 8, 2014 

After years of being treated as a niche topic, the rise of the “Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq has moved the issue of foreign fighters from academic journals and wonky conferences to the front pages of major newspapers. But this has long been a topic of both personal and professional interest to me, beginning when I served alongside an Iraqi infantry battalion in western Ninevah province in 2006-2007. During my deployment in Ninevah, al Qaeda in Iraq exploited the numerous wadis (or dry riverbeds) across the Iraqi-Syrian border as their “ratlines” to move in and out of Iraq and to carry out horrendous acts of sectarian violence and terror. I returned to the United States to run a number of conferences and panels on foreign fighters at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

The scale of the current rush of foreign fighters going to fight in Syria and Iraq, however, is unprecedented, their numbers dwarf those of their predecessors in 1980s Afghanistan and in Iraq of the noughties. An estimated 15,000 men and women from 80 or more countries have gone to fight there. The foreign fighters involved in the Soviet-Afghan and the Iraq War (2003-2011) are greatly celebrated in the jihadist martyrdom canon, but they only reached a small fraction of what the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has attracted. But those conflicts unleashed what Clint Watts has described as the first and second foreign fighter gluts, respectively. The veterans of those conflicts seeded the jihadist movement in places such as Algeria, Egypt, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chechnya, and Dagestan, spawning the al Qaeda network and other jihadist organizations. The ongoing civil wars in Iraq and Syria will unleash a third foreign fighter glut that will likely create further regional and global security concerns, and exacerbate existing ones.

While a majority of these fighters come from countries near the conflict zone, the number of fighters from the West is also much higher than in past conflicts, and remains a cause for concern. Estimates of Western foreign fighters range between 2000 and 5000, of which between 100 and 300 are from the United States. The May 24, 2014 murders at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels by the ISIL veteran Mehdi Nemmouche and the disrupted ISIL-linked plot by Australian authorities of individuals wanting to commit “propaganda of the deed” beheadings of unsuspecting victims down under show that there are real concerns about fighters returning from the conflict zone. This is especially true of foreign fighter veterans who hold “golden passports” that allow for visa waiver travel.

Motivations among FFs vary widely. Some are motivated by religion, others by humanitarian concerns, and still others are simply searching for excitement. But not all who return will attempt to conduct attacks. As Mohammed Hafezwrote about veterans of the Afghan jihad, returnees fall into a number of categories: reintegrationists, government assets, facilitators, social revolutionaries, global jihadists, and unidentified terrorists. Still, there remains a high probability that at least some of these foreign fighters will ultimately plan attacks in their countries of origin. According to research conducted byThomas Hegghammer, roughly 1 in 9 (11 percent) of returning Western foreign fighters historically conduct terrorist acts, and attacks planned by veterans are more likely to be carried out and more lethal when they do. If those numbers hold, that could mean as many as 220 to 550 Western foreign fighter veterans end up plotting terrorist attacks at some point (11-33 of them in the United States). A report from February of this year stated that “U.S. federal counterterrorism authorities are tracking as potential threats a dozen or so ex-rebels trained in Syria who have returned to the United States.”

What can the United States do about this? As Attorney General Eric Holderstated in a speech in Oslo this year:

Kobane: US and UK warn of air strike limitations

Paul Adams on the Turkey-Syria border: "This was a day of colossal explosions"
9 October 2014 

The US and UK have warned that air strikes alone will not prevent Islamic State (IS) fighters from seizing the strategic Syrian town of Kobane.

A Pentagon spokesman said the US and its allies were "doing everything we can from the air" but there were limits to what the campaign could achieve.

Similar views were expressed by British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

A Kurdish leader in Kobane said IS had entered two more districts overnight, bringing in heavy weapons.

Western leaders say that Kobane may still fall despite the power of air strikes

Kurds have held protests in several Turkish cities

Seizing the town would give IS jihadists full control of a long stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border.

The US also appeared to be at odds with allies over a Turkish idea to create a buffer zone or safe haven along the Syrian side of the border.

France has said it supports the idea but the White House said it was "not something that is under consideration right now".

Three weeks of fighting over Kobane have cost the lives of at least 400 people, and forced more than 160,000 Syrians to flee across the border to Turkey.

'No effective partner'

"Air strikes alone are not going to save the town of Kobane," Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm John Kirby said. "We know that and we've been saying that over and over again."

He said that ultimately rebel fighters in Syria and Iraqi troops would have to defeat IS militants, but it would take time.