26 October 2014

Remaking India Yes, prime minister


More moderniser than market reformer, Narendra Modi relies on his bureaucrats Oct 18th 2014 

THOSE who hoped that Narendra Modi would prove a busy liberal reformer as prime minister have so far been disappointed. But that, says Gurcharan Das, a writer and former businessman who now advises the government, is to judge the man by the wrong measure. Rather than being mad about markets, he says, Mr Modi is a strong-willed moderniser, a man who thinks a capable bureaucracy can fix much of what ails India. It is the lesson of Mr Modi’s running of Gujarat, where he relied heavily on his civil service and got public-sector firms to flourish.

But the bureaucracy is very far from capable. Lant Pritchett of Harvard University has described India as a “flailing state” thanks to its rotten administration. Bureaucrats are incompetent and corrupt when they are not simply absent. India struggles to implement even well-found policy. India’s head, in Mr Pritchett’s metaphor, is not reliably connected to its limbs.

Mr Modi appears bent on changing that. In office for only five months, he spends a lot of time with civil servants, preferring to meet them instead of ministers. He and they have been looking for fixes, such as shifting the paperwork needed to open a business onto the internet, or freeing firms from petty inspections. Meetings are said to have a corporate air, with Mr Modi as chief executive. Dates for specific targets—the “deliverables” of corporate jargon—are set. Resistant bureaucrats are transferred. On October 16th Mr Modi announced a big reshuffle, with a liberal reformer from Rajasthan becoming the finance ministry’s top bureaucrat.

Mr Modi presses his civil servants to think big. In August he called for 75m more Indian households to have bank accounts by February. The scheme, called Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, involves state banks and could prove transformational if households get in the habit of using their accounts rather than keeping cash under the mattress. Officials say over 55m new accounts have been opened and nearly $700m deposited. The aim is to increase access to banking in a country where two-fifths of households lack it.

An obvious opportunity is for such new accounts to serve as conduits for the government to distribute welfare as cash rather than, as at present, to supply the needy with wasteful subsidies in kind. It helps that Mr Modi, though once a sceptic, is now an enthusiast for India’s most modernising effort by a mile: Aadhaar, the unique-identity scheme, in which biometric data are to be recorded to create a digital identity for every Indian. This can now be used, say, to open a bank account or get a passport. Some 690m people are enrolled in Aadhaar, the world’s biggest biometric database. The target for next year is 1 billion out of India’s 1.2 billion citizens.

The Rs 2,66,000 crore NREGA boondoggle; for every Rs 5 spent, the poor get Re 1

Representational image. Reuters

It is not surprising that any talk of revamping the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA for short) brings forth a deluge of protest from jholawala economists and vested interests. The Left loves government spends in the name of the poor, regardless of corruption and unmindful of actual results.

The Modi government’s proposal to change the spending mix on NREGA from 60:40 (for material and wages) to 51:49 and to focus the scheme on the 200 poorest districts (or 2,500 blocks) has brought forth a open letter from 28 “leading” economists to abandon the effort. “Despite numerous hurdles, the NREGA has achieved significant results. At a relatively small cost (currently 0.3 percent of India's GDP), about 50 million households are getting some employment at NREGA worksites every year. A majority of NREGA workers are women, and close to half are Dalits or Adivasis. A large body of research shows that the NREGA has wide-ranging social benefits, including the creation of productive assets.”

This is, of course, largely bunkum. Nobody needs to deny that some good must have come from spending a massive Rs 2,66,000 crore on NREGA over the last eight years, but even better results could have been achieved by abandoning the charade of providing employment at such huge cost and showering this kind of money from a helicopter in poor areas.

In fact, the evidence is to the contrary: the money is largely going down the drain.

As economists Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya note in a critique of the scheme in The Times of India, NREGA (after taking corruption and leakages into account) essentially spends as much as Rs 248 in order to deliver a net Rs 50 per person per day. In other words, the scheme is highly inefficient even as a poverty alleviation scheme as it takes nearly Rs 5 to deliver Re 1 worth of benefits to the poor. Would not the poor have benefited more from direct cash transfers of a higher amount without hassles and middlemen?

Quite clearly, NREGA is going the same way as the food subsidy scheme, where too just 12 paise out of every rupee spent reaches the right beneficiary (read more about this here).

To make matters worse, state governments are now dragging their feet on implementing the scheme, which promises one member of a household 100 days of employment every year, failing which some kind of unemployment allowance is paid by the states. A report in The Indian Express today (24 October) quotes from the minutes of an internal review of the rural development ministry on the scheme as saying that “states expressed their inability to continue the uninterrupted implementation of MGNREG, given the situation of an overall fund shortage.”

Might of a Fragile Revolution

Bibhu Prasad Routray
OCTOBER 20, 2014

On the morning of 18 October 2014, Shiv Kumar, a personnel belonging to the Chhattisgarh Armed Police was pulled out of a passenger bus in Sukma district by a group of Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres and killed. Kumar was ill and was on his way to the hospital when the bus he had boarded was waylaid by extremists. On the previous day, Raghunath Kisku, Founder Member, Nagarik Suraksha Samity (NSS), an anti-Maoist organisation, was killed by Maoists in Ghatshila sub-division of Jharkhand's East Singhbhum district.

Kumar was the 69th security force personnel and Kisku, the 164th civilian, to be killed by Maoists in 2014. Other activities perpetrated by the Maoists till 15 September include 125 attacks on the police; 40 occasions of snatching of weapons from the security forces; and holding of 25 arms training camps and 46 jan adalats in areas under their influence. While the occurrence of larger attacks have substantially decreased, the number of extremism-related incidents roughly remain the same compared to the corresponding period in 2013 – indicating the continuation of the challenge.

And yet it is a hard time for the Maoists. Till 15 September, 1129 CPI-Maoist cadres were neutralised, including 49 who were killed in encounters, and 1080 cadres, arrested. While the outfit can take pride from the sacrifices made by these men and women, what continues to trouble it is the perpetual desolation creeping into its ranks and files, leading to a large number of surrender of its leaders and cadres.

Among the 395 who have surrendered till 30 September are leaders like Gumudavelli Venkatakrishna Prasad alias Gudsa Usendi, Secretary, Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC), arguably the outfit's most potent military division based in Bastar and his wife Raji; GP Reddy, Member, the DKSZC, and his wife Vatti Adime; and Bhagat Jade and his wife Vanoja. According to the Chhattisgarh police, over 140 cadres have surrendered between June and September 2014 in Bastar alone, partly due to the disillusion with the outfit's ideology and partly convinced by the police's method of highlighting the discrimination suffered by the local Chhattisgarh cadres at the hands of those drawn from Andhra Pradesh.

Press statements of the CPI-Maoist, while condemning these surrenders as demonstration of opportunism and desertion of the movement by corrupt and politically degenerated persons, admit that the revolution is currently undergoing its most difficult phase. The CPI-Maoist has accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in New Delhi of launching the third phase of Operation Green Hunt, a ruthless war aimed at annihilating the Maoists who are the "biggest threat" to its "pro-reform" policies. Asserting that it has merely only engaged in a "war of self defence," the outfit has called for a "widespread struggle to fight back the threat by uniting all the revolutionary and democratic forces."

Its progressively declining capacity to annihilate enemies since 2010 – in spite of the ability to pull off some of the most spectacular attacks on security forces and politicians in recent years – has remained a matter of worry for the CPI-Maoist. Its failure to disrupt the parliamentary and state assembly elections coupled with a regular desertion of its cadres has descended as an existential threat on the outfit that once controlled one-third of the country's geographical area. Even with the persisting bureaucratic inertia and unimaginative security force operations, most of the affected states have gained in their fight against the extremists.

Badly Needing Recruits, Pakistani Taliban Pledges Allegians to ISIS, Then Retracts Pledge


Abubakar Siddique

Terrorism Monitor, October 24, 2014

The Islamic State organization is proving to be a magnet for desperate Pakistani Taliban figures and factions after their umbrella organization, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has been rapidly fragmented by rivalries, assassinations and doctrinal divisions. The once powerful organization that controlled large swathes of territory in northwestern Pakistan is rapidly losing leaders and fighters.

In the latest sign of its rapid disintegration, the TTP condemned its former spokesman Shahidullah Shahid, whose real name, it claimed, is Shaykh Maqbool (RFE/RL Gandhara, October 21). A TTP statement on October 20 said that the sacked spokesman used the position “for personal gains.” The statement reiterated that the current TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah has pledged an oath of allegiance to the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, which apparently repudiated the Islamic State organization’s claim over the Islamic caliphate (The News [Islamabad], October 21).

The statement followed an October 14 announcement in which by Shahid announced his allegiance to the Islamic State. He also claimed that five little-known TTP commanders from the northwestern tribal areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province have also joined the extreme jihadist faction now controlling large parts of Iraq and Syria. “From today, I accept Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as my caliph and I will accept every directive of his and will fight for him whatsoever the situation,” Shahid said in a video statement (The News[Islamabad], October 21).

The most important TTP defection to the Islamic State happened in September when a powerful faction led by Omar Khalid Khorasani declared its support for the Islamic State organization. The faction renamed itself Jamat-ul Ahrar. Its spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan declared that “the Islamic State is an Islamic Jihadi organization working for the implementation of the Islamic system and creation of the Caliphate. We respect them. If they ask us for help, we will look into it and decide” (Reuters, September 7).

A New Face for India and Pakistan’s Track II Diplomacy

By Tridivesh Singh Maini and Yasser Latif Hamdani
October 20, 2014

A wider group of stakeholders in necessary to push dialogue forward. 

The recent violence along the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan in Kashmir threatens confrontation yet again between the two nuclear armed neighbors. It also underscores the need to rescue the fragile Track II process from irrelevance, because ultimately it is through genuine people-to-people exchange that long-term peace between the two nations is possible.

While visiting the other country and forging relationships is a gargantuan task for the average Indian and Pakistani, given the nature of the visa regimes on both sides, there are a few groups of individuals who manage to cross the borders quite frequently: select businessmen, members of civil society, academics, and other privileged individuals.

Then there are Track II dialogues which bring together individuals from various professional backgrounds: politicians, retired diplomats, defense personnel, retired intelligence officials as well as academics. Not all, but many of these Track II events are held overseas to circumvent the visa issue. It would be unfair to dub all Track II dialogues as failures, since some of them have made constructive recommendations, especially with regard to the need for engagement between both countries. Yet there are some fundamental drawbacks to the current type of Track II engagement that have led to the process being mocked by large sections of society in both countries.

Most of the individuals involved in the process are from privileged backgrounds, and cannot claim to represent a large section of public opinion. This has resulted in the Track II community being viewed as the “usual suspects,” who congregate at exotic locations to make the same declarations every year, the impact of which is dubious.

Second, government officials may hit it off with their counterparts and yet have hardened positions on difficult issues, which their office or station does not permit them to modify. While they may present a softer tone during dialogue, once they return to their respective countries they resume their stated positions, and do not really contribute to the improvement of relations.

A number of steps are urgently needed in order for these dialogues to achieve anything substantial.

First, there should be attempts to include stakeholders who are not necessarily part of any “clique.” The exchanges can start by including more individuals not belonging to English-language media, especially those from the Hindi and Urdu media. While there are not many Punjabi publications in Pakistan, the Punjabi media in India has tried to play a positive role in improving bilateral relations.

Second, rather than having Track II exchanges at exotic locales or major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad; dialogue in smaller towns which also have an interest and stake in peace, perhaps even more so due to their respective geographical location, could be advantageous. One would imagine that small towns such as Sargodha, Chiniot, Sukkur, Nowshera and Sibi in Pakistan; and Ludhiana, Faridabad, Ambala, Bhiwani, Hisar, Barabanki and Bhopal in India would be more representative of public opinion, rather than the cosmopolitan urban centers on either side of the border. It may also be helpful to choose locations where there have been large-scale migrations.

Third, while those who make a contribution to improved relations should be included, there should be some sort of a rotation policy, where those who are not as committed are removed and newer faces are brought in, and the dialogue is expanded. There should be increased interaction between small business owners, trade unions, labor unions, lawyers from small towns, religious leaders from all communities and writers from the regional media.

Finally any such interaction should not be focused on a predetermined agenda. The idea is to let people meet and make up their own mind about whether they want peace and a relationship based on pragmatism and not emotion.

The purpose is to get to know each other in a substantial manner. By bringing more localized stakeholders on board, the idea would be to emphasize the multiple identities of the dialogue’s counterparts, and thus build more lasting and fruitful bridges.

Tridivesh Singh Maini is a Senior Research Associate with The Jindal School of International Affairs, Sonepat (India). Yasser Latif Hamdani is a lawyer and writer based in Lahore, Pakistan. He has authored the book Jinnah; Myth and Reality. He was one of Asia Society’s India-Pakistan Young Leaders for 2013.


The Good War?

What Went Wrong in Afghanistan -- and How to Make It Right

Locked and loaded: Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, January 2014. (Aref Karimi / Getty)

War Comes to Garmser: Thirty Years of Conflict on the Afghan Frontier. BY CARTER MALKASIAN. Oxford University Press, 2013, 352 pp. $27.95.

The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001–2014. BY CARLOTTA GALL. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 352 pp. $28.00.

No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes. BY ANAND GOPAL. Metropolitan Books, 2014, 320 pp. $27.00.

In the concluding pages of his fascinating memoir, War Comes to Garmser, Carter Malkasian, a Pashto-speaking U.S. diplomat who was stationed in a volatile region of Afghanistan in 2009–11, voices a fear shared by many of the Westerners who have participated in the Afghan war during the past 13 years: "The most frustrating thing about leaving Garmser in July 2011 and now watching it from afar is that I cannot be certain that the [Afghan] government will be able to stand on its own. ... The British and the Marines had put the government in a better position to survive than it had enjoyed in the past. What they had not done was create a situation in which the government was sure to win future battles against Taliban [fighters] coming out of Pakistan."

Malkasian’s frustration is understandable. Over the past 13 years, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s central government and many of the people Karzai has appointed as regional governors have proved inept and corrupt, alienating ordinary Afghans in rural areas, many of whom have come to see the Taliban as the lesser of two evils. Karzai’s time as president will soon come to an end, but Karzai is not going quietly. His efforts to manipulate the results of the elections held this past summer to choose his successor -- and to ensure that he himself will retain significant influence even once he leaves office -- have cast a pall over a democratic transfer of power that might otherwise have helped stabilize the country. The massive fraud that marred the election (and in which Karzai was almost certainly complicit) aided the Taliban’s cause and endangered the country’s unity by reigniting the same regional and ethnic tensions that fueled the civil war of the 1990s.

The United States also deserves some share of the blame. A cornerstone of contemporary counterinsurgency doctrine is the idea that outside actors must avoid the temptation to take direct control of a friendly country’s military and governing responsibilities and should instead build up its institutional capabilities. But the United States ignored that axiom in Afghanistan, making many of the same mistakes that plagued the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. For the past decade, U.S. generals have dominated the military effort against the insurgency. Washington has chosen Afghanistan’s leaders. Americans have conceived, planned, financed, and overseen economic projects in which Afghans have played only supporting roles. And yet there has never been a possibility that the United States and its allies could win the war against the Taliban. Only Afghans themselves can do that.

The Bush administration never truly accepted that basic premise. And neither the Bush administration nor the Obama administration fully grasped the true depth of Pakistan’s duplicity; the U.S. war in Afghanistan has been, in no small part, a war against Washington’s putative partners in Islamabad, who have covertly propped up the Taliban insurgency to suit their own purposes. In late 2009, the Obama administration wisely moved to “Afghanize” the war, putting Afghans in charge of defending their own country by increasing the number of U.S. troops but gradually shifting them to a supporting role, allowing the largely U.S.-financed Afghan security forces, which now boast 340,000 soldiers and police officers, to take the lead in combat operations. Nevertheless, the Obama administration has yet to confront, much less resolve, the dilemma posed by Pakistan’s two-faced strategy.

Thanks in part to the flawed policies that have flowed from Washington’s misapprehensions, the new Afghan government that emerged from the contested presidential election will face long odds in its effort to hold off the Taliban and counter Pakistani meddling. For the Afghan state to win its war against the Taliban and the group’s patrons in Pakistan, it will need the United States and NATO to sustain their support. Ultimately, however, success in Afghanistan will depend on internal Afghan and geopolitical developments that the United States and its allies cannot control: the ability of moderate Afghan tribal and ethnic groups (who together represent a majority of the country’s population) to unite behind a representative, competent, reform-minded leadership; a fundamental shift in Pakistani policy away from destabilizing Afghanistan; and diplomatic cooperation among external powers, including China and India, to restore Afghanistan’s classic buffer role in the region.

Despite costly U.S. effort, Afghan poppy cultivation hits new high

Oct 21, 2014 

(Reuters) - Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013 despite years of counter-narcotics efforts that have cost the United States $7.6 billion, the U.S. government watchdog for Afghanistan reconstruction spending said on Tuesday.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime reported that Afghan farmers grew an "unprecedented" 209,000 hectares (516,000 acres) of opium poppy in 2013, surpassing the previous high of 193,000 hectares (477,000 acres) in 2007, said John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.

"In past years, surges in opium poppy cultivation have been met by a coordinated response from the U.S. government and coalition partners, which has led to a temporary decline in levels of opium production," Sopko said in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other top U.S. officials.

"The recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of those prior efforts," he said.

Afghanistan produces more than 80 percent of the world's illicit opium, and profits from the illegal trade help fund the Taliban insurgency. U.S. government officials blame poppy production for fueling corruption and instability, undermining good government and subverting the legal economy.

The United States has spent $7.6 billion on counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan since launching the programs following the start of the 2001 war, it said.

Sopko said the U.N. drug office estimated the value of poppy cultivation and opium products produced in Afghanistan in 2013 at about $3 billion, a 50 percent increase over the $2 billion estimated in 2012.

"With deteriorating security in many parts of Afghanistan and low levels of eradication of poppy fields, further increases in cultivation are likely in 2014," Sopko said in the letter.

He said affordable deep-well technology brought to Afghanistan over the past decade had enabled Afghans to turn 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) of desert in southwestern Afghanistan into arable land, much of it devoted to poppy production.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, in a letter responding to the findings, said the rise in poppy cultivation and decline in eradication efforts by provincial authorities was "disappointing news." It said U.S. officials were helping Afghans develop the ability to lead and manage a long-term counter-narcotics effort.

The embassy said the fight against poppy cultivation had an impact on growers, resulting in a change in where the crop is planted.

"Essentially, poppy cultivation has shifted from areas where government presence is broadly supported and security has improved, toward more remote and isolated areas where governance is weak and security is inadequate," it said.

Michael Lumpkin, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, said in a response letter that the Pentagon had supported counter-narcotics operations by other U.S. government agencies but was not responsible for managing poppy eradication programs.

"In our opinion, the failure to reduce poppy cultivation and increase eradication is due to the lack of Afghan government support for the effort," Lumpkin said.

(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Combat Results of 2014 Fighting Season in Afghanistan

A (fighting) season to remember in Afghanistan

Jason Lyall
Washington Post
October 20, 2014

With little fanfare, and even less Western media coverage, another April to October fighting season is now grinding to a bloody close in Afghanistan. This year’s campaign offers an unusually revealing glimpse of the Government of Afghanistan’s exposed position as the tides of foreign military assistance and aid recede. Marked by electoral paralysis, the continued retrograde of foreign forces, and a virtual moratorium on new aid programs, the 2014 fighting season posed the stiffest test yet for Kabul and its allies. 

Five lessons/trends stand out. 

First, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) recorded their highest loss rates of the war during summer 2014. According to official estimates, the Afghan National Army (ANA) lost over 800 soldiers between April and September. The Afghan National Police (ANP), which has borne the brunt of fighting against the Taliban, lost over 1,523 soldiers during this same period. Taken together, these totals surpass America’s combined fatalities in Afghanistan since 2001. These losses are compounded by equipment and pay shortages, endemic corruption, and a lack of close air support, all of which conspire to reduce ANSF military effectiveness, not to mention morale. 

While the ANSF appears capable of beating back most, though not all, Taliban offensives, there are cracks in the facade that bear watching. Desertion remains a running sore, with approximately 2 percent of its force going AWOL (and not returning) each month. Whispers that ANA units are striking “live and let live”deals with the Taliban to avoid casualties also exacerbates ANA-ANP tensions while further contributing to the erosion of Kabul’s remit outside major cities. 

Second, unlike previous campaigns, this year’s fighting season witnessed the appearance of large Taliban units on the battlefield. No longer fearing dwindling U.S. airpower, Taliban forces have been operating far more brazenly, and in much larger numbers, than previously seen in the war. The map below outlines the location of Taliban offensives that involved at least 100 insurgents attacking ANSF positions or district capitals. (Click here for the interactive version). 

In total, 41 different districts—about 10 percent of the total districts in Afghanistan—witnessed at least one major Taliban offensive. These data were collected by Yale’s Political Violence FieldLab from Afghan media sources such as Pajhwok and Tolonews. In some cases, estimates of up to 1,000 insurgents were recorded, numbers not seen since the Taliban’s original push to capture Kabul during 1992-96 civil war. 

Yes, estimates of insurgent strength often warrant skepticism. Gen. John Campbell, the new Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), has publicly accused Afghan politicians of inflating their assessments of Taliban strength in a last ditch effort to gin up more military assistance and aid dollars. 

Even acknowledging these issues, however, the map reveals a third trend: far from contained, the Taliban has the ability to launch offensives across the country, including far from its “home” fields of Eastern and Southern Afghanistan. Perhaps most worrisome is the fact that nearly every major city—including Kabul but also extending to Jalalabad, Kandahar City, Mazar-e-Sharif, and Sangin—had offensives occur right on its doorstep. Kunduz City, in Afghanistan’s far north, remains nearly completely encircled by Taliban forces. Worse, these data only capture districts where the Taliban sought to challenge state authorities openly; it does not include areas (notably, in Wardak, Ghanzi, and Logar) where Taliban dominance has already been established. 

Fourth, Pakistan may be repositioning itself to shape future events in Afghanistan by increasing its support of the Taliban to include, if Afghan officials are to be believed, regular Pakistani soldiers fighting alongside the Taliban. This summer, Afghan officials stepped up their (mostly) rhetorical war against increased Pakistan involvement; in a series of high-profile speeches, senior officials openly castigated Islamabad’s interference, suggesting that the Taliban’s gathering strength was due to an influx of Pakistan funds, soldiers, and technical expertise. More indirectly, Pakistan’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb (June-August 2014) in North Waziristan forced militants, including those from the Haqqani network, to seek refuge in Afghanistan, deepening the Taliban’s recruit pool. 

Finally, the unexpected intensity of the fighting season forced ISAF to rethink its reluctance to use airpower to support the ANSF. While strike sorties were initially down considerably from 2013 totals, airpower was employed to beat back serious Taliban advances in Helmand and Nangarhar provinces. Drone strikes targeting senior Taliban leadership also continued unabated. By October 2014, airstrikes had reached a two-year high. 

While pundits continue to debate the merits of using airpower against insurgent forces, the 2014 Afghan fighting season offers an instructive case of what happens when airpower is withdrawn. Indeed, Afghanistan illustrates the paradox of airpower in counterinsurgency settings: airpower may hinder insurgent movement and coordination, creating enough space for local forces to meet armed challenges without suffering morale-crushing losses; but over the long-term, reliance on airpower may do little to degrade insurgent organizations while breeding a dependency on its continued use that undercut the development of local combat capabilities. 

A very interesting read from Nitin Gokhale.

 by Nitin A. Gokhale
October 12, 2014

It is the de-hyphenation of India-Pakistan that Islamabad fears the most

More than 18 months ago, I was in Dubai as part of a track II effort (my first and perhaps last such participation, given that I am not much of a Pakistan watcher) on how India and Pakistan can overcome their antipathy and strike an enduring, working relationship. The conference covered issues of common interest to the two countries, including trade, business, micro finance, IT, water, energy, climate change, public health, security, and media. I wrote briefly about it in May 2013 (http://thediplomat.com/2013/05/a-new-opportunity-for-indo-pakistan-relations/).

At the conference I spoke on the Indian military doctrine. In the course of my presentation I asserted that the Indian military has, over the past decade, re-oriented itself towards meeting the bigger challenge from China since it exactly knows how to deal with Pakistan. The underlying theme of my assertion was: India has got the measure of Pakistan's predictable military moves and knows how to counter them. The focus therefore is to try and be prepared for the bigger threat, that is China. A retired Pakistani military officer, who was among the delegates, disagreed demonstrably. "How can India forget that Pakistan is a nuclear power? How can India ignore Pakistan's military power," he remonstrated with me. I could not, till the end, convince him that India was not taking Pakistan's military threat lightly but was merely pointing out that Indian military has moved on to prepare for a far more potent threat. He however, would not believe me.

I recall that little encounter now since the current situation on the border between India and Pakistan, I believe, is also born out of Pakistani establishment's (read the Army's) fear of losing its relevance in the Indian sub-continent. 

For long, the hyphenation of India-Pakistan has been a common international theme. But a small but subtle change in India's approach towards big international players and the immediate neighbourhood, has clearly caught Pakistan on the wrong foot. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi's unexpected move to reach out to SAARC leaders by inviting them for his inauguration was a surprise move, his government's decision to cancel India-Pakistan bilateral talks on the issue of Pakistan's high commissioner to India meeting separatist leaders from Kashmir despite India's warning, was totally unexpected in Islamabad. Suddenly, this was a different New Delhi it was forced to deal with.

The decision makers--Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former spymaster-turned National Security Adviser Ajit Doval--were not going be trapped into a long-held framework of 'talks-with-Pakistan-at-any-cost' that had come to dominate New Delhi's policy on Pakistan, even during the earlier avatar of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Instead, they had decided to draw new, firm red lines, even if that meant a breakdown in the dialogue process. So the first red line was 'either talk to us or talk to the separatists.' Both are not acceptable was the clear message.

Simultaneously, Narendra Modi's outreach to other smaller neighbours in the Indian sub-continent--Nepal, Bhutan and a lesser extent to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka--meant India was mending its somewhat wobbly relations with them even as Pakistan was being left out. The last straw however came late in September when Prime Minister Modi traveled to the United States.

First, at the United Nations General Assembly, Modi, much to Pakistan's annoyance, refused to react to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's mention of Kashmir in his speech. Then, more ominously for Pakistan, the joint statement at the end of Modi's meeting with President Barack Obama spoke in unambiguous terms the need to dismantle terrorist havens in Af-Pak.

"The leaders stressed the need for joint and concerted efforts, including the dismantling of safe havens for terrorist and criminal networks, to disrupt all financial and tactical support for networks such as Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the D-Company, and the Haqqanis. They reiterated their call for Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai to justice," the statement said. This was unprecedented. 

Was this the beginning of the de-hyphenation of India-Pakistan that Islamabad so dreads? Was Washington finally coming round to accept New Delhi's long-held view that Pakistan-based terrorist groups posed the biggest threat to peace in the Indian sub-continent? For the Pakistani Army, Washington's endorsement of India's stand meant its strategic assets (LeT, the Haqqanis) were in danger of being targeted more vigorously.

This, in the Pakistani Army's mind, was invitation to disaster and more dangerously, to becoming irrelevant. It had to do something to bring Kashmir back in focus and also take control of the country's foreign policy. So what does it do? Fall back on the tried and tested formula of igniting the border with India. 

Predictably, it activates the International Border (or what it calls the working boundary) since tactically and topographically it is easy to target villagers around the BSF posts. In earlier years, India would have also fired back appropriately but at the same time would have asked for an immediate flag meeting with Pakistani border guards. A lull would have followed the meeting but firing would have resumed again, making a mockery of the ceasefire both had agreed to in November 2003. This happened repeatedly in 2012 and 2013.

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan after more than a decade of war, the Taliban retains a strong presence in parts of the country.

Nagieb KhajaReporter, BBC Panorama

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan after more than a decade of war, the Taliban retains a strong presence in parts of the country.

The BBC's Panorama programme has gained unique access inside a Taliban stronghold, little more than an hour's drive from the capital, Kabul.

As we turned on a dusty road into the mountainous Tangi Valley, we were just 60 miles (97 km) south-west of Kabul and already deep in Taliban territory. The valley is known as the gateway to Kabul, and it is from here that attacks have been launched on the capital.

It is in the key province of Wardak - the scene of some of the most violent battles between Nato and the Taliban in recent years.

Having reported from Afghanistan for 10 years and been kidnapped by another group of Taliban fighters in Helmand, I was all too aware that this was a dangerous place, especially for Western journalists.

I had arranged to meet Said Rahman, the Taliban's self-appointed leader in the area, popularly known as Governor Badri. Now aged 27, he started fighting as a teenager against the American-led forces that swept the Taliban from power in 2001.

He says he will continue fighting until the Americans have left the country. He also wants to extend Islamic rule across Afghanistan.

Governor Badri claims the Taliban do not need to "impose" their vision - though in fact many Afghans oppose the group and its violent methods.

"The people are Muslim and want an Islamic government," he says. "Westerners don't want an Islamic government here. The ones we scare and kill are the enemies of this land."

Granting access to a reporter was an opportunity for publicity, and Governor Badri was keen to show off the area he claims to control. He took me to a hilltop and pointed to the huge former American base of Combat Outpost Apache that was abandoned three years ago.

Everything that was left behind was taken. "Even the barbed wire we gave away to cemeteries, madrassas and mosques," he says.

From here we could also see the site where the Americans suffered the most deadly single attack of the Afghan war in 2011, when a Chinook helicopter was shot down by the Taliban, killing 38 people, including 17 US Navy Seals.

Not far off is what remains of the Afghan army presence, a hilltop base.

Army spokesman Gen Mohammad Zahir Azimi told me the Afghan military was in full control of Wardak province.

But Taliban forces were moving freely in the Tangi Valley, even during the day. Governor Badri says the Afghan soldiers rarely venture out, except in heavily armoured convoys.

Taliban control is especially evident in the Tangi Valley's schools. The Imam Abu Hanifa School has about 50 teachers and 1,400 students. There were classes in maths and science, but the Taliban make sure religious teaching is at the heart of the curriculum.

Remarkably, this school that runs to a Taliban agenda is funded by the Afghan government in Kabul. And much of the government's education budget comes from the West, including Britain.

China’s S,all But Growing Nuclear-Armed Submarine Force Seen Altering Strategic Balance in the Pacific

Deep Threat: China’s Submarines Add Nuclear-Strike Capability, Altering Strategic Balance

Jeremy Page

Wall Street Journal, October 24, 2014

One Sunday morning last December, China’s defense ministry summoned military attachés from several embassies to its monolithic Beijing headquarters.

To the foreigners’ surprise, the Chinese said that one of their nuclear-powered submarines would soon pass through the Strait of Malacca, a passage between Malaysia and Indonesia that carries much of world trade, say people briefed on the meeting.
Two days later, a Chinese attack sub—a so-called hunter-killer, designed to seek out and destroy enemy vessels—slipped through the strait above water and disappeared. It resurfaced near Sri Lanka and then in the Persian Gulf, say people familiar with its movements, before returning through the strait in February—the first known voyage of a Chinese sub to the Indian Ocean.

The message was clear: China had fulfilled its four-decade quest to join the elite club of countries with nuclear subs that can ply the high seas. The defense ministry summoned attachés again to disclose another Chinese deployment to the Indian Ocean in September—this time a diesel-powered sub, which stopped off in Sri Lanka.
China’s increasingly potent and active sub force represents the rising power’s most significant military challenge yet for the region. Its expanding undersea fleet not only bolsters China’s nuclear arsenal but also enhances the country’s capacity to enforce its territorial claims and thwart U.S. intervention.

China is expected to pass another milestone this year when it sets a different type of sub to sea—a “boomer,” carrying fully armed nuclear missiles for the first time—says the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, or ONI.

China is hardly hiding its new boomers. Tourists could clearly see three of them at a base opposite a resort recently in China’s Hainan province. On the beach, rented Jet Skis were accompanied by guides to make sure riders didn’t stray too close.
These boomers’ missiles have the range to hit Hawaii and Alaska from East Asia and the continental U.S. from the mid-Pacific, the ONI says.

“This is a trump card that makes our motherland proud and our adversaries terrified,” China’s navy chief, Adm. Wu Shengli, wrote of the country’s missile-sub fleet in a Communist Party magazine in December. “It is a strategic force symbolizing great-power status and supporting national security.”
To naval commanders from other countries, the Chinese nuclear sub’s nonstop Indian Ocean voyage was especially striking, proving that it has the endurance to reach the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s headquarters in Hawaii.

China says it's hard to resume cyber security talks with U.S.

Oct 19, 2014 

China's State Councillor Yang Jiechi (L) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talk over tea during a day of meetings in Boston, Massachusetts October 18, 2014.

(Reuters) - Resuming cyber security cooperation between Chinaand the United States would be difficult because of "mistaken U.S. practices", China's top diplomat told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Cyber security is an irritant to bilateral ties. On Wednesday the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said hackers it believed were backed by the Chinese government had launched more attacks on U.S. companies, a charge China rejected as unfounded.

In May, the United States charged five Chinese military officers with hacking American firms, prompting China to shut down a bilateral working group on cyber security.

Yang Jiechi, a state councillor overseeing foreign affairs, told Kerry in Boston the United States "should take positive action to create necessary conditions for bilateral cyber security dialogue and cooperation to resume", according to a statement seen on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website on Sunday.

"Due to mistaken U.S. practices, it is difficult at this juncture to resume Sino-U.S. cyber security dialogue and cooperation," Yang was quoted as saying. The statement did not elaborate.

Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden has said the U.S. National Security Agency hacked into official network infrastructure at universities in China and Hong Kong.

China, repeatedly accused by the United States of hacking, has used Snowden's allegations as ammunition to point the finger at Washington for hypocrisy.

(Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim; editing by Andrew Roche)

Significant Numbers of Russian Troops Remain Inside the Ukraine, NATO Commander

NATO Says Russia Still Has Troops in Ukraine

Reuters, October 24, 2014
Maria Tsvetkova / ReutersThe label “Army of Russia” marks a used package of meal found on a battlefield near Starobesheve, controlled by separatists, in eastern Ukraine, Oct. 1, 2014.
MONS, Belgium — Russia still has troops in eastern Ukraine and retains a very capable force on the border despite a partial withdrawal, NATO’s military commander said Friday.

"We’ve seen a pretty good withdrawal of the Russian forces from inside Ukraine but, make no mistake, there remain Russian forces inside eastern Ukraine," U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove told reporters at NATO’s military headquarters near Mons in Belgium.
Some Russian troops stationed near the Ukraine border had left and others appeared to be preparing to leave.

"But the force that remains and shows no indications of leaving is still a very, very capable force," he said.
He spoke before Sunday’s parliamentary election in Ukraine in which Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko seeks a mandate to press ahead with his plan to end a separatist conflict and pursue integration with mainstream Europe.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, making his first visit to NATO’s military headquarters since he took over at the start of this month, said Russia remained in violation of international law in Ukraine.
"They are still violating the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine by having Russian forces in Ukraine," the former Norwegian prime minister told reporters while visiting the NATO operations centre that monitors crises in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Russia was also destabilizing the situation in Ukraine by keeping forces on the border, he said, after being shown round by Breedlove.
NATO has suspended practical cooperation with Russia in protest against Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and its support for the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

NATO would continue to call on Russia to withdraw its forces both from inside Ukraine and from the border and to use all its influence to make sure that the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine was respected, Stoltenberg said.
"We need to find a political solution to the challenges we see in Ukraine and a pre-condition for that is of course to have an effective cease-fire," he said.

Alleged High-Level Russian Intelligence Officer Arrested Inside the Ukraine

Alleged Russian intelligence agent caught outside Kyiv claiming to be FSB general

Kyiv Post, October 24, 2014

Pictured with hands behind his back on Oct. 23 is Nikolai Grechishkin of Moscow, who Ukraine’s State Security Service says is a high-level Russian agent who has been continuously conducting covert operations and supporting separatist activity since January when he arrived in Ukraine. © sbu.gov.ua

Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) says on Oct. 23 it apprehended a high-level Russian intelligence agent and a commissioned military officer who has been continuously coordinating separatist activity inside the country since January. 
Captured on the outskirts of Kyiv, he was identified as Nikolai Grechishkin of Moscow and was allegedly using journalistic cover as the deputy chief editor of Rossiyskiye Novosti (Russian News), according to an SBU statement released on Oct. 24.

At a briefing the same day, SBU chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko told journalists that Grechishkin was most recently responsible for orchestrating the Oct. 13 rally of National Guardsmen at the presidential office who demanded their discharge after serving the requisite six months.
“He isn’t just detained, we’re saying this puppeteer, who has been living in Kyiv Oblast the last month, organized and coordinated the following offenses: inciting provocation of so-called protests near the Presidential Administration,” Nalyvaichenko told journalists.

During his arrest, according to the SBU statement, Grechishkin claimed to be a general in Russia’s Federal Security Service, the nation’s KGB-successor agency. Meanwhile, the SBU says he is a commissioned Russian officer and a former marine who is an FSB-recruited agent.
An expired identification card as the aide to a Russian member of parliament was found among the personal effects of alleged Russian agent Nikolai Grechishkin on Oct. 23. (sbu.gov.ua)

Since April, when military activity in eastern Ukraine started, Grechishkin allegedly coordinated the activity of armed separatist group leaders at the behest of the FSB. He assisted in organizational matters and helped procure resources.

“He established, organized, coordinated and supported sustained clandestine contacts with leaders of terrorist organizations DNR (Donetsk People’s Republic) and LNR (Luhansk People’s Republic),” reads the statement.
This Russian-made RPG-26 Aglen anti-tank rocket launcher was allegedly found inside the Kyiv Oblast residence of purported Russian intelligence agent Nikolai Grechishkin on Oct. 23 by Ukrainian Security Service officers. (sbu.gov.ua)

The alleged Russian agent also purportedly organized the supply of armored Russia Tigr vehicles to eastern Ukraine, 130 tank men from Sverdlovsk in Russia, and volunteers from “radical kozak groups inside Russia,” the SBU said.

Analysis: Kurdistan Banking on Oil Sales


Kurdistan Region's independent oil pipeline. Photo: Rudaw

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region— It’s no secret that Iraqi Kurdistan is running short on cash six months after Baghdad stopped sending money to the region, cutting off the region’s main source of revenue. Banking on oil sales to pay bills, Kurdish officials are leveraging newly expanded oil fields and diminished confidence in war-torn Iraq to draw financing from the international community. 

Yesterday, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami told Reuters that the region expects to export 1 million barrels per day by the end of 2015, including crude from Kirkuk.

Major fields in Iraq’s disputed territories — many of which are now under Kurdish control, including Kirkuk — are set to increase the KRG’s share of oil wealth and make the region even more lucrative to international investors. 

One minor hurdle will be increasing its pipeline capacity, currently at 300,000 barrels per day. Energy experts estimate Kurdistan would need to export 450,000 barrels per day for oil revenue to match Kurdistan’s share of Iraq’s national budget. 

The major caveat is that Hawrami promised any oil revenue would be shared with the central government, which has been locked in disputes with the autonomous region over hydrocarbon exports for years now. 

There are two potential outcomes. The first is that the Kurdistan Region bargains with Baghdad and gains official permission for independent oil exports. The second is that no agreement is reached, and the KRG looks for down payments on future deliveries of oil international buyers. The latter would require buyers to bet against the resurgence of a strong Iraq by ignoring Baghdad’s warnings that Kurdish oil can only be purchased with the central government’s approval. 

Before the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took Mosul, Iraq filed for arbitration against Turkey and its state-owned pipeline for facilitating the sale of crude oil from Iraqi Kurdistan without Baghdad’s permission.

U.S.-Arab Counterterrorism Cooperation in a Region Ripe for Extremism

Michele Dunne, Frederic Wehrey 
OCTOBER 23, 2014


Many Arab governments are fueling the very extremism they purport to fight and looking for U.S. cover. Washington should play the long game.

U.S. cooperation with Arab allies against terrorist groups is essential—and also problematic. Many Arab governments are fueling the very extremism they purport to fight and looking for cover from the United States for increasingly repressive policies. Washington needs a holistic counterterrorism strategy that ensures its Arab allies do not use U.S. assistance to perpetuate terrorism and that supports those in Arab societies best able to combat radicalization.

Recommendations for the U.S. Government

Initiate broad discussions with partners at every level, across agencies, about extremism’s roots. Every organ of the U.S. government that interacts with Arab partners—particularly defense and intelligence agencies—should engage in sustained discussions about a holistic approach to national security that includes human development, economic opportunity, and individual freedoms as critical tools against radicalization.

Push for a repeal or revision of antiterrorism laws that target peaceful dissidents and civil society. U.S. agencies that interact with Arab security forces and judiciaries should be wary about how new terrorism laws in Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states can and are being used against political dissidents. U.S. diplomats should push for laws that target the unlawful use of violence rather than nonviolent opposition to the state.

Use security cooperation and assistance as tools to promote political and economic reform. The United States should press for institutional reforms to tackle terrorism’s real roots. This requires thinking creatively about ways to leverage defense relationships to promote reform, through key leader engagement, bilateral exchanges, and, where appropriate, conditionality on arms transfers.

Reinvigorate civil society assistance. Washington should rethink and reinvigorate its support for youth, women, and civic groups that can spread the values of tolerance and pluralism to combat radicals’ appeal.

Avoid an excessive focus on religion-based programs. The United States should be mindful of the limits of religion-based counterradicalization programs advanced by state-sponsored clerics in Egypt and the Gulf who lack credibility among at-risk youth.
U.S. officials are focused at present on military action to eliminate the threat from the militant Islamic State, an effort in which the cooperation of regional allies is essential. But it is equally critical that the United States avoid certain pitfalls when cooperating with Arab allies.


By Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi

The rapid rise of the so-called Islamic State has exposed clear fault-lines in the Arab world, not least the failure of Arab intellectuals to stand up and be counted in the face of autocracy and fascism spreading across the region.

Religious scholars believe their mission now is to reveal the true intentions and dangers of IS, as a party that is using Islam to recruit people, especially the youth, to carry out its nefarious agenda. The Council of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia has done the right thing by labeling IS a criminal and terrorist movement.

Religious scholars are on the mark, but what about intellectuals? Despite the dire need for more thinkers to join the conversation, their voices are barely heard. They have lost their audience, leaving many confused.

The educated elites across the region are showing that they are fickle, changing their positions depending on their own interests, or as power structures shift.

The IS phenomenon requires a response on religious and ideological levels. It is also clear that there is a certain immaturity in a society that does not have the capacity to reject illogical and irrational acts.

The media in this part of the world is also geared up to empower authoritarianism by justifying and condoning the behavior of those who have political and economic power.

Arab intellectuals are failing to counter this sycophancy and inertia by offering a rational and modern ideological framework that can be used as a rallying point for people. This has resulted in the growth of extremism, ignorance and sectarian wars.

The Arab world also suffers from another illness — the love of the conspiracy theory. Instead of self-reflection and acknowledgement of mistakes, many opt to take the easier road and blame others for their problems.

The thinking that groups in the East and West are conspiring against Islam and Arab civilization satisfies the most narcissistic of people’s fantasies. Unfortunately, this thought process has resulted in the younger generation holding grudges and desiring to fight rather than seeking dialogue. This fuels hate, violence and extremism.

We face a similar problem with writers who attempt to polish the image of a political leader by framing him as a nation’s only savior.

We see this clearly among intellectuals in Syria who still applaud President Bashar Assad despite his role in killing over 250,000 of his people.

They even dare to say that the sacrifice was necessary in this war as if people can’t tell right from wrong. Fighting to give legitimacy to the regime, some intellectuals indirectly justify the killing and displacement of thousands of people.

The only way for these people to have some recognition is by appeasing the ruling authorities. They are the cheerleaders often seen in the front-row seats making the most noise. They are contributing to diminishing the role of people who are honest and have integrity.

However, the leaders who bask in this false glory eventually discover they have believed their own propaganda. By this time it is too late and they are headed either for a prison cell or forced to flee.