24 October 2014

Nirbhay will be backbone of ‘cold-start,’ say experts

October 24, 2014 

DRDOIndia's first indigenously designed and developed long range sub-sonic cruise missile Nirbhay.

Nirbhay, India’s first long-range subsonic cruise missile, which was test-fired on October 17, can be a game-changer in India’s strategic calculus, defence analysts and strategic experts feel.

Capable of flying at a tree-top altitude for over 1,000 km, Nirbhay can carry out surgical strikes and thus back up India’s “cold start” doctrine that envisages limited, precise strikes across the border. The introduction of nuclear weapons in the subcontinent has virtually stalled a conventional Indian response to Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism.

“India is confronted with the problem of developing a strategy to counter Pakistan’s ‘first-strike’ and continuing proxy war,” says Dr. Monika Chansoria, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies. She points out that Pakistan cites “India’s conventional military threat” to maintain its own offensive strategic posture and India will have to develop a response to this.

In this context, “cold start” has been put forward as an offensive doctrine by the Indian strategic establishment. Though “officially denied,” its presence is widely acknowledged in strategic circles.

In the event of an Indian offensive, a volley of missiles flying low can effectively take out key command and control centres, blunting the resistance to the advancing armoured columns.

“The successful indigenous development of Nirbhay cruise missile will fill a vital gap in the war-fighting capabilities of our armed forces,” Avinash Chander, Director-General, Defence Research and Development Organisation, said after the test launch on October 17.

Defence analyst Rahul Bedi observes that Nirbhay will be a force multiplier to the in-waiting “cold start” doctrine, but the doctrine itself is a non-starter as of now for lack of critical assets such as artillery, armour and helicopters. The Army has to fast-forward acquisition and induction of these platforms.

In the short-term, experts believe that Nirbhay, along with its shorter-range supersonic sibling BrahMos, will form the backbone of the doctrine.

Pakistan's military adventurism

Right environment to turn the heat on Islamabad

G. Parthasarathy

JUST over a year ago Mr. Nawaz Sharif was swept back to power, prompting expectations that he would tackle the country's security and economic crises, and improve relations with India. But one year is an eternity in the politics of Pakistan. The US is refusing to pledge additional aid beyond what was promised earlier under the Kerry-Lugar legislation. Even “all-weather friend” China has expressed disappointment that Sharif's government has not done the requisite preparatory work for utilising aid that Beijing had promised for the development of Pakistan's ailing power sector. The only silver lining is the increased remittances from Pakistan’s workers in the Gulf despite calls by Imran Khan to workers to halt such inward remittances.

Instead of acting circumspectly in such a situation, Pakistan has chosen to escalate tensions on its borders with Iran, Afghanistan and India. The tensions with these three neighbours with whom Pakistan shares land boundaries have arisen because of support to cross-border terrorism. This support is rendered by state agencies to extremist Sunni groups, ranging from Lashkar e taiba to the Afghan Taliban and Jaish e Adl. The tensions with Iran have risen because of the support that the extremist Sunni group Jaish ul Adl receives in Pakistan's Baluchistan Province, where the Pakistan army is simultaneously engaged in a bloody conflict against Baluchi separatists.

Tensions with Iran escalated last year when Jaish e Adl mounted cross-border ground and missile attacks in Iran, resulting in Iranian casualties. An Iranian spokesman warned that the Iranian forces would enter Pakistani territory if Pakistan “failed to act against terrorist groups operating on its soil”. Virtually coinciding with this was an incident when Jaish e Adl kidnapped five Iranian border guards and moved them into Pakistan. Iran not only warned Pakistan of cross-border retaliation, but also brought repeated incursions from Pakistan soil to the notice of the UN Security Council in writing. Ever since the pro-Saudi Nawaz Sharif, whose links with radical Sunni extremist groups are well documented, assumed power, Pakistan has moved towards rendering unstinted support to Saudi Arabia, even in the Syrian civil war. It has also unilaterally annulled the Pakistan-Iran oil pipeline project, prompting action by Iran, seeking compensation.

While Nawaz Sharif was commencing negotiations for a peace deal with Tehriq e Taliban in the tribal areas of North Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan, the Army Chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, disregarded the views of the Prime Minister. He launched a massive military operation, involving over 50,000 military and paramilitary personnel, backed by artillery, tanks, helicopter gunships and fighter jets. An estimated one million Pashtun tribesmen have fled their homes. They are now homeless and facing barriers, preventing their entry into the neighbouring provinces of Punjab and Sind. Not surprisingly, ISI “assets” like the Mullah Omar-led Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network have been quietly moved out from the battle zone, quite obviously into ISI safe houses.

Unrest is brewing amidst the displaced Pashtun tribals as the army is unwilling to coordinate its operations with civilian relief agencies. The displaced and homeless Pashtun tribals, will inevitably, in due course, resort to terrorist violence across Pakistan. The special treatment meted out to ISI assets like Mullah Omar and the Haqqani network would have been carefully noted by the new Ashraf Ghani dispensation in Afghanistan, as a prelude to more serious attacks by the Afghan Taliban acting out of the ISI and army protected safe havens in Pakistan. Pakistan's western borders will be neither peaceful nor stable in the coming years. The escalating tensions with Iran, the partisan stance on Saudi Arabia-Iran rivalries and the military action in North Waziristan have invited criticism within Pakistan.

The India Myth


The ubiquitous reports of India’s emergence as a great power are bogus. The road is long, the advance slow and the arrival date uncertain.

October 23, 2014

OVER THE last two decades, numerous books, articles and press commentaries have hailed India as the next global power. This flush of enthusiasm results partly from the marked acceleration in India’s economic growth rate following reforms initiated in 1991. India’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew at 6 percent per year for most of the 1990s, 5.5 percent from 1998 to 2002, and soared to nearly 9 percent from 2003 to 2007, before settling at an average of 6.5 percent until 2012. The upswing offered a contrast to what the Indian economist Raj Krishna dubbed “the Hindu rate of growth”: an average of 2.5 percent for the first twenty-five years following India’s independence in 1947. The brisker pace pulled millions from poverty, put Indian companies (such as Indian Oil, Tata Motors, Tata Steel, Infosys, Mahindra, Reliance Industries and Wipro) even more prominently on the global map, and spawned giddy headlines about India’s prowess in IT, even though that sector accounts for a tiny proportion of the country’s output and workforce. India also beckoned as a market for exports and a site for foreign investment.

The attention to India has endured even though its economic boom has been stymied, partly by the 2008 global financial crisis, with growth remaining below 5 percent for eight consecutive quarters from early 2012 to early 2014. In the quarter lasting from April to June 2014, growth ticked back up to 5.7 percent, but it is too soon to tell whether or not this represents the beginning of a more sustained expansion. The persistent interest also stems from analyses that portray India’s and China’s resurgence as part of a shift that is ineluctably returning the center of global economic power to Asia, its home for centuries before the West’s economic and military ascent some five hundred years ago. Yet even those who dismiss the proponents of this perspective as “declinists” are drawn to the “India rising” thesis, in part because of the transformation in U.S.-Indian relations during the last two decades and the allure of democratic India as a counterweight to authoritarian China. For much of the Cold War, the relationship between Washington and New Delhi ranged from “correct” to “chilly.” Nowadays, in contrast, predictions that China’s ascendency will produce an Indo-American entente, if not an alliance, are commonplace.

But is India really ready for prime time? India has many of the prerequisites for becoming a center of global power, and, assuming China’s continued and unhindered ascent, it will play a part in transforming a world in which American power is peerless into one marked by multipolarity. India has a vast landmass and coastline and a population of more than one billion, faces East Asia, China and the Persian Gulf, and has a wealth of scientific and technological talent along with a prosperous and well-placed diaspora. But the elemental problems produced by poverty, an inadequate educational system and pervasive corruption remain, and India’s mix of cultural diversity and democracy hampers rapid reform. For now, therefore, the ubiquitous reports of India’s emergence as a great power are premature at best. There’s no denying India’s ambition and potential, but as for its quest to join the club of great powers, the road is long, the advance slow and the arrival date uncertain. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may seek to be a reformer, and he enjoys a reputation as a charismatic leader and skilled manager. He is also a proponent of improving ties with the United States and Israel. But he will face daunting obstacles in his bid to push India into the front rank of nations.


India has neither a strong inclination nor sufficient incentive to make international development a priority issue of its strategic partnership with the European Union (EU), whether in third countries or at global fora. While some collaboration is taking place in specific locations and in response to concrete issues, it is unlikely that in the medium term the EU-India strategic partnership will significantly expand bilateral or trilateral development engagement.

Despite sharing some features with Brazil1 and China2 in this regard, there are a number of factors that make development cooperation even less tractable with India than with other rising powers.

Development Within The EU-India Strategic Partnership

The EU-India strategic partnership was launched in 2004. Since then, a series of meetings including annual summits have been organised and agreements have been signed, including the 2005 and 2008 Joint Action Plans and other issue-specific collaborations.

However, the partnership is widely considered to be underwhelming. Many see the action plans as ‘long on shared fundamentals and abstract political objectives but short on specifics and deliverables, and devoid of timelines’.3 In the case of India, it is suggested that while the strategic partnership has facilitated the widening and deepening of dialogue beyond trade and commerce, the two sides ‘have not been able to transform shared values into shared interests and shared priorities due to a big disconnect in world-views, mindsets and practical agendas, because the two are at different levels of socio-economic development, come from two different geo-political milieus and have different geographical and geopolitical priorities’.4

Development cooperation featured heavily in the initial EU-India strategic partnership dialogue.5 First, the focus was placed on development within India, with the 2004 strategic partnership agreement proposing ‘development cooperation in order to enable India to achieve the Millennium Development Goals’.6 Attention then shifted towards greater recognition of India’s external role as a development partner. The 2008 Joint Action Plan includes commitments to ‘join efforts in international fora in using expertise in global development policy to promote the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals and aid effectiveness’ and to ‘conduct a dialogue on issues relevant to cooperation with third countries’.7

This change of direction reflects a wider transition from seeing India and other emerging powers as poor countries to acknowledging their role as donors/partners. The EU first attempted to engage China on development cooperation dialogue,8 but now it also sees partners like India and Brazil as potentially influential actors in global development. In 2003,India ejected all but its largest donors and paid off many of its outstanding international debts.9 While the EU was one of the donors that remained at that time, it officially ended bilateral development cooperation to India in 2014, although ongoing projects are still being completed.10

India’s Development Cooperation

India has been a provider of development assistance since the early 1950s. The last decade has witnessed an acceleration of India’s development cooperation flows.11 This demonstrates both growing capacity and renewed recognition of its strategic value in supporting geo-economic and diplomatic interests. However, the complex nature and multi-institutional management of India’s development cooperation mean that caution needs to be exercised when projecting figures. The best available data suggests that Indian expenditure on foreign technical and economic cooperation constituted a historic high of 59.5 per cent of all the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spending in 2012-3, having generally hovered around 35-40 per cent since 1997-8. it is reported that in 2013-4, the Government of India put aside $1.3 billion for foreign assistance, a figure that excludes the much larger lines of credit (LoC).12

India’s development cooperation activities have traditionally focused on its South Asian neighbours. In 2012-3, Bhutan received 36 percent ($213 million) of India’s technical assistance budget, mostly focused on generating hydropower, of which India buys back a substantial proportion; and Nepal received 8 percent ($49 million).13 Afghanistan is an increasing priority and India has invested substantially in roads, energy and social programmes, and helped build Kabul’s new parliament building.14 India has also established longstanding development partnerships with many African countries, the number of which is expanding both through flagship technical assistance programmes, such as the pan-Africa e-network,15 and very notably through LoC. Energy-rich West and Central African countries are a growing focus of official partnerships.16

Taliban Resurgence Taking Place in Northern Afghanistan

Taliban Are Rising Again in Afghanistan’s North

Azam Ahmed, New York Times, October 23, 2014

CHAHAR DARA, Afghanistan — The last time Afghans in the northern province of Kunduz felt so threatened by the Taliban was in 2009, just before President Obama deployed thousands of troops to push the insurgents back from the outskirts of the province’s capital.

Now the Taliban are back, but the cavalry will not be coming.
With just two months left before the formal end of the 13-year international combat mission, Western officials insist that the Afghan security forces have managed to contain the Taliban’s offensives on their own. But the insurgents’ alarming gains in Kunduz in recent weeks present a different picture.

In an area that has not been a primary front against the Taliban for years, there are now two districts almost entirely under Taliban rule, local officials say. The Taliban are administering legal cases and schools, and even allowing international aid operations to work there, the officials say.
The new Afghan government under President Ashraf Ghani has acknowledged the depth of the crisis, telling local officials in a videoconference that Kunduz’s situation was a priority on a par with major battle fronts in the Taliban-heavy south and east this year. Already, troop reinforcements have been sent from Mazar-i-Sharif, the main city in the north.

Taken together with new Defense Ministry statistics showing a huge rise in combat deaths for the Afghan Army and police forces, the losses in Kunduz point out a deeper-than-expected concern about the ability of the security forces to hold territory without Western troops directly entering the fight.

Local residents and officials in three of the province’s most challenged areas, the Chahar Dara, Dasht-e-Archi and Imam Sahib districts, described a military and police force unable to mount effective operations. Rather than pushing back on the ground, Afghan forces have opted to shell areas near the capital under Taliban control. That has led to the deaths of more than a dozen civilians this summer, villagers claim.

“The Taliban could take the city any time they want to,” said Hajji Aman, a businessman in Kunduz City, who has been highly critical of the government’s response to the crisis. “They just don’t want to bother with holding and managing it right now.”

Taliban Are Rising Again in Afghanistan’s North


By AZAM AHMED,  OCT. 22, 2014

Afghan security officials inspected the site of a suicide bomb attack in Kunduz last month.CreditJawed Karger/European Pressphoto Agency

CHAHAR DARA, Afghanistan — The last time Afghans in the northern province of Kunduz felt so threatened by the Taliban was in 2009, just before President Obama deployed thousands of troops to push the insurgents back from the outskirts of the province’s capital.

Now the Taliban are back, but the cavalry will not be coming.

With just two months left before the formal end of the 13-year international combat mission, Western officials insist that the Afghan security forces have managed to contain the Taliban’s offensives on their own. But the insurgents’ alarming gains in Kunduz in recent weeks present a different picture.

In an area that has not been a primary front against the Taliban for years, there are now two districts almost entirely under Taliban rule, local officials say. The Taliban are administering legal cases 

The new Afghan government under President Ashraf Ghani has acknowledged the depth of the crisis, telling local officials in a videoconference that Kunduz’s situation was a priority on a par with major battle fronts in the Taliban-heavy south and east this year. Already, troop reinforcements have been sent from Mazar-i-Sharif, the main city in the north.

Taken together with new Defense Ministry statistics showing a huge rise in combat deaths for the Afghan Army and police forces, the losses in Kunduz point out a deeper-than-expected concern about the ability of the security forces to hold territory without Western troops directly entering the fight.

Local residents and officials in three of the province’s most challenged areas, the Chahar Dara, Dasht-e-Archi and Imam Sahib districts, described a military and police force unable to mount effective operations. Rather than pushing back on the ground, Afghan forces have opted to shell areas near the capital under Taliban control. That has led to the deaths of more than a dozen civilians this summer, villagers claim.

“The Taliban could take the city any time they want to,” said Hajji Aman, a businessman in Kunduz City, who has been highly critical of the government’s response to the crisis. “They just don’t want to bother with holding and managing it right now.”



Regressed, Stalled, or Moving Forward

By J. Stephen Morrison, Murray Hiebert, Todd Summers, RADM Thomas Cullison (USN Ret.) and Sahil Angelo

OCT 22, 2014

The burning question in Washington about Myanmar’s transition is: are things regressing, stalled, or moving forward? The short answer is all of the above. In August, 2014, CSIS organized a delegation to examine the status of the Myanmar transition in three key dimensions: health and development; political reform and governance; and conflict resolution with the country’s minority groups. This report is a summary of CSIS’ observations and thoughts on strengthening U.S. support for Myanmar’s transition. The bottom line: active U.S. engagement remains critical to supporting the Myanmar transition.
Publisher CSIS

China’s New Aircraft Carrier Continues to Experience Serious Technical Problems

China’s Aircraft Carrier Trouble: Spewing Steam and Losing Power

Robert Beckhusen

War Is Boring, October 22, 2014

There’s no more of a conspicuous and potent symbol of China’s growing naval power than the aircraft carrier Liaoning.

But the 53,000-ton, 999-foot-long carrier could be dangerous to her crew and prone to engine failures. If so, that makes the vessel as much of a liability as an asset to Beijing.

The ex-Soviet carrier once went by the name Varyag until a cash-strapped Ukraine sold the ship to Beijing in 1998. The Chinese navy has since invested considerable resources into modernizing the warship and testing her at sea.

But on at least one occasion during recent sea trials, Liaoning appeared to suffer a steam explosion which temporarily knocked out the carrier’s electrical power system. The failure, reported by Chinese media site Sina.com, resulting from a leak in “the machine oven compartment to the water pipes.”

We’re only able to glimpse at the carrier’s engine problems, as we know very little about what’s inside the ship. This includes even what kind of enginesLiaoning has.

The Chinese government also doesn’t like to admit to problems with its military hardware. When it does—and that’s never guaranteed—the admissions often come months or years after problems come up.

The Liaoning battle group during sea trials (China Defense Blog)

During the accident, hot water and steam began “spewing” out of the engine’s oven compartment, Sina.com reported. One cabin became “instantly submerged in water vapor,” the report added.

The Future of China and Russia: Can a David Fracture a Goliath?

The Future of China and Russia: Can a David Fracture a Goliath?
Proponents of democracy have reason to hope that history is on their side.
By Walter C. Clemens, Jr.
October 23, 2014

The fledgling science of complexity, developed at the Santa Fe Institute and elsewhere, argues that societal fitness cannot develop under a heavy hand or the opposite extreme, anarchy. Top-down rule cannot generate a fit society primed to cope with the complex challenges of modern life. Instead, societal fitness emerges from self-organization close to the edge of chaos. Self-organized crowds in Hong Kong have demanded more self-organization; similar groups in Russia have turned against Putin and urged him to vacate Ukraine. Repression can work for a time but tends to devour its makers.

Complexity science helps us understand which of two paths will unfold for China and Russia. Retracing their Stalinist heritage, the first course tightens dictatorship at home, crushes independence in borderlands, and expands abroad. The second path leads to the breakdown of centralized controls at home and a retreat from imperial expansion. The material assets wielded by authorities in Beijing and Moscow favor the first scenario. But little Davids can sometimes topple Goliaths. Thus, the Baltic republics catalyzed the Soviet Union’s collapse. In a similar vein, Hong Kong and Ukraine now challenge the imperial dictatorships of China and Russia.

Each country’s president – Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin – has neutered the green shoots of political and economic freedom. Each president has purged political rivals; appointed viceroys to govern the provinces; and obstructed access to the Internet and other tools by which citizens can bypass censors to gain and share information. Each president tries to suppress political dissenters and ethnic minorities seeking greater freedom. Examples abound. Chinese authorities imprison for life a Uighur professor who calls for equal rights and cultural autonomy for his people. Putin jails potential rivals and robs privately held corporations to enrich cronies and empower the state. The Kremlin plays the nationalist card within Russia and among “compatriots” in former Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Latvia.

Al-Qaeda Declares War on China, Too

Al-Qaeda Declares War on China, Too
Image Credit: Flickr/Andres Perez
Al-Qaeda has joined the Islamic State in calling for jihad against China for its Uyghur policies.
October 22, 2014
Al-Qaeda central appears to have joined the Islamic State in calling for jihad against China over its alleged occupation of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

This week, al-Sahab media organization, al-Qaeda’s propaganda arm, released the first issue of its new English-language magazine Resurgence. The magazine has a strong focus on the Asia-Pacific in general, with feature articles on both India and Bangladesh, as well as others on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, the first issue also contains an article entitled “10 Facts About East Turkistan,” which refers to the name given to Xinjiang by those who favor independence from China. The ten facts seek to cast Xinjiang as a longtime independent state that has only recently been brutally colonized by Han Chinese, who are determined to obliterate its Islamic heritage.

“In the last 1,000 years of its Islamic history,” the article says, Xinjiang “has remained independent for 763 years, while 237 years have been spent under Chinese occupation at various intervals.”

This occupation has been costly, the article argues, alleging that: “In 1949, 93 percent of the population of East Turkistan was Uyghur, while 7 percent was Chinese. Today, as a result of six decades of forced displacement of the native population and the settlement of Han Chinese in their place, almost 45 percent of the population of East Turkistan is Chinese.”

The article goes on to claim that teaching the Quran in Xinjiang is punishable by up to ten years in prison, and that Muslim women caught wearing the hijab can be fined more than five times the average annual income of the area. Al-Qaeda also claims that following its takeover of the mainland in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party murdered some 4.5 million Muslims in Xinjiang. The group further claims that China has conducted no less than 35 nuclear weapon tests in Xinjiang, and the radioactive fallout from these are estimated to have killed 200,000 Muslims. In 1998 alone, the article adds, 20,000 babies were born deformed in Xinjiang as a result of these nuclear tests.

Chinese Fishermen in Troubled Waters

Chinese Fishermen in Troubled Waters
Image Credit: REUTERS/11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters-Japan Coast Guard/Handout
Strategic issues are not the only driver behind the recent incidents involving Chinese fishermen.
By Zhang Hongzhou
October 23, 2014

A Chinese fisherman was shot dead on October 10 in a clash with South Korea’s Coast Guard, which accused Chinese fishermen of illegally fishing in South Korea’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The incident immediately caused tension between the two countries. A week later, a Chinese fishing boat captain was arrested by Japanese police for illegally fishing in waters near Japan’s Ogasawara islands.

In recent years, the region has been witnessing an increasing number of maritime incidents involving Chinese fishermen. These incidents have contributed to maritime tensions and occasionally even triggered clashes between China and its regional neighbors. To prevent or manage maritime incidents involving Chinese fishermen, it is important to understand the motivating factors behind the growing presence of Chinese fishermen in the disputed waters or even in other countries’ EEZs. Western media and some scholars tend to attribute it to a simple reason: China has weaponized its fishermen to strengthen its territorial claims in the disputed waters. China’s fishing expansion has been primarily driven, they argue, by strategic and political purposes, based on a strategy of “fish, protect, contest, and occupy.”

Strategic Considerations

Given its trans-boundary nature, marine fishing certainly carries an important political and diplomatic function, particularly in waters where disputes exist. It has been no secret that for decades China (as well as Vietnam, Philippines, and other countries) considers fishermen important players in strengthening its maritime presence in disputed waters. Fishermen are provided with financial and political support to undertake fishing activities in the contested waters. And on an ad hoc basis, countries deploy fishermen and fishing boats to confront each other during maritime crises. For instance, both China and Vietnam dispatched fishing vessels during the recent 981 oil rig row. However, it would be very wrong to view the Chinese government’s strategic intentions as the key factor behind the growing number of fishing incidents involving Chinese fishermen.

First, the fishing incidents involving Chinese fishermen do not only occur in disputed waters in the South China Sea and East China Sea, where China has an interest in strengthening its maritime claims. In fact, these incidents occur almost everywhere, such as in the EEZs of South Korea – where the latest incident occurred – Russia, North Korea, Indonesia and Palau.

Second, the relationship between the Chinese government and the fishermen is complicated. On the one hand, it is very difficult for the Chinese government to control and manage its fishermen and stop them fishing illegally; on the other hand, fishermen do not always trust government officials. In the latest anti-corruption campaign in Hainan, a dozen officials from China’s fishery administration were arrested for stealing or appropriating fishermen’s fuel subsidies.

Third, the geopolitical argument cannot explain why the Chinese government (with few exceptions) fails to provide financial compensation for many the fishermen who are detained or harassed by neighbouring countries. Indeed, some fishermen are fined or disqualified from receiving fuel subsidies by the Chinese government after they return to China.

Fourth, while China has appeared to be more assertive in enforcing its maritime claims in the East China Sea and South China Sea, maintaining regional maritime stability is still its top priority. Thus, there seems little benefit for China in deliberately dispatching its fishermen to disputed waters to stir up tensions with neighbouring countries. This is precisely why China banned its fishermen from fishing in waters near the Scarborough Shoal after the China and Philippines maritime standoff in 2012. It also explains why China does not provide a special fishing fuel subsidy for fishing in the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, despites calls for its do so from fishermen and scholars.

Structural Changes

In 1985, nearly 90 percent of China’s total marine catch was from inshore waters, primarily in the Yellow and Bohai seas. The offshore catch, mostly taking place in the East China Sea and around the South China Seas, accounted for just 10 percent. By 2002, the inshore catch had fallen to less than 65 percent of the total, while the offshore catch had risen to 35 percent. While national data on the inshore and offshore marine catch have been unavailable since 2002, data from provincial level and other sources show that this structural change from inshore to offshore fishing has continued, and the marine catch from offshore waters in East China Sea and South China is rising rapidly. This structural shift from inshore to offshore fishing is the result of the combined effects of market forces and the government’s fishing policies.

As incomes grow, the Chinese are consuming more and more marine products. Per capita consumption of seafood has increased by 100 percent over the past two decades. While much of this rapid surge in demand has been met by the phenomenal development of the fish farming sector, there is growing demand for marine catches, with the expanding middle class and growing concerns over the safety of cultured marine products. On the supply side, meanwhile, inshore fishing has suffered from a rapid depletion of fisheries resources due to years of over-fishing, pollution, and excessive land reclamation along China’s coastal regions. Consequently, there are strong market forces driving China’s fishing industry to expand further to offshore and even distant waters.

Growing demand for marine products to feed China’s 1.4 billion people is not the only market force behind this structural shift. China is not only the largest producer of fisheries products, it is also the largest exporter with the world’s biggest seafood processing industry. In addition, in recent years, rapidly rising demand for fisheries products such as giant clams and coral as handicraft for decorating and collecting purposes has emerged as another important force shaping China’s fishing industry. For instance, the rise of the giant clam handicraft industry has completed transformed the fishing town of Tanmen in China’s Hainan province. Traditionally, fishermen in Tamen relied on the fish catch as their primary source of income. Over the past few years, however, more and more local fishermen have given up fishing and specialized in harvesting giant clams, which bring much higher profits. With the rapid depletion of giant claims in the country’s inshore waters, local fishermen are venturing further and further into the South China Sea.

Government Policies

Facing rising demand for marine products and declining supply in inshore waters, the Chinese government has taken significant steps to contain marine production, primarily in inshore waters, where overfishing is endemic. For instance, to cap overfishing and preserve resources, China has been imposing an annual fishing in the South China Sea since the late 1990s. However, this fishing ban does not cover the Spratly Islands, which encourages Chinese fishermen to fish in those waters during the period of the ban.

As for its fishing fleet, under a zero growth policy, action has been taken at both central and local level to downsize the fleet and transfer fishermen to other work. In the late 1990s, China ceased issuing new fishing certificates and began providing financial incentives to encourage the fishermen to demolish old boats and take up jobs onshore. However, in 2006 when China made the historic decision to abolish the agricultural tax and subsidize the country’s agricultural production, the fishing sector, as a subsector of agriculture, began to receive huge financial support in the form of a fishing fuel subsidy. This subsidy is paid to the fishing boat owner annually, based on the horsepower of the fishing vessel, and has nothing to do with the actual amount of fuel consumed. Parallel to the drastic increase in China’s total agricultural subsidy, the fishing fuel subsidy increased more than sevenfold from 2006 to 2012, reaching 23.4 billion renminbi ($3.8 billion) in 2012. The fishing fuel subsidy now represents the major portion of the financial support given to the Chinese fishing industry, and accounts for nearly half of the annual incomes of Chinese fishing vessel owners, according to some sample surveys.

This huge fuel subsidy programme has stymied efforts to reduce the country’s fishing fleet: Owners who participate in the reduction program receive the equivalent of only about two years of the fuel subsidy. Consequently, fewer owners opt for the program; instead they prefer to build new ships. As the fuel subsidy is paid based on the horsepower of the vessel and no new fishing vessel certificates are being issued, fishermen have been scrapping their smaller, old ships and building new and bigger vessels, buying horsepower from their peers. According to official statistics, between 2004 to 2012, while the total number of fishing vessels in China decreased by 12 percent, the average horsepower and tonnage rose by 22 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

It is important to keep in mind that fishermen are self-motivated economic players with the ultimate objective of increasing their earnings. Now, equipped with bigger and better fishing vessels yet very limited resources in their near waters, Chinese fishermen naturally venture further out – be it into disputed waters in the East or South China Seas or even neighbouring countries EEZs – where the fish are plenty.

Zhang Hongzhou is an associate research fellow with the China Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.


October 23, 2014 ·

In December 2009, the infantry company I commanded took over an area of western Baghdad Province that stretched from just west of Baghdad International Airport to the eastern outskirts of Fallujah. The United States was in the midst of drawing down in Iraq, so as units departed, those remaining inherited successively larger areas of operation. The region, referred to as Zaidon, was a traditional smuggling route before the 2003 invasion and became particularly dangerous during the height of the war. Although the region is often most closely associated with Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), its real legacy was the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade.

The 1920s Revolutionary Brigade was created by the Zobai tribe and Zaidon was the heart of Zobai territory. The groups name is derived from the 1920s revolt against British rule; a popular myth is that the son of the paramount sheikh of the Zobai tribe ignited the rebellion by assassinating a British official, Lieutenant Colonel Gerard Leachman. While there were other 1920s rebel groups in places like Baquba, the group’s leadership came from an area just north of Zaidon called Khan Dhari. Though the Sunni Awakening was in full swing in 2007, the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade, a largely nationalist insurgent group, fought a series of knock-down-drag-out battles with AQI in Zaidon, independent of the Awakening. At least that is how we saw it. In reality, the battles were fought between two tribal houses vying for control of the tribe.

Despite the inter-tribal war, the house of Dhari held legitimate claim to leadership of the Zobai. Abd al Rahman Thahir Khamis al-Dhari, the son of the elderly paramount sheikh Thahir Khamis al-Dhari was believed to have been one of the founders of the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade. Additionally, Sheikh Thahir Khamis was the half-brother of Sheikh Harith al-Dhari, head of the Association of Muslim Scholars, and reputed financier and religious head of the wider Sunni nationalist insurgency. At the time I operated in Zaidon, Sheikh Thahir Khamis’ son, Abd al Latif, spoke on behalf of his aging father. Though reticent to provide information about the 1920s and Dhari involvement with the group, over time he provided me information that significantly clarified the situation in Zaidon and Abu Ghraib.

The Dhari sheikhs controlled the area between the city of Baghdad and the border of Anbar Province, commonly known as the Abu Ghraib-Fallujah corridor. Little of consequence happened in the area without their knowledge. Most importantly, for the vast majority of the tribe, no alliances or agreements could be made with outsiders without approval of the Dhari house.

Syrians to be trained to defend territory, not take ground from jihadists, officials say


Rebel fighters run during a battle against Syrian government soldiers in Handarat, on Oct. 20. Moderate Syrian fighters have been deemed essential to defeating the Islamic State under the Obama administration’s strategy. (Fadi Al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images)
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran October 22 at 8:57 PM 

The Syrian opposition force to be recruited by the U.S. military and its coalition partners will be trained to defend territory, rather than to seize it back from the Islamic State, according to senior U.S. and allied officials, some of whom are concerned that the approach is flawed.

Although moderate Syrian fighters are deemed essential to defeating the Islamic State under the Obama administration’s strategy, officials do not believe the newly assembled units will be capable of capturing key towns from militants without the help of forward-deployed U.S. combat teams, which President Obama has so far ruled out. The Syrian rebel force will be tasked instead with trying to prevent the Islamic State from extending its reach beyond the large stretches of territory it already controls.

“We have a big disconnect within our strategy. We need a credible, moderate Syrian force, but we have not been willing to commit what it takes to build that force,” said a senior U.S. official involved in Syria and Iraq operations who, like others cited in this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the training program.

Military commanders are reluctant to push Syrian fighters into full-scale battles with well-armed militants if they cannot summon close air support and medical evacuations, mindful of how fledgling forces in Iraq and Afghanistan crumbled without that assistance during the early years of the wars in those nations. But U.S. military aircraft cannot provide that aid without American or allied troops in close proximity to provide accurate targeting information on secure radio channels.

The Long Shadow of the Iran-Iraq War


"No single event has defined Iran’s revolutionary ideology, politics, perspectives on society, and security more than the Iran-Iraq War." 

October 23, 2014
For a conflict that still captivates much of Iran’s ruling elite, the Iran-Iraq War gets very little attention in the United States. Over the years, we’ve regularly seen events commemorating the August 19, 1953 coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. Op-Eds on the 1979 Islamic Revolution are alwayswith us. The date September 22, 1980—when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Iran—hasn’t, however, been compelling for Iran watchers, let alone the general foreign-policy crowd in Washington.

This is a mistake. No single event has defined Iran’s revolutionary ideology, politics, perspectives on society and security more than the Iran-Iraq War. Here are four reasons why that conflict still matters, and why the West ignores its legacy at its own peril.

Iran’s Revolutionary Ideology Marches On

In the intellectual framing of the Iran-Iraq War, the nascent Islamic Republic, led by its founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, believed it was fighting a Holy War. Indeed, in Iran the war has gained the epithet,Defa-e Moqadas, or “the Holy Defense.” For Iran’s leaders, the ideological magnitude of the war helped blur national boundaries, parsimoniously dividing the world into good and evil. Similarly, anti-American themes used against the Shah were later refashioned for Saddam. On the day of the Iraqi invasion, Khomeini declared that, “It is Saddam Hussein who on behalf of America attacked us, and if we respond to him, it will never have anything to do with the Iraqi nation, which is our brother.” These two dimensions, American support for Saddam and the (strategically misguided) belief in Iraqi popular support, would become hallmarks of the war.

A map of every car bomb explosion in Baghdad since 2003.

The South China Sea and Joint Defense Procurement

By Koh Swee Lean Collin
October 20, 2014

Can ASEAN members join forces on defense procurement? It’s more complex than it seems. 

A recent thought-provoking article in The Diplomatby Liang Tuang Nah titled “Joining Forces in South China Sea Defense Procurement” made some salient observations.

First, in the face of more assertive Chinese moves to enforce its extensive claims in the South China Sea (SCS), the Philippines and Vietnam need to project presence sufficient to “turn their de jure claims into de factoreality.” In the eyes of international law, effective administration over disputed territory holds more water over mere historical claim. The International Court of Justice verdict in May 2008 to grant ownership of Pedra Branca islet to Singapore and not Malaysia is a case in point.

Second, given Beijing’s moves to construct more patrol assets to project and sustain presence in the SCS, more needs to and can be done by Hanoi and Manila. There is no doubt about “need.” However, on “can be done,” the question is how. Nah’s central argument is therefore an interesting one: The Philippines and Vietnam can ramp up their patrol capabilities through joint procurement of technically less capable assets by exploiting economies of scale.

From an economic standpoint, the proposal appears highly attractive. But joint defense procurement is easier said than done. The thrust of Nah’s article is almost exclusively economic and, except for a brief mention, does not discuss political, operational or technical considerations. But joint defense procurement is not merely about economic expediency.

Warships Do Matter

Nah wrote: “In the business of contested sovereignty, what matters is not the ownership of several technologically advanced warships… but rather the ability to deploy less technically capable yet more numerous patrol craft or cutters so as to maintain a constant EEZ enforcement presence.” This assertion misses a few important considerations.

The first concerns the threat environment in question. The SCS differs from, say, the South Pacific, where the island microstates generally face low-intensity maritime security threats such as illegal fishing, not armed naval incursions, and where coastguard-type vessels thus suffice.

True, coastguard vessels have been at the forefront of recent actions in the SCS. But as the Sino-Vietnamese oil rig standoff in May this year had illustrated, heavily armed warships often cast an ominous shadow – in the form of recessed deterrence – behind coastguard patrols. Chinese navy and paramilitary forces have been exercising together in recent years to foster synergy. Hanoi and Manila cannot be certain when naval assets will be unleashed for action in support of coastguards but it pays to possess them as a form of insurance. The ownership of several technologically advanced warships does matter.

For countries with only navies and not coastguards, the logical solution is to opt for a multi-purpose ship of modular design, capable of configuring mission modules for a spectrum of low-to-high intensity operations. But such ships, with the storage and maintenance of mission modules, are expensive to procure. The MalaysianKedah class, a modified MEKO-100 design, is an example. The programme was scaled down drastically from 27 to just six units.

Both the Philippines and Vietnam have separate coastguards distinct from navies, which means having to divide scarce national resources between them. Competition for funding can influence the numbers of coastguard vessels that can be procured in lieu of navy warships. One ought not to be too sanguine about convincing defense planners in Hanoi and Manila of the necessity to buy more coastguard-type patrol vessels instead of warships.

How Many to Build?

A collective acquisition approach, according to Nah, could involve: 1) standardized hulls and crew fittings; 2) common propulsion and engine systems; and 3) joint procurement of non-security sensitive systems and weaponry; thereafter followed by installations of sensitive components customized for national needs. This appears a straightforward solution but implementation will be hard.

A major hurdle is that participants need to agree on these basic technical requirements that are subject to differing threat perceptions and operational needs. For example, the Philippine Navy may require a ship of longer and wider hull to accommodate those capabilities it desires but its Vietnamese counterpart may consider such specifications superfluous to its needs.


October 23, 2014

President Obama’s now infamous assertion that the U.S. intelligence community underestimated the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) brought to mind the adage attributed to Sherman Kent, a former professor at Yale recruited into the Office of Strategic Services and widely regarded as the father of CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence, that the purpose of intelligence is “to raise the tenor of debate.” Much has been debated since the president spoke, in the press, on the Hill and the in the halls of government, regarding the adequacy of the intelligence community’s warning, the potential consequences of the rise of ISIL for a strife-torn region and the wider implications for the United States. President Obama clearly felt himself ill-served, and, as a former CIA officer, I can readily imagine the muttering in the halls of Langley and elsewhere about having been thrown under the bus yet again.

So, did we miss the boat or not? Did we or didn’t we warn appropriately? Did we or didn’t we fully appreciate the strengths and prospects of this particular homicidal Sunni militant group and the limited capacity of neighboring states to respond effectively?

The short answer is I don’t know. I worked on Iraq for the better part of ten years, and I have deep familiarity with the analytic story line on that unhappy land, but since retiring from the Agency some months ago, I’ve had no access to the finished intelligence provided daily to the White House. Could it be that the analysts at Langley and elsewhere didn’t see what was afoot? I’m deeply skeptical, but maybe. Could it be that political leaders are aiming to deflect criticism of flawed policymaking? Maybe. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

Get Ready for Iraq War IV

One of the most influential Army officers of the Iraq theater on why the United States seems destined to repeat the mistakes of the past. 

The United States is now at war in Iraq for the third time in my lifetime, and after being in the middle of the first two I'm planning to sit this one out. 

The first Iraq war was necessary and conducted well, as wars go; the second was unnecessary and conducted poorly at first, but ended up in a reasonable place given what a fiasco it had been at the start. This third war was entirely preventable, caused by a premature departure of U.S. troops after the second. Although it's too soon to say how it will turn out, it is not too early to say that unless we get the endgame right, the United States will fight yet another war in Iraq before too long.

My first Iraq war was Operation Desert Storm, when half a million U.S. troops joined an international coalition to expel Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait in 1991. Although that war appeared to settle some things at the time, within months of the cease-fire it became clear that Saddam had survived the thrashing we had given his army and was not going to fall to indigenous rebel forces as we had hoped. Instead, we began a decade of containment called Operation Southern Watch, with American war planes flying combat missions around the clock to deter Saddam from further adventurism. 

Southern Watch continued until March 2003, when the tempo of combat operations increased sharply during the second Iraq war. Operation Iraqi Freedom began in an air of national panic after al Qaeda's attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the unrelated but frightening anthrax attacks on the U.S. capital. Saddam was working to develop weapons of mass destruction, we were told, and the United States did not want to discover that he had completed them only after seeing a mushroom cloud over Washington or New York. Throwing aside generations of deterrence theory -- which predicts correctly that states will not deploy weapons of mass destruction against another state that possesses them for fear of reprisal -- we invaded Iraq again, this time unnecessarily. 

Not just unnecessarily, but also poorly. Iraq was three nations inside a single state, held together by a brutal dictatorship. Although there were prewar warnings that hundreds of thousands of troops would be required to police Iraq after the government collapsed, we invaded with a fraction of that number. We had no plan to create a new order in postwar Iraq or even to secure the weapons-storage depots that were the supposed reason we were invading. Decisions made in the immediate aftermath of the invasion to disband the Iraqi Army and forbid any former members of the ruling Baath Party from again holding positions of influence poured fuel on the embers of a Sunni insurgency that burst into flames. Rather than coming home by Christmas, the invasion force called for reinforcements, including my tank battalion.

We arrived in Anbar province in September 2003, right in the heart of the insurgency, and immediately discovered that our prewar training to fight other armies would be of little help. 
We arrived in Anbar province in September 2003, right in the heart of the insurgency, and immediately discovered that our prewar training to fight other armies would be of little help. We were fighting insurgents who, in Mao's clever phrase, were fish swimming among the sea of the people -- Sunnis who hated us and their new Shiite overlords in Baghdad, whom they saw as collaborators with the occupiers.

It got worse. We had been told that Saddam was collaborating with al Qaeda, which was not true, but in the power vacuum that followed his demise, radical Islamists found a toehold. They named themselves al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and increased the sophistication of the weapons they deployed against U.S. troops. Simple improvised explosive devices made of the artillery rounds that literally littered the desert were replaced by sophisticated AQI car bombs like the one that destroyed the Khalidiya police station oneSunday morning, killing 34 Iraqi police officers we had trained and equipped. When my tank battalion left Anbar after a year of fighting, we made coffee cups that said "Iraq 2003-2004: We Were Winning When I Left."

We weren't, and we knew it. I went to work in the Pentagon and became reacquainted with my former West Point professor David Petraeus, who was then a lieutenant general returning from his own second combat tour in Iraq. In 2006, I helped him write an Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual that suggested fighting a very different kind of war from the one we were then waging. Appointed to command the whole Iraq war effort shortly thereafter, General Petraeus put the new counterinsurgency doctrine into practice, building an Iraqi Army and eventually persuading the Sunnis who had been our enemies to switch sides and fight with us against the increasingly brutal AQI. Within 18 months, violence dropped by two-thirds, and we put Iraq on a path to stability (if not perfect democracy).

We seized defeat from the jaws of not-quite victory by not leaving behind a force of some 20,000 American advisors to stiffen the spine of the Iraqi Army and, perhaps more importantly, moderate the anti-Sunni tendencies of the Shiite politicians. But once he came into office, U.S. President Barack Obama overruled the advice of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Petraeus, who had since become director of the CIA. Obama's advisors urged him to keep troops in Iraq. Instead, the president chose to fulfill a campaign promise that he would end the war in Iraq during his first term. He abandoned a country in which Americans had been working and fighting continuously for more than 20 years in an effort to build a stable state.

In our absence, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave in to his worst sectarian tendencies, firing Sunni leaders of the Iraqi Army and replacing them with incompetent Shiite cronies. Al Qaeda in Iraq staged a comeback across the border in Syria, where another civil war raged without American involvement to moderate it. And this year, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham came roaring to life, seizing most of the Sunni territory in Iraq. Maliki's stooges abandoned their units under fire, and the Iraqi Army, built with billions of U.S. dollars and at the cost of many American soldiers' lives and limbs, crumbled in the absence of American air power and advisory support. Two years without Americans engaged in combat in Iraq ended in tragedy, and last month the president announced that U.S. combat troops were returning to Iraq to fight yet another war there, this time against the Islamic State.

With luck, we have learned a few things from these decades of war in Iraq: that the enemy has a say about when wars end, that in the absence of American leadership such evil forces will rise to power that we get dragged back in to fix things again, that wars are messy and slow and last a long, long time. Unless we finally get it right, I expect a fourth war in Iraq. I'm not optimistic.