19 November 2014

Modi will bring new life to the Saarc summit in Kathmandu

Diplomacy: K.P. Nayar

Precisely six months after Narendra Modi took office as prime minister and his promise of achche din or “good days” caught the imagination of the Indian people, the high expectations raised by Modi’s style and governance are spreading in the country’s neighbourhood. When Modi and seven other heads of State and government from South Asia meet in Kathmandu a week from today, India will stop being treated as the whipping boy within the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation for the first time since Saarc was formed with great fanfare in 1985.

In the run up to next week’s Kathmandu summit, voices continue to be raised that India should do more for its neighbours than vice versa in echoes of the ill-advised and mercifully short-lived “Gujral doctrine”, but such voices are fewer and feebler than at any time before. Instead, the new talking point in the region is that although India accounts for 70 to 80 per cent of the region’s economy, its resources, South Asia’s demographic dividend and much else, the country could be held back in its “Modification” — in more ways than one — unless the prime minister incorporates neighbouring countries into his vision for the future. Because Modi constantly stresses development, both social and economic, in his speeches, the single big theme for the Kathmandu summit will be that the entire South Asia region should move forward together and no country should become the laggard within Saarc.

Deliberately at the choice of Modi, he took office in the presence of all the Saarc leaders at variously high levels from presidents and prime ministers to speaker of an elected legislature. It may be a coincidence that the first Saarc summit attended by Modi will convene exactly six months to the day when he was sworn in as prime minister.

But with Modi one can never be sure. Recall how with unstated planning and understated attention, he entered the South Block office of the prime minister on the 50th anniversary of the death of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, whom he admires. Assertions to the contrary by some people during last week’s 125th birth anniversary of Nehru have been ill-informed and are unfair to Modi.


19 November 2014

Read Christine Fair’s book, Fighting to the End, to understand the devious mindset of Pakistan’s Army with regards to India. It exists on a culture nourished by the two-nation theory and the ‘ideology of Islam’

It is a matter of eternal wonderment whether Pakistan genuinely wants friendly relations with India. The speculation gets more intense when Pakistan provokes New Delhi through hostile acts such as ceasefire violations along the Line of Control or adoption of anti-India resolutions in its National Assembly. There are those who find India lacking in the peace initiative and see Islamabad as truly desirous of striking cordial ties with its neighbour. But let us face the truth: There cannot be lasting good relations between the two countries until Pakistan’s Army has a change of heart. That change is unlikely to happen in the forseeable future.

Every time a new democratically-elected Government takes charge in Islamabad, hopes of a new chapter in the bilateral being written soar there and in India. It happened when Benazir Bhutto became Prime Minister in 1988 and again in 1993; and Mr Nawaz Sharif became Prime Minister in 1990 and 1997, and again in 2013. The peace buzz had begun circulating when Mr Asif Ali Zardari took over as President and a Pakistan Peoples Party Government with a ‘India-friendly’ Prime Minister assumed charge in 2008. Nothing good came out of the change for India. The civilian regime was either unable to cut the Army down to size or it warmed up to the anti-India elements or both. In the end, the Army still called the shots.

There is no better place to understand the obstinacy and deviousness of the Pakistan Army than C Christine Fair’s book, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War. It is commonly assumed that the Kashmir dispute is at the core of Rawalpindi’s hostility to India. Kashmir is just an excuse; if the issue did not exist, Pakistan (or more precisely, its Army) would have invented it. Ms Fair observes, “Even if at some point Pakistan’s existential struggle with India could have been mitigated through a mutually agreeable resolution of Kashmir, this is certainly no longer true… Pakistan’s revisionism persists in regards to its efforts not only to undermine the territorial status quo in Kashmir but also to undermine India’s position in the region and beyond.” She accurately points out that “Pakistan’s conflict with India cannot be reduced simply to resolving the Kashmir dispute. Its problems with India are much more capacious than the territorial conflict over Kashmir.”

Don’t just look East

Written by Amitendu Palit
November 19, 2014 

We must go beyond the facile language of trade agreements and sort out ground-level issues.

Act East” sounds more promising than “Look East”. India’s Look East policy of engaging its neighbours in Southeast Asia and the adjoining region has been suffering from an odd inertia.

India’s strategic engagement with Asean has increased over time. But the fact remains that it is yet to become a significant strategic presence in the region. It is not yet a decisive determinant in the strategic dynamic of the Asia-Pacific and is only marginally so for Southeast Asia.

India’s failure to punch commensurate with its weight has to do with inadequate economic achievements. Countries that have a significant say in regional affairs, such as China, Japan and Australia, have strong economic linkages with Southeast Asia.

Since the beginning of the century, India’s trade with the 10-member Asean has increased from around $7 billion to $75 bn. Considering that Asean comprises several vibrant export-oriented middle-income economies, the increase could have been much greater. Indeed, India’s trade with China and some of the Gulf countries has increased at a faster pace than with Asean during the last decade. While trade with Asean is barely a 10th of India’s total trade, trade with India is only 3 per cent of Asean’s total trade.

Various trade agreements signed with Asean and Southeast Asian countries are often cited as examples of India’s deepening economic engagement. These include the goods free trade agreement and the recently concluded services agreement with Asean, as well as bilateral trade deals with Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Unfortunately, rather than being examples of successful economic engagement, they are instances of the inertia and half-heartedness that characterise India’s engagement with the region.

Can India be far behind?

November 19, 2014 
With its commitment on carbon emissions, China has moved ahead of India on yet another critical dimension of human well-being.

This week, China announced a historic goal: its carbon emissions will peak around 2030, and subsequently decline. This announcement is widely regarded as a landmark moment in humanity’s efforts to avert catastrophic climate change. Scientific evidence leaves no room to doubt that the well-being of all nations will soon depend critically on the emissions that we are all pumping into the air today.

For now, the worst offenders are the richer countries of North America and Europe. But, the large developing economies are catching up fast.

Only China and the US exceed India in annual carbon dioxide emissions; Europe does too, if it is counted as a country.

Yet, annual emissions are now declining in the US and Europe, as well as in Canada, Australia, and South Africa. India’s rate of increasing emissions is greater than the combined rate of increase for the total of both Russia and all of Africa. China’s announcement leaves India as the largest remaining carbon polluter without either declining emissions or a target set for declining emission levels. Even if China’s commitment is a weak one — or would be met automatically under business-as-usual — it remains politically significant that a commitment was made.

Time for AFSPA to go

November 19, 2014
Certain areas along the LoC could have AFSPA permanently in force. In other areas, let the police (with army in support) seek and impose AFSPA for a limited period of time. (Source: Reuters)

The Indian army needs to be commended for having meted out exemplary punishment to the officers and jawans involved in the fake encounter at Machil. As a former armyman, one can understand the anguish and soul-searching behind this necessary and hard decision. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which provides protection to soldiers in such circumstances, has come under scrutiny once again and calls for its repeal have reached a crescendo. There is merit in the argument that AFSPA has outlived its utility, and must go.

It is worth recalling that while AFSPA was introduced in 1958, the Assam Disturbed Areas Act was enacted in 1955 to provide a legal framework for security forces to deal with the Naga insurgency. When the army was inducted soon thereafter, the then army chief in a Special Order of the Day exhorted his troops, “…you are not to fight the people of the area but to protect them (from disruptive elements)… you must therefore do everything possible to win their confidence and respect…” It is a sad commentary that half a century later, AFSPA still remains in force in the Northeast and the clamour for its revocation has come from events in Kashmir, where it was imposed in 1990. It is sadder still that despite untold sacrifices, the army seems to have lost the “confidence and respect” of the people. If that is the case, then it is time that AFSPA went.

If the act is revoked, how will it affect the security of the country? First, the basics. Every Indian will agree that there can be no compromise on the territorial integrity of the country. It is the Constitution that provides that India will be a Union of States (Article 1) and it has no provision to cede territory (sub-Clause 3). Article 51 enjoins all citizens “to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India”. So any demand for separation is to be resisted. Look now at the security aspects. Our executive machinery at the district level has always had the authority to use force, requisitioning troops if necessary, to restore law and order. So, whenever the armed forces operate, they are acting in aid of the civil authority. It follows that once the situation is brought under control, the civil administration re-assumes responsibility. If the government machinery in Kashmir is prepared to assume responsibility, the army would only be happy to go back to their task of protecting the Line of Control (LoC).

Radical face of Saudi WahhabismS. Irfan Habib

November 19, 2014 

ReutersDANGEROUS LESSONS: If the Islamic State is detonating shrines, it is following the precedent set in the 1920s by the House of Saud. Picture shows the Prophet Younis Mosque after it was destroyed in a bomb attack by Islamic State militants in Mosul.

The agenda of the Islamic State today is merely an extension of the devious plan laid down by Abdul Wahhab almost two hundred years ago

It is ironical indeed that the Turkish regime today is implicated in propping up a terrorist group called the Islamic State (IS), which has vowed to spread Wahhabi Islam all over the world. The present Wahhabism, legitimated and empowered by the Saudi regime, has violent, almost criminal, origins in the 19th century. If we care to look into its beginnings, we won’t be surprised at its utter contempt for human life and everything else which doesn’t conform to its own narrow/sectarian agenda. Let me explain the irony first.

It was the Ottoman regime which bore the brunt of Wahhabi Islam soon after it became a force in the Central Arab region. The toxic combine of 18th century Islamic scholar Abdul Wahhab and the first monarch of Saudi Arabia Ibn Saud posed a challenge to the Ottoman rule. They also questioned the prevalent Islamic beliefs and practices. The Turks not only defended their power but also assiduously fought for the mystic Islam they had professed and supported all these years. The Ottomans fought and exiled the Wahhabis to the Arab deserts where they remained for almost a century. This Wahhabi bigotry was condemned by the Turks as criminal and unIslamic. The sad irony is that the current Turkish regime has joined the Wahhabi bandwagon, forgetting all about the Bektashis, Qadiris and other dervishes they had cherished all these centuries. The IS agenda today is merely an extension of the devious plan laid down by Abdul Wahhab almost 200 years ago. Let us look at this so-called puritan Islam proposed by the Wahhabis, its violent ‘othering’ of Muslims they disliked and the parallels with the present day IS terrorists.Hate-filled agenda

Countering another string of pearls

Photo: APMILITARY COUP TO DEMOCRACY: The timing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Fiji is appropriate as racial harmony and non-discrimination, which India had wished for Fiji, have been accomplished. Picture shows Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama waiting to cast his vote in the 2006 election before he seized power.

Narendra Modi’s visit to Fiji has to be followed up with a robust programme of co-operation in areas in which India has particular strengths

For a handful of islands scattered on the Australia-U.S. trunk route in the Pacific, with less than a million people, Fiji is new to international rivalries. The South Pacific has been a western lake with the happy co-existence of the U.S., France and Australia, inevitably dominated by Australia’s commercial interests. Some ripples occasionally disturbed the placidity of these waters when Father Walter Lini, the maverick Prime Minister of tiny Vanuatu, hobnobbed with the erstwhile Soviets, when the island states protested against the French nuclear tests and disposal of waste on the atolls, when the indigenous people asserted their rights in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, and when Libya’s Muammar Qadhafi did some sabre-rattling in the area. But these subsided and peace and tranquillity returned soon enough.Political and protocol challenge

The arrival this week of the leaders of the two giants of Asia, India and China, who have also invited a dozen South Pacific leaders to meet them there, will be an unprecedented political and protocol challenge to Fiji. As a popular tourist destination, Fiji has enough luxury rooms to cater to the unusual group of diplomats in sartorial elegance, as against the tourists in bermudas and bula shirts and Fijians in Scottish kilts. But the political fallout of the visit will extend the tensions in the Asia Pacific to its southern corner.

Kurds seize arms, six buildings used by ISIS

Nov 19, 2014

A file photo of Kurdish Peshmerga fighter talking on the phone during fighting against ISIS in the Syrian border town of Ain al-Arab.

BEIRUT: Kurdish fighters captured six buildings from Islamic State militants besieging the Syrian town of Kobani on Tuesday and seized a large haul of their weapons and ammunition, a group monitoring the war said. 

Islamic State has been trying to take control of the town, also known as Ayn al-Arab, for more than two months in an assault that has driven tens of thousands of Kurdish civilians over the border into Turkey and drawn strikes by US-led forces. 

The hardline Sunni Muslim movement, an offshoot of al-Qaida, has declared an Islamic caliphate covering large areas of land that it has captured in other parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq. 

The six buildings seized by Kurdish fighters from Islamic State were in a strategic location in the town's north, close to Security Square where the main municipal offices are based, saidRamiAbdulrahman, who runs the Observatory, a group that tracks the conflict using sources on the ground. 

The Kurds also took a large quantity of rocket-propelled grenade launchers, guns and machine gun ammunition. 

The clashes killed around 13 Islamic State militants, including two senior fighters who had been helping to lead the militant group's assault on the town, he said. 

Cured in Liberia, man tests positive for Ebola in Delhi

Nov 19, 2014

NEW DELHI: A 26-year-old Indian who was treated and cured of Ebola virus disease in Liberia has been quarantined at the Delhi airport's health facility after having tested positive twice. Although his blood samples were repeatedly found free of the disease, the deadly virus showed up in his semen.

The man was being kept under strict surveillance at the isolation ward of IGI Airport's health facility. He carries a certificate from Liberia of having successfully undergone treatment for the disease.

"During recovery from Ebola, patients continue to shed the virus in body fluids. It's unlikely that he may infect others through personal contact. However, due to presence of the virus in his semen, it's possible that he could transmit the disease through sexual contact for up to 90 days after cure," Dr V M Katoch, DG, Indian Council of Medical Research, told TOI.

India has so far been free of Ebola, a disease termed as the 'most serious health crisis in modern times' by World Health Organisation, having claimed roughly 5,200 lives in west Africa and two in the US.

The man's semen sample tested positive in multiple tests conducted at the National Centre for Disease Control in Delhi and the National Institute of Virology in Pune.

The ICMR chief said the suspect will be tested again, repeatedly, over the next few days to rule out the presence of any virus before he is allowed to leave the quarantine zone. He did not comment on the possibility of the man having infected someone already during travel.

The Ebola suspect, health ministry officials said, had travelled from Liberia to India and reached Delhi on November 10. He underwent the mandatory screening at the Delhi Airport. On interview, he gave history of febrile illness for which he was admitted to a health facility in Liberia on September 11 and got discharged on September 30.

India’s north-east Missing link

Promises of closer ties over the border to Myanmar are a long way from reality 
FOR the past quarter of a century Indian policymakers have talked of a “Look East” policy. This involves boosting trade, investment and incomes in the landlocked north-east by engaging with nearby countries. The state of Manipur, on the border with Myanmar, hopes to be India’s gateway to South-East Asia. Residents of Imphal, its capital, say that old ethnic and cultural ties mean many in Manipur feel closer to their neighbours across the border than to distant and often hostile “mainland” Indians.

The state needs a lift. Old security problems have improved a bit, especially since Myanmar and India began co-operating against rebels from each side who were seeking sanctuary on the other. India’s Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force with sweeping powers and a reputation for arbitrary violence and arrest, are less visibly deployed these days across much of the state. But Manipur residents still complain that other armed bullies, ethnic rebel groups and state-backed militias known as “village defence forces” harass them. Bitter divisions persist between three ethnic groups: Meiteis in Manipur’s main valley, and Nagas and Kukis in the hills.

Opening up to trade could help boost the economy and help stability. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, in Myanmar this week, is keen on building new infrastructure to speed the flow of goods. A tidy border town with Myanmar, Moreh, has been designated as a transport hub. A UN-backed effort to connect rail-freight networks in Asia, the Trans-Asian Railway, is to pass through the town on its way to Mandalay in Myanmar, nearly 500 kilometres (300 miles) to the south-east. An economics professor in the state capital says Imphal will, within five years, see a “giant leap” as new train, road, air and internet links arrive.

On The Beat India does not have to choose between countries at climate change negotiations

Nitin Sethi | New Delhi 
November 18, 2014 

It must choose its fights and be sure about what it's fighting for instead of worrying about alliances

Should India move away from China on its climate changestance? Should it sit more with the West now that the US and China have announced their mutually-agreed emission reduction targets for future? This is one clear case where the question creates a very saleable but just as false a binary rhetoric about the climate change negotiations. 

Climate change negotiations are not a war on terror that divides countries along some grand axis in many people's minds. Its economic warfare is as intriguing and layered as a good spy novel. 

Let me try to explain this. 

First things first. The US has not moved more than an inch or two from its long-term plan on climate change that it set when it joined the Bali round of climate talks back in 2007. All other countries, whether willingly, crying hoarse, or on the sly, have moved miles away to accommodate it in the room. That includes EU, China, India and any other country you can name. Even those you can’t. 

US wanted a bottom-up new agreement instead of a top-down approach (such as the Kyoto Protocol). We are nearly set for such a Paris agreement in 2015. It wanted less climate-fighting action in the first half of the century, ratcheting it up in the second half (US was a late starter compared toEU and found it unfair to be asked to do as much immediately as EU had done in two decades). The new targets make sure that that is the case. It did not wish to put equity or intellectual property rights at the centre of the talks. Instead, the US has slowly turned these issues into academic subjects. It wanted the obligations of the developing world to fight climate change delinked from the delivery of finance and technology by rich nations and it has achieved this de-hyphenation substantially. It also wanted the differentiation between developed countries and rest of the world to be done away with. It’s got this firewall to look like a moth-eaten fig leaf. 

Once the world accepted that the US would only join on its terms and that it had to be kept in, climate negotiations have been a war of attrition for the developing world. The battles are driven by short-term competitive economic interests of all countries. Keeping the long-term US vision central, others have worked around, or when it was about making the best of worst situation, worked with the US to safeguard their economic interests as much as they can while the global climate regime is re-engineered. To do so, each country has formed several alliances or come to understandings with others to suit its short-term economic interests. This includes the EU, China, India and any other country that has some economic might to operate in the UN multilateral forums. 

The Drone War in Pakistan

The Unblinking Stare

Steve Coll

The New Yorker, November 24, 2014 issue

At the Pearl Continental Hotel, in Peshawar, a concrete tower enveloped by flowering gardens, the management has adopted security precautions that have become common in Pakistan’s upscale hospitality industry: razor wire, vehicle barricades, and police crouching in bunkers, fingering machine guns. In June, on a hot weekday morning, Noor Behram arrived at the gate carrying a white plastic shopping bag full of photographs. He had a four-inch black beard and wore a blue shalwar kameez and a flat Chitrali hat. He met me in the lobby. We sat down, and Behram spilled his photos onto a table. Some of the prints were curled and faded. For the past seven years, he said, he has driven around North Waziristan on a small red Honda motorcycle, visiting the sites of American drone missile strikes as soon after an attack as possible.

Behram is a journalist from North Waziristan, in northwestern Pakistan, and also works as a private investigator. He has been documenting the drone attacks for the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, a Pakistani nonprofit that is seeking redress for civilian casualties. In the beginning, he said, he had no training and only a cheap camera. I picked up a photo that showed Behram outdoors, in a mountainous area, holding up a shredded piece of women’s underwear. He said it was taken during his first investigation, in June, 2007, after an aerial attack on a training camp. American and Pakistani newspapers reported at the time that drone missiles had killed Al Qaeda-linked militants. There were women nearby as well. Although he was unable to photograph the victims’ bodies, he said, “I found charred, torn women’s clothing—that was the evidence.”

Since then, he went on, he has photographed about a hundred other sites in North Waziristan, creating a partial record of the dead, the wounded, and their detritus. Many of the faces before us were young. Behram said he learned from conversations with editors and other journalists that if a drone missile killed an innocent adult male civilian, such as a vegetable vender or a fruit seller, the victim’s long hair and beard would be enough to stereotype him as a militant. So he decided to focus on children.

Many of the prints had dates scrawled on the back. I looked at one from September 10, 2010. It showed a bandaged boy weeping; he appeared to be about seven years old. There was a photo of a girl with a badly broken arm, and one of another boy, also in tears, apparently sitting in a hospital. A print from August 23, 2010, showed a dead boy of perhaps ten, the son of an Afghan refugee named Bismillah Khan, who lived near a compound associated with the Taliban fighting group known as the Haqqani network. The boy’s skull had been bashed in.

Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan

Sushant Sareen Senior Fellow, Vivekananda International Foundation 
17 November 2014 

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of activity taking place in various parts of Pakistan in the name of the abominable, but also ineluctable, Islamic State (IS). Apart from some senior commanders of the Mullah Fazlullah-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) faction who have announced their allegiance to the IS’ Caliph Ibrahim a.k.a. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, there are reports of other smaller groups of militants who have cast their lot with the pestilential IS. Graffiti and posters of the IS have appeared in Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore, Bannu, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Wah, Hangu, Kurram, Bhakkar, Dera Ismail Khan and other towns and cities of the country.

While these developments have caused a flutter in the media, official circles are quite nonchalant about the IS’s presence in Pakistan at present, or even its potential for establishing a presence in the future. Despite a classified report of the Balochistan government about the ‘growing footprint’ of IS, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar has confidently claimed that the IS doesn’t exist in Pakistan.

Considering that just a few days after Nisar declared that there was no danger of terrorism in Islamabad an attack was launched on Islamabad courts and the city’s vegetable market, he shouldn’t be taken seriously. Although there is no sign of a major presence of the IS in Pakistan, the threat of the IS establishing itself is very real. There are eerie parallels that can be drawn between how the IS is registering its presence in Pakistan with how the Taliban network was established in the country. In the mid-1990s, more so after the Taliban captured Kabul, there were a spate of gangs and groups, especially in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), who declared themselves local representatives or chapters of the Taliban movement.

In Shift, Pakistanis Fleeing War Flow Into Beleaguered Afghanistan

NOV. 15, 2014

GULAN CAMP, Afghanistan — Through three decades of war, waves of Afghans have fled their homes along the eastern border areas, many of them seeking shelter in the Pakistani tribal regions next door.

Last summer another wave of refugees surged through the area. But in a reversal, it is Pakistanis, not Afghans, who are fleeing war at home.

“There was fighting everywhere,” said Sadamullah, a laborer who fled with his family last month from Dattakhel, a district in Pakistan’s tribal areas. “There was shelling, and military forces were firing mortars on our villages. They carried out an operation in our area, and a woman was killed by them.”

Mr. Sadamullah, who like many tribesmen here has only one name, was speaking about the Pakistani military’s continuing offensive against Islamist militants in the North Waziristan region. The military has been clearing territory in the region since June, forcing an exodus of at least 1.5 million residents. As many as 250,000 of them have since crossed the border into Afghanistan, officials say.

The tribal communities on both sides of the border are Pashtun, and many of the refugees from the Pakistani side have found shelter with relatives or sympathetic families on the Afghan side, mostly in Khost and Paktika Provinces. In some cases, refugees have been able to rent or borrow a patch of land or a walled compound for their families and some livestock.

But the poorest — about 3,000 families, according to the United Nations refugee agency — are perched in Gulan Camp, a stretch of rough stones and reed bushes in the Gorbuz district of Khost, just a few miles from the border.

Canvas tents spread out toward the brown crags of the horizon. Women are cloistered behind flimsy screens, and children, who make up 65 percent of the camp population, dart in and out under the canvas flaps. The men have started building mud walls around the tents in an attempt to give better protection against the coming winter.

Number of Terrorism-Related Fatalities Soared 60 Percent Last Year. Study

Alan Cowell
November 18, 2014

Deaths Linked to Terrorism Are Up 60 Percent, Study Finds

LONDON — As Western governments grapple with heightened apprehension about the spread of Islamic militancy, an independent study on Tuesday offered little solace, saying the number of fatalities related to terrorism soared 60 percent last year.

Pointing to a geographic imbalance, the report by the nonprofit Institute for Economics and Peace said five countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria — accounted for four-fifths of the almost 18,000 fatalities attributed to terrorism last year. Iraq had the bloodiest record of all, with more than 6,300 fatalities.

At the same time, the statistics in the organization’s Global Terrorism Index suggested that the world’s industrialized nations — often the target of threats by groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL — had suffered relatively few attacks on their soil since the Sept. 11, 2001, onslaught in the United States and the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings in London.

Four groups — the Islamic State, Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Taliban, which is active in both Pakistan and Afghanistan — took credit for two-thirds of worldwide deaths related to terrorism in 2013, the report said, describing radical variants of Islam as “the key commonality for all four groups.”

The Institute for Economics and Peace is a registered charity in Australia with offices in New York, Mexico City and Oxford, England.

“In 2013, terrorist activity increased substantially with the total number of deaths rising from 11,133 in 2012 to 17,958 in 2013, a 61 percent increase,” the report said. “Over the same period the number of countries that experienced more than 50 deaths rose from 15 to 24. This highlights that not only is the intensity of terrorism increasing, its breadth is increasing as well.”

“Terrorism is both highly concentrated as well as a globally distributed phenomenon,” it added. But the report noted that only 5 percent of fatalities ascribed to terrorism had occurred in the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes some of the world’s wealthiest, industrialized economies.

Iran Using Chinese Bank to Covertly Funnel Money to Front Companies Controlled by Its Qods Force Intel Agency

November 18, 2014

A general view of the Central Bank of Iran building in Tehran January 23, 2006.

(Reuters) - There is no trace of Shenzhen Lanhao Days Electronic Technology Co Ltd at its listed address in the beige and pink-tiled “Fragrant Villa” apartment complex in this southern Chinese city. The building’s managers say they’ve never heard of it.

But a Western intelligence report reviewed by Reuters says Shenzhen Lanhao is one of several companies in China that receives money from Iran through a Chinese bank. Such transfers help to finance international operations of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds Force, the report said. 

The Quds provides arms, aid and training for pro-Iranian militant groups in the Middle East, such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Shi’ite Muslim militias in Iraq. They have also armed and trained government forces in Syria’s civil war in violation of a U.N. arms embargo, U.S. and European officials say.

Washington designated the Quds a supporter of terrorism in 2007. The European Union sanctioned them in 2011.

The report said that the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) holds accounts with the Bank of Kunlun Co Ltd, a China National Petroleum Corp unit. Quds-controlled Iranian companies, including one called Bamdad Capital Development Co, initiate transfers from these accounts to either Chinese entities directly controlled by the Quds or to Chinese entities owed money by the Quds, such as Shenzhen Lanhao.

“The money transfers from accounts held by the CBI with Bank Kunlun are initiated by the Quds Force and transferred to Chinese companies connected to the Quds Force in order to meet its financial needs,” the seven-page report said. Reuters could not independently verify the claims in the report.

The suspected movement of Iranian funds linked to the Quds Force through a Chinese bank and Chinese companies is a reminder of the difficulty of enforcing sanctions on Iran at a time when the United States and other world powers hope to clinch a nuclear deal with Tehran by Nov. 24.

The U.S. Treasury sanctioned Kunlun in 2012 for conducting business with Iran and transferring money to an entity linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, but there was no mention then of any link to the Quds.

John T. Downey, Former CIA agent Who Spent 20 years in Chinese Prisons During Cold War, Dies at Age 84

November 18, 2014

FILE - In this March 13, 1973 file photo, John T. Downey, a former Central Intelligence Agency… Read more

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — John T. Downey, a former CIA agent who survived more than 20 years in Chinese prisons during the Cold War before becoming a Connecticut judge, died Monday. He was 84.

Downey was diagnosed with cancer a month ago and died at a hospice facility in Branford, according to his son, Jack Downey, of Philadelphia.

The elder Downey had graduated from Yale University and joined the Central Intelligence Agency a year before his plane was shot down during a botched cloak-and-dagger flight into China in November 1952. He spent the next 20 years, three months and 14 days in Chinese prisons. He was released in March 1973 shortly after President Richard Nixon publicly acknowledged Downey’s CIA connection.

After returning to the United States, he graduated from Harvard Law School and was appointed to the Connecticut bench in 1987.

Jack Downey, 34, said his father’s years of imprisonment shaped his life in every possible way.

"He could have very justifiably come out of this extremely bitter and cynical about human nature and all things. He miraculously wasn’t," said Downey, whose mother was born in China and met his father in Connecticut.

John Downey, of New Britain, and another CIA paramilitary officer, Richard G. Fecteau, of Lynn, Massachusetts, were on their first overseas assignment when their plane was shot from the night sky in a Chinese ambush. Both survived, and Fecteau was kept behind bars for 19 years. Their pilots, 31-year-old Robert C. Snoddy of Roseburg, Oregon, and 29-year-old Norman A. Schwartz of Louisville, Kentucky, were killed in the crash.

The secret mission was smothered in U.S. government denials, but bits and pieces of the story emerged over the years, revealing a tale of personal triumph, tragedy and CIA miscalculations from the early years of the spy agency’s existence.

Their mission was to recover a spy working for the CIA in the Manchuria region of northeastern China. Downey and Fecteau had been assigned to a covert program that airdropped noncommunist Chinese exiles into the area to link up with disaffected communist generals, but the agent they were picking up had betrayed the Americans.

Downey was well known to the Chinese operatives because he trained them. When Downey was captured, a Chinese security officer pointed at him and said in English: “You are Jack. Your future is very dark.”

Downey and Fecteau were hauled off to prison, interrogated and isolated in separate cells. Each spent long stretches in solitary confinement.

After their release, Fecteau said they would visit occasionally during Downey’s time in law school and split a pint of ice cream, because neither of them drank. He said he admired his friend’s mental strength during their time in captivity.

Silk Road aims to cement China’s emerging role

By John Kemp

President Xi Jinping: he has pledged $40bn to a Silk Road fund for investing in infrastructure, resources and industrial and financial co-operation ac

The New Silk Road Economic Belt - from China across Central Asia and Russia to Europe - and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road - through the Malacca Strait to India, the Middle East and East Africa - have become the centrepiece of China’s economic diplomacy.

“The Silk Road, no longer just a concept in history books, has evolved into a story of modern logistics and Sino-European co-operation,” Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, told a conference this month.

The belt and the road, as China’s diplomats refer to them, are the focus of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit in Beijing this week. They aim to cement China’s emerging role at the heart of the 21st century economy.

China’s President Xi Jinping has pledged $40bn to a new Silk Road fund for investing in infrastructure, resources and industrial and financial co-operation across Asia.

Chinese diplomats have also been busy promoting a new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, promising to provide half of its $50bn start-up capital, to help build ports, roads, power projects and other desperately needed infrastructure across the region.

The Silk Road fund and Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank pose a direct challenge to the traditional primacy of US-dominated financial and trade institutions in the region, including the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank, all of which were set up following the US victory in World War Two.

Abe’s Humiliation in Beijing

By Aurelia George Mulgan
November 17, 2014

The atmospherics of his meeting with Xi suggest there is little cause for optimism in bilateral relations. 

For decades, Sino-Japanese relations were conducted under the principle of “separating politics and economics” (seikei bunri). In fact, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s 2006 book Utsukushii Kuni e [Towards a Beautiful Country], which embodied his grand vision for Japan during his first prime ministership, referred explicitly to Japan’s bifurcated policy of seikei bunri as the guiding principle of the Japan-China relationship.

All that changed in September 2010 when the Japan Coast Guard arrested a Chinese fishing boat captain and detained his ship in the waters off Kubajima in the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which inflamed both sides of the territorial dispute between the two nations. It was followed two years later by the Noda government’s purchase of the islands from their private owner and their subsequent nationalization, which further infuriated the Chinese. Cementing hostilities was Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in December 2013.

Politics then very much entered the relationship, with China adopting a dual strategy of political confrontation and military intimidation, particularly in the area around the disputed Islands. As a result, the Japanese private sector lost confidence in seikei bunri. Many Japanese enterprises withdrew from China, leaving only those that still had confidence in “private businesses unaffected by politics.” As Fukunari Kimura argues in his forthcoming contribution to The Political Economy of Japanese Trade Policy book (PalgraveMacmillan, 2015), although China remained important for Japanese businesses as both a production base and as a market, new investment in China by Japanese firms clearly slowed. In 2013, China lost its No. 1 spot for the first time in the annual questionnaire by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, which asks Japanese manufacturing firms what countries are prospective investment destinations in the forthcoming three years or so. China had held this position since 1992, but in 2013 it fell to No. 4 behind Indonesia, India and Thailand. Restoring this investment relationship was an important factor encouraging the Xi Jinping regime to countenance a personalmeeting between Xi himself and Abe on the sidelines of the recent APEC summit in Beijing.

Is China Really Going Green?

NOVEMBER 15, 2014

To most people, myself included, this week’s agreement between the United States and China on tackling climate change came as a big surprise. For more than a decade, the Chinese government has resisted international calls for it to place a cap on carbon emissions, arguing, with some justification, that its first priority was industrializing its economy, expanding its G.D.P., and raising living standards. As recently as September, at a U.N. climate summit, China refused to say when its production of CO2 would peak. But here was President Xi Jinping pledging that, by 2030, his country’s carbon emissions would max out, and energy from renewable sources would meet twenty per cent of its total energy needs.

In a sense, there’s less to the deal than meets the eye. It’s non-binding, and, as the White House statement about it makes clear, the dates aren’t necessarily firm. China has said that “it intends” to make sure its emissions will peak “around 2030,” and that the share of the energy it consumes that comes from non-fossil fuels rises to “around 20%.” The United States has said it “intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its emissions by 26%-28% below its 2005 level in 2025.”

Clearly, there’s wiggle room on both sides. However, the fact that the world’s two largest polluters have agreed to work together on this issue, rather than sniping at each other from afar, is important. A major problem with the 1997 Kyoto Protocol was that it exempted China, India, and most other developing countries from imposing restrictions on emissions. (That failure prompted the Bush Administration, in 2001, to say that the United States was dropping out and wouldn’t honor the protocol.) Now, for the first time, there appears to be the possibility of a larger international agreement, a successor to the Kyoto treaty, that would encompass developed and developing nations. If such an arrangement could be constructed, it would mark the first serious effort to tackle climate change on a global, rather than a regional, basis.

4 Killed in Attack on Jerusalem Synagogue

Four Killed in Jerusalem Synagogue Complex

Isabel Kershner and Jodi Rudoren

New York Times, November 18, 2014

JERUSALEM — Two assailants armed with a gun, knives and axes stormed a synagogue complex in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of West Jerusalem on Tuesday morning, killing at least four worshipers during morning prayers, according to the police. The attack was one of the deadliest in the city in several years.

Police officers who arrived at the scene shot and killed the attackers. Within two hours, Israeli security forces had stormed Jabel Mukaber, the Palestinianneighborhood of East Jerusalem where the assailants were believed to have lived, spraying tear gas at their family home and into hills of olive trees.

A neighbor identified the attackers as Odai and Ghassan Abu Jamal, who were cousins. She said that Ghassan was in his 30s and had two children, and that Odai was in his 20s and unmarried.

Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israel police, said an investigation was underway to see whether the suspects were “affiliated with any terrorist organization like Hamas or Islamic Jihad.” Ynet, an Israeli news site, said the two were related to one of more than 1,000 Palestinians released from Israeli prisons during a 2011 exchange for an Israeli soldier who was captured five years earlier by Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called the attack “the direct result of the incitement” led by Hamas, the militant Palestinian faction, and by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, and set a security consultation for noon. “We will respond with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were eliminated by despicable murderers,” he said in a statement.

Mr. Abbas condemned “the killing of civilians from any side” and “the whole cycle of violence,” according to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency. It was his first official condemnation of violence during the recent spate of deadly attacks in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the West Bank.


Britain is running out of friends in Europe just when it needs them most Nov 15th 2014 

ARGUMENTS about money are always tiresome, particularly when the sums are meagre. Take the European Union budget, a monstrous carbuncle apparently designed to sap the life force of anyone who comes near it. It accounts for just 2% of European public spending, but at least half the hot air that is blown during summits. So it proved recently, when a recalculation of national statistics led to unexpectedly large bills for Britain, the Netherlands and others, with a demand for payment by December 1st.

Although some countries faced higher surcharges per person, Britain’s overall bill, at €2.1 billion ($2.6 billion), was the biggest—and the reaction of its prime minister, David Cameron, the stormiest. At a press conference in Brussels on October 24th he hammered the lectern and vowed not to pay on time. Lo and behold, last week the British chancellor, George Osborne, won agreement from fellow finance ministers to change the rules on late payments. Under the proposal, which must still work its way through the EU’s legislative machinery, Britain and others will not have to settle their bills until September 2015, with no interest due. A classic victory for hard-nosed British diplomacy.

A pity, then, that Mr Osborne felt obliged to strut out of the meeting declaring that he had “halved” the bill. This claim was based on the rebate that Britain automatically receives on its contributions to the EU budget, which next year may reduce the new charge by €1 billion or so. Mr Osborne says it was not clear that the new bill would be covered. But for 30 years the rebate has applied to all British payments; there was no reason to think this would be an exception, and EU officials have said as much. Not all Mr Osborne’s colleagues disguised their irritation at his triumphalism. A bigger problem is that other budgetary hawks, such as Germany and Sweden, feel betrayed, since reopening the rules may let the European Parliament restart its argument that the budget should be much bigger.

What Is the Russian Military Up to In the Eastern Ukraine?

All Is Not Well on Ukraine’s Eastern Front

Benny Avni

Newsweek, November 17, 2014
Unmarked military trucks drive along a road in a territory controlled by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic near the town of Khartsyzk, east of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, November 15, 2014. International monitors deployed along the Russian border in eastern Ukraine say their drones were shot at and jammed days before new columns of unmarked soldiers and weapons, said by the West to be Russian, were seen in the rebel-held territory. Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

What is Vladimir Putin’s game in eastern Ukraine? NATO reports that long convoys of unmarked military vehicles transporting heavy artillery and tanks, along with armored personnel carriers and trucks bearing rocket launchers manned by troops dressed in camouflage without identifying livery, have reinforced the pro-Russian separatist positions around the key Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Kiev forces confirmed the sightings and, like NATO, accused the Russians of mounting the sort of stealth invasion that proved so successful when Moscow annexed Crimea last winter. The Russians, meanwhile, indignantly deny that any of their forces have crossed the border, just as Russian President Vladimir Putin denied his forces had been sent to occupy Ukraine.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Communist leader of the Soviet Union, who presided over the defeat of the long and bloody failed experiment in Marxism-Leninism, thinks what is going on in Ukraine marks the start of a new Cold War. But it could be even worse than that. As the first cold blasts of winter bring the first flakes of snow, it is now a common belief on all sides that the fragile cease-fire in Ukraine will turn before long into a hot and bloody conflict that could drag the whole region—if not the whole world—into war.

US fails to stabilise a disturbed West Asia

17 Nov , 2014

Over the decades, US policy across West Asia has been devoid of vision and foresight. President Obama has recently conceded that his administration does not have a strategy to combat the ISIS. What would be the appropriate military response in a given zone? Who could be called upon as coalition partners? What kind of financial resources under given budgetary and political constraints can be apportioned to troubled areas? All these remain a big question mark. Acting unilaterally without a coalition of partners would steal policy objectives of their legitimacy. Not being able to balance the level of proximity with the enemy’s enemy (the Bashar al Assad regime, or Iran) is a lump in the throat. Glaring examples of the above are clearly visible with regard to its strategic planning, or lack of the same, pertaining to Iraq and Iran.

Iraq was invaded in 2003 by the United States and its allies on the pretext that it was holding weapons of mass destruction, which imperilled the security of its neighbours. That this charge was without any substance was acknowledged by none other than the UN, besides the US itself.

The US and its allies are responsible for the birth of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) now referred to as the ‘Islamic State’.

Iraq’s invasion happened on 19 March 2003. Ten years later, a comprehensive analysis has startled even diehard conservative estimators of the magnitude of human and monetary loss resulting from the invasion. According to findings revealed in a report, the war has killed 190,000 people, including men and women in uniform, contractors and civilians, and has cost the US $2.2 trillion, a figure that far exceeds the initial 2002 estimates by US Office of the Management and Budget of about $60 billion.1

The significant mistakes the US made during early months of occupation – according to another report – were not being able to provide sufficient security for the system to work smoothly and transferring power to Iraqis in a way that it gives them unquestioned legitimacy, thus giving those with the newly acquired power an axe to grind, feather their own nests and promote their own agendas.

A 26-Year-Old Woman Is ISIS’s Last American Hostage

The extremists didn’t show her off in their latest snuff film. And her family doesn’t want her name released. But what is known about ISIS’s remaining U.S. captive is heartbreaking.

With ISIS’s brutal murder of Peter Kassig, a 26-year-old American aid worker who dedicated his life to the plight of Syrian refugees, the militant group has one more U.S. citizen remaining in its clutches, according to current and former U.S. officials, as well as individuals involved in efforts to free the Americans. 

The hostage is the only American woman held by the militant group. She is the same age as Kassig, and, like him, was kidnapped while trying to help people whose lives have been upended by the long Syrian civil war. She was particularly moved to help children who have been orphaned and separated from their families. The woman was taken in August 2013, along with a group of other aid workers who have reportedly been released. 

U.S. officials and the woman’s family have requested that her name not be made public, fearing that further attention will put her in greater jeopardy. No news organization has published her name. But the general circumstances of her capture and captivity have been known and widely reported for more than a year now. 

ISIS’s intentions for its remaining American prisoner are unclear. But current and former U.S. officials told The Daily Beast that it was notable she doesn’t appear at the end of a video, released Sunday, that shows the aftermath of Kassig’s beheading. That breaks with ISIS’s pattern of showing the next hostage it intends to kill. 

ISIS has killed Muslim women, as well as children. But it has never murdered a female Western hostage on camera. Doing so would mark a radical departure even for a group that has relied on bloody propaganda to lure foreign fighters to its ranks. 

A former U.S. counterterrorism official said that before ISIS decides what to do with its remaining American hostage, it will consider carefully the public reaction it could spark. “Before they’re doing anything, they want to have a really good feel for how it will play,” the former official said. 

Defeating ISIS

Author: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies

PublisherCouncil on Foreign Relations Press

Release DateNovember 2014

Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 51

President Barack Obama's strategy in Syria and Iraq is not working. The president is hoping that limited air strikes, combined with U.S. support for local proxies—the peshmerga, the Iraqi security forces, the Sunni tribes, and the Free Syrian Army—will "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). U.S. actions have not stopped ISIS from expanding its control into Iraq's Anbar Province and northern Syria. If the president is serious about dealing with ISIS, he will need to increase America's commitment in a measured way—to do more than what Washington is currently doing but substantially less than what it did in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade. And although President Obama will probably not need to send U.S. ground–combat forces to Iraq and Syria, he should not publicly rule out that option; taking the possibility of U.S. ground troops off the table reduces U.S. leverage and raises questions about its commitment.
A Big Threat

A reasonable goal for the United States would be neither to "degrade" ISIS (vague and insufficient) nor to "destroy" it (too ambitious for the present), but rather to "defeat" or "neutralize" it, ending its ability to control significant territory and reducing it to, at worst, a small terrorist group with limited reach. This is what happened with ISIS' predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, during 2007 and 2008, before its rebirth amid the chaos of the Syrian civil war. It is possible to inflict a similar fate on ISIS, which, for all of its newfound strength, is less formidable and less organized than groups like Hezbollah and the Taliban, which operate with considerable state support from Iran and Pakistan, respectively. Although not as potent a fighting force as Hezbollah or the Taliban, ISIS is an even bigger threat to the United States and its allies because it has attracted thousands of foreign fighters who could return to commit acts of terrorism in their homelands.
What It Will Take to Defeat ISIS

To defeat ISIS, the president needs to dispatch more aircraft, military advisors, and special operations forces, while loosening the restrictions under which they operate. The president also needs to do a better job of mobilizing support from Sunnis in Iraq and Syria, as well as from Turkey, by showing that he is intent on deposing not only ISIS but also the equally murderous Alawite regime in Damascus. Specific steps include: