29 November 2014


The historyteller
Tapanda provides an insider view of the lives, thoughts and contradictions of this doomed social group of Hindu landlords of East Bengal, whose fortunes suddenly collapsed as they left for India at the time of Partition, to avoid being in East Pakistan. (Source: The Hindu photo)

Written by Amartya Sen | Posted: November 29, 2014 1

Professor Tapan Raychaudhuri — Tapanda to many of us — who died in Oxford on November 26, was not only a leading historian, but a person of many different talents. He was an outstanding teacher, whose pedagogy extended far beyond those who were formally his students at Oxford or Delhi or Calcutta. I was never his student, and yet, thanks to our friendship over 62 years, I learned a huge amount from him on a large variety of subjects, including a great many things about history. Being of lazy disposition, I relished the fact that often enough, the most effortless — and quickest — way of learning something about the past was to ask Tapanda a question about it. He was an extraordinary believer in enlightenment and enjoyed learning about things that he did not know, but seemed to enjoy almost as much as sharing his knowledge with others.

Tapanda’s gifts as a conversationalist were exceptional. He liked being amused, and enjoyed amusing others. Some of the funniest stories I have heard in my life have come from Tapanda. However, he was never a believer in humour for its own sake — never a maker of stand-alone jokes. His stories and recollections informed us even as we were vastly entertained. He also had a deep sense of equity and justice. One of the many consequences of that general, though very implicit, commitment was that his humour was never at the expense of anyone in a tough position. His most amusing stories could, however, be devastatingly funny about the high and mighty. Tapanda’s humanity and sympathy were as striking as his magical ability to entertain and engage his friends.

Tapanda’s sense of justice found expression in his account of history, and even in his memoirs. His family belonged to the class of Hindu landlords in Muslim-majority East Bengal — what is now Bangladesh. He describes in his memoir, The World in Our Time, how outrageously the poor peasants and other rural workmen were treated by the land-owning potentates. His anger at the system within which he was growing up is as clearly articulated as his perceptive discussion of how this privileged class became increasingly trapped in self-doubt and bewilderment as political values changed in the course of the fight for Indian independence. As it happens, many young men and women who came from that exploitative background went on to become radical — sometimes revolutionary — leaders of the politics of emancipation.

Tapanda provides an insider view of the lives, thoughts and contradictions of this doomed social group of Hindu landlords of East Bengal, whose fortunes suddenly collapsed as they left for India at the time of Partition, continued…

- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/the-historyteller/#sthash.E4a746Ce.dpuf

From a domestic to an international narrative


SHIFTING THE SPOTLIGHT: "India's public discourse focusses entirely on domestic narratives while the other angle — how Indian farmers are affecting the course of 21st century history for instance — needs more coverage." Picture shows an agricultural worker in Penamaluru village near Vijayawada. Photo: RAJU. V

India has the wherewithal to be less finicky about complying with international rules when they come in the way of national interests

It now looks like the impasse at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over agricultural subsidies has been resolved, although there are a few more procedural hoops to cross. As Michael Froman, the United States Trade Representative, noted, “The breakthrough at the WTO could not have been possible without the direct and personal engagement of Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi and President [Barack] Obama.” Earlier this year, Indian negotiators had effectively vetoed an excruciatingly negotiated multilateral trade agreement, citing the need to provide food security to India’s needy population. Had India not been placated, the future of the multilateral trading system would have been in jeopardy.

The motivations and merits of India’s position aside, consider the fact that India could take the position it did despite being isolated at the WTO negotiations. That is indicative of a kind of geoeconomic power that India did not possess two decades ago during the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations that paved the way for the creation of the WTO. In a changing world order, an India that grows rapidly will shape geopolitical alignments and geoeconomic frameworks.

Consider also the implications of New Delhi’s position this year: not only would have a multilateral trade agreement come undone, but the very future of the WTO would have been in doubt. The failure of multilateralism would have resulted in bilateral and regional spaghetti bowl trading arrangements that might have, in turn, created new geopolitical groups. The ideas of international free trade and open markets that underpin globalisation would have taken a beating. Agricultural policies of both the rich countries and the developing world would have been affected, impacting global human development. India’s relationship with the U.S. would have suffered with the possible effect of transforming the global balance of power, given the country’s capacity to act as a swing power.


Saturday, 29 November 2014 | Hiranmay Karlekar

Effective intelligence surveillance of Internet communications among the suspected terrorists is required to abort both planned terror strikes and Internet propaganda aimed at indoctrinating people to become jihadis

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, now before the British Parliament, contains measures to cope with the enhanced threat that some aspects of terrorism have come to pose to Britain and the world. The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, has made hostage taking for ransom into a regular source of revenue. According to a British Home Office estimate, it has raised 28 million pounds from ransom in the last 12 months. Countries like Britain and the United States disfavour the payment of ransom. Britain’s Home Secretary, Ms Theresa May, once again made this clear when she said while talking about the Bill on Monday, “Our position is clear-ransom payments to terrorists are illegal under UK and international laws.”

Organisations like the Islamic State have released videos showing the execution of American and British hostages — sometimes mentioning non-payment of ransom as a reason. The new Bill would make it illegal for British insurance companies to reimburse anyone paying ransom to free hostages. The underlying logic is that the move would discourage those inclined to pay them, which in turn would discourage the taking of hostages. This is clear from Ms May’s another statement on Monday, “agreeing to meet the demands of barbaric groups like IS would only put many more lives at risk.”

The other aspect which has considerably alarmed the United States and the European countries is the participation of their nationals in terrorist activities abroad. A growing trickle for many years, it is threatening to become a stream following the rise of the Islamic State. The number of people who have left Britain to fight in Iraq or Syria, estimated at 500 by the police, have been put at closer to 2,000 by the Labour MP, Khalid Mahmud.

A mixed blessing for India


AN OPPORTUNITY: "India can leverage the current low oil prices for long-term gains." Picture shows a petrol bunk in Chennai. Photo: K. Pichumani

Lower petroleum prices hold obvious advantages for Indian consumers, but a bearish global oil market could also hurt several segments of the country’s economy

The Oil Ministers of 12 member states of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) concluded their meeting in Vienna on November 27 by deciding to continue with their three-year-old production quota of 30 million barrels per day (mbpd). Thus, they calculatingly ignored nearly one mbpd oversupply in the global oil market which has pushed the crude prices down by over 30 per cent since June 2014. The global oil glut, in turn, has been caused by a number of factors which include OPEC’s own overproduction, rising non-OPEC production (particularly by the U.S.-based “Shale Revolutionaries”) and lower demand from China and Europe. By declining to cut their output to shore up the prices, OPEC in general, and Saudi Arabia in particular, have refused to play the role of global “swing producer.”

As most factors responsible for the current global demand-supply disequilibrium are systemic in nature, the world faces prospects for relatively bearish oil prices over the foreseeable future. Indeed, the prices have continued to fall with the Indian basket touching $72.51/barrel on November 27 — a decline of nearly $9 from the average during the first fortnight of the month.
As the world’s fourth largest importer of crude, India can afford to exult at this precipitous crude price decline. Still, given the strategic importance of this development, a more comprehensive analysis is desirable.

A virtuous cycle in the economy

From the limited perspective of India’s consumer economy, lower global oil prices undoubtedly augur well. Lower pump prices reduce pressure on the consumer who can spend the savings elsewhere, spurring the demand side of the economy. As petroleum products form a large part of the consumer price indices, lower crude prices result in reduced inflation, which in turn paves the way for lower interest rates and greater buoyancy in investments. Thus, lower oil prices can trigger a virtuous cycle in the Indian economy. After all, with India’s imports running at an estimated 3.7 mbpd in 2013, a $30/barrel decline in oil prices amounts to a $40 billion savings bonanza on annual imports. The impact would be best felt on the petroleum sector where marketers have been groaning under subsidy burden. The transport sector would also be a direct beneficiary.

Indo-Pak chill, China’s shadow

The spell cast by the India-Pakistan chill proved hard to overcome.
Written by Sheel Kant Sharma | Posted: November 29, 2014

The 18th Saarc summit in Kathmandu struggled to produce a modest set of agreements to save itself from cynical disdain. The spell cast by the India-Pakistan chill proved hard to overcome. Without the assurance of a prime ministerial meeting with India, Pakistan fell back to blocking consensus on draft agreements otherwise ready for adoption. These draft framework agreements, on motor vehicles and railways, have been in the works for the past eight years, aiming to enhance cargo and popular transport and facilitate trade and people-to-people connectivity. An agreement on energy trade was also set to emerge. The draft summit declaration, too, needed massaging of the text at the retreat on November 27, possibly about the future role of observers like China.

The host and Pakistan had, in the run-up to the summit, particularly pitched to expand China’s role, including giving it full membership.
Nepal as host should have sensed the lack of traction the proposal received and dropped it for a smooth and successful summit. However, a Chinese news agency circulated a special bulletin with speeches made by Nepali leaders, upping the ante and distracting focus from a substantive agenda of regional cooperation.

The inconclusive documents form part of the incremental Saarc process since a group of eminent persons in 1998 in South Asia recommended working out ambitious steps for deeper integration for peace and prosperity, the motto of this summit. These measures included, inter alia, a South Asia Free Trade Agreement (Safta), which was concluded at the Islamabad summit in 2004 and entered into force in 2006. Bilateral trade issues between Pakistan and India have held back Safta’s full potential, which required, by an already lapsed deadline, drastic tariff reductions and pruning of negative lists, removal of non-tariff barriers, harmonisation of standards and customs procedures, and progress on investment and banking. For all these steps, suitable mechanisms have been at work for years but at a desultory, inconclusive pace, largely due to the reluctance of some members. As a result, Safta has to its credit a meagre aggregate trade of about $3 billion from 2006-13.

It is hard to see how China’s entry in Saarc would remove the obstacles to full-fledged trade facilitation and reverse the dismal trend. China does not belong to South Asia. China’s own trade with all Saarc members is heavily skewed against them. Its promised investments on infrastructure are not likely to balance trade. Since the Dhaka summit in 2005 agreed to admit China and Japan, the number of observers had increased to nine by 2010, among which Japan’s contribution over two decades of nearly $16 million tops observers’ funding of Saarc activities and programmes. China promised $3,00,00 in 2010, while Australia announced a million for a specific agriculture project and South Korea has spent about six million. As far as Saarc countries are concerned, their total funding of all activities and programmes over the past 20 years does not exceed $100 million. In contrast, funding from institutions like the World Bank and ADB, to even individual states like Nepal or Bangladesh, exceeds the total Saarc members’ contribution to Saarc so far.

Since 2007, India has asymmetrically increased funding, with a grant of $100 million to the Saarc Development Fund (SDF), in addition to its assessed share of close to another $100 million. But the SDF has disbursed barely $25 million over the past six years. Given such low commitment from Saarc members themselves and their meagre utilisation record, is it realistic to expect an external power, howsoever flush with funds, to really speed up Saarc’s integration? External investments on the bilateral track are no guarantee for closer regional cooperation, and Saarc does not come in their way in any case.

China has far greater trade and economic relations with Asean, but there are no membership issues there. China’s dialogue partnership and summit relationship with Asean commenced only after internal Asean cohesion was already much advanced in the 1990s — far beyond Saarc’s record to date. Another example is the European Union’s historic evolution during the Cold War. In the 1970s, the Soviet Union commenced large gas deals with erstwhile West Germany as part of the latter’s ostpolitik. But no one then thought of Moscow joining the European Commission nor, for that matter, the EU, after the Cold War, trade ties notwithstanding. Rhetoric apart, raising the prospect of China’s entry seems to divert attention away from the insistent negativity of some Saarc members regarding deeper integration.

If misapprehensions persist about India’s size and increasing commitment to Saarc, how would China be immune to them? “The gap between the promise of Saarc and the reality of its accomplishments,” to quote Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, can be bridged by member states only by concerted action, not procrastination.

As for India, it seeks to energise Saarc as the forum for beneficial regionalism. Its enlightened interest lies in good neighbourly relations, as stressed by successive governments in Delhi and reflected in generous unilateral initiatives like the South Asian University or Saarc satellite and trade-related offers of zero tariffs for LDCs and drastic reductions for all others. It is up to Saarc member states to tap the win-win regionally or subregionally. Further, offers of visa facilitation for business and medical purposes and the creation of the special purpose vehicle to upgrade domestic transport should boost India’s peace narrative.

The writer was secretary general of Saarc from 2008-11

- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/indo-pak-chill-chinas-shadow/99/#sthash.rr2NhmeF.dpuf

India's 100 Smart City Program

We have been hearing the term “smart city” ever since the Information Technology revolution hit India in the late 1990s. First it was Hyderabad, which was often referred to also as “Cyberabad”, and then there was Pune.

What’s common between these two cities? They have both become regional IT Hubs, with several call centers, back offices, plenty of startups, and some of the country’s leading IT giants such as Infosys, TCS, Wipro, HCL, Cognizant, and others.

Yet the term “smart city” was also coined once more during the recent general elections held in April/May, albeit with a difference. This time, “smart city” didn’t refer to IT hubs, though Prime Minister Modi, who eventually won the elections, is probably India’s most tech-friendly and forward-thinking head-of-state after Rajiv Gandhi (1984-1989). During the election campaign, Modi announced that his team, the BJP, if voted to power, would come up with 100 smart cities all across India.

However this time, the term “smart city” was used to refer to cities that are going to use technology to offer more structured and hospitable living conditions for residents.

Latest Technology for Smart Cities

Since forming the government, Modi and his team have taken up its plan to create these 100 smart cities throughout the country. Some of them have already been identified. It’s a US$1.13 billion plan.

“Our government is working on a plan to build 100 smart cities across the country with GIS-based (Geographic Information Systems) town planning, using the latest technology. These cities will have integrated waste management and advanced transport system,” said Venkaiah Naidu, India’s Urban Development minister recently.

There’s a definite buzz about this program at all levels of government these days. The states are busy too, as most of the work is going to be implemented through the respective state government machineries.

What Are These Smart Cities?

The 100 Indian smart cities are going to run completely on technology, whether it is for water, electricity, transport and traffic, recycling and sanitation, surveillance systems, or building security. There are going to be Wi-Fi-powered houses and open spaces, minimal human intervention, and high-speed connectivity. Plans have been made to link up the suburban train networks with pedestrian and cycle lanes and carry people directly from point to point through pods with no stopping at intervening stations. Real-time transport displays will provide visibility of public transport as well as the conditions of traffic on routes. Digital parking meters are going to send information to mobile phones when a space opens up.

Will Mi-35M Helicopters Fly to Pakistan?

NOVEMBER 26, 2014

Тhe visits of high-ranking Russian officials to Pakistan, which I wrote about earlier, have continued this year. Russia’s Defense Minister, Sergey Shoigu, came to Islamabad last week as part of a 41-member delegation that included his deputies Anatoli Antonov, who is in charge of military technological cooperation, and Tatyana Shevtsova, whose responsibilities include financing the Russian Armed Forces.

On November 20, Shoigu met Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Secretary Defense Muhammad Alam Khattak, and Defense Production Secretary Tanvir Tahir. The defense ministers signed the framework agreement on military cooperation between the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Defense of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. This document is supposed to lay a legal foundation for developing military and military technological cooperation between Russia and Pakistan.

The visit highlighted the following vectors for bilateral relations in the military sphere: 
Coordinating efforts to counteract international terrorism, 
Coordinating efforts to combat drug trafficking, 
Active exchange of delegations, 
Participating in military exercises as observers, 
Training military personnel, 
Sharing expertise on peace-keeping, counterterrorist efforts, and combatting piracy. 

The parties paid particular attention to developing naval cooperation that includes joint naval exercises and Pakistani and Russian warship calls to each other’s ports. The possibility of drafting a memorandum on naval cooperation was also considered.

In addition, the parties certainly discussed the prospects for bilateral military technological cooperation. However, contrary to some reports, they did not agree on the sale of Russia’s Mi-35M multi-role combat helicopters to Pakistan. These reports are based on the Russian Ambassador to Pakistan, Alexei Dedov’s, November 12 interview in which he said that the deal has been approved in principle. However, the parties have not yet agreed on the timeframe for the shipment, the number of helicopters to be shipped, their modification, as well as arming, equipping and subsequently servicing them.

Reinvigorating SAARC: India’s Opportunities and Challenges

November 20th, 2014, Brookings India

Download the full PDF by clicking on the image

In the world of regional organizations the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an unruly stepchild. With squabbling members and embarrassingly poor integration the organization has very little to show on the eve of its 30th anniversary next year. Yet, a reinvigorated SAARC has the potential to vastly improve the lives of its 1.5 billion citizens – nearly one-fourth of all humanity – particularly the inhabitants of its largest member, India. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi – who has vigorously championed regional cooperation since coming to office – prepares for his first SAARC summit in Kathmandu on 26-27 November 2014, Brookings India focuses on areas of potential cooperation and suggests ways to translate those opportunities into outcomes.

While this might be dismissed as a counterfactual exercise – in the words of E.H. Carr, “an idle parlour game” – it does offer value in challenging long held assumptions, and exploring ways to build on existing regional cooperation and developing cooperation in new areas.

This policy brief contains 13 essays in three sections. The first section provides the overview and situates SAARC geopolitically. The following section looks at ways of further enhancing existing regional cooperation. The final section examines the prospect of initiating cooperation on new issues.

Brookings does not take institutional positions on policy issues and each essay in this briefing book solely reflects the views of the Brookings scholar(s) who authored it.

Table of Contents

(Click title to view chapter)


Reinvigorating SAARC W.P.S. Sidhu & Rohan Sandhu

Internal and External Challenges W.P.S. Sidhu & Rohan Sandhu


Turning Water Challenges into Opportunities Subir Gokarn & Anuradha Sajjanhar


Military Co-operation: Mission Impossible? W.P.S. Sidhu & Shruti Gakhar


By Colin Chilcoat

Not gone and not forgotten, China is ready to solidify its claim to the South China Sea (SCS). Recent satellite imagery confirms China is conducting significant land reclamation operations in the Spratly Islands in the SCS. The SCS is an important fishing ground and is believed to hold large amounts of oil and gas. Undermining the United States’ influence in the region, China intends to play the shepherd in one of the world’s busiest trade routes.

The Spratly Islands along with the Paracel Islands and several maritime boundaries in the SCS have been hotly disputed for several centuries. The conflict includes Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam and has predominantly centered on historical and cultural claims. Though offering very little in the way of land or resources, the islands serve as a tangible marker. As such, parties to the conflict have been quick to occupy them.

China’s most recent undertaking in the Spratly island chain is not their first – the last 18 months have already seen three reclamation projects. However, at more than 3,000 meters and counting Fiery Cross Reef is their grandest venture yet and appears destined to house an airstrip and harbor, both capable of supporting military hardware. The Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam already operate airstrips in the Spratlys, but can only support smaller, prop-based aircraft.

As it pursues expansion, China has been hesitant to engage in multilateral negotiations and meaningful dialogue on the SCS was relegated to the sidelines at the recent APEC and ASEAN summits. Instead, China – demanding an in-house solution to the convoluted matter – is content to flex its superior political and military might to limited opposition. Reluctant to step on any toes and with its feet in multiple courts, the United States is short on political recourse, and that’s how China likes it.

Though China’s aims are long-term, control of the Spratlies and Paracels is not subsidiary to any prize that may lie beneath. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Asian security concept” calls for Asian solutions to Asian problems and seeks to limit Western influence in such “domestic” affairs. Unchecked dominance in the SCS, whether through direct force or intimidation, would be a remarkable victory in this regard.

Space: China Does It All For Pride And Riches

November 25, 2014: On October 31st a Chinese spacecraft returned after circling the moon and taking photos. This was the first round trip to the moon by a Chinese spacecraft but it was not the first Chinese visit to the moon. In late 2013 a Chinese spacecraft safely landed on the moon and a rover-type vehicle left the lander and began exploring. This sort of thing was a first for China and the source of much popular pride. 

Pride is also the main reason for the Chinese manned space program. Chinese Taikonauts (Taik is the Chinese word for outer space) were in training in the late 1990s for a first manned flight that was planned for 2000 but did not take place until late 2003. So far ten Chinese citizens have gone into space, one of them a woman. The first Chinese manned space vehicle was the Shenzhou capsule. It was crude by American standards and was more similar in capabilities and design to the later versions of the Russian Soyuz or American Gemini. Both of these were 1960s designs. The Chinese want to be seen on par with the U.S., Russia, and the EU when it comes to manned space operations and is putting a lot of talent and money into it. 

But the real business of space, and where the Chinese put most of their efforts, in satellites. The Chinese have noted that since the 1980s space satellites have become big business. As of 2012 there were about 1,000 active satellites in orbit, and nearly half of them were American. The number of satellites has been going down a bit since then because individual satellites last longer and can do more. It is expected that the number of satellites will now start to rise rapidly because of the popularity of mini-satellites (under 100 kg/220 pounds). Some of these mini-sats are much smaller (under ten kg) and still useful. In some cases dozens of mini-sats are put into orbit by one launcher. 

A U.S.-China War: A Battle Between Networks

November 26, 2014 

A U.S.-China war would be a battle between networks, according to one prominent security analyst.

Speaking to a packed room of mostly undergraduate students at George Mason University earlier this week, Elbridge Colby, the Robert M. Gates Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), gave a sweeping overview of the budding security competition underway in the Western Pacific between the United States and China.

In an hour long talk sponsored by theAlexander Hamilton Society’s GMU chapter, Colby began by outlining U.S. interests in the region and the challenges an increasingly aggressive China poses to them. In particular, he emphasized the necessity of preventing China from being able to successfully coerce maritime Asian states in a manner that allows Beijing to dominant the Western Pacific.

The U.S. will have to do the heavy lifting to prevent such an outcome, Colby argued. Although it is tempting to argue that regional states can balance China, the reality is that “no one else can manage it,” in light of available economic resources. On the other hand, the U.S. will likely be able to balance China even over the long-term, especially given Beijing’s slowing economy.

Strategically, Colby argued the U.S. must remain supreme in maritime Asia and retain the ability to project power in the region. This can be best achieved by building a robust defense posture immediately, instead of allowing U.S. capabilities to atrophy in the short-term and trying to play catch up later.

Vietnam, the US, and Japan in the South China Sea

By Alexander L. Vuving
November 26, 2014

Prospects for regional security hinges heavily on how these actors relate to the South China Sea issue. 

Between May and July 2014, China unilaterallydeployed a giant drilling rig in waters claimed by Vietnam as its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The move led to a fierce confrontation between Chinese and Vietnamese government vessels and saw relations between the two countries deteriorate to their lowest point since 1988. The standoff also served as a litmus test to identify who will side with whom in this conflict. While most of the world remained neutral, several states came out in support of Vietnam in one form or another. Among these supporters, the United States and Japan stood out as the most powerful and staunchest.

The fault line between Vietnam, the U.S., and Japan on one side and China on the other can be seen as one between status quo and revisionist powers. The former share the same objective of maintaining the balance of power that has kept the region in peace for the last two decades. China, with its long period of rapid economic growth in the last three decades, appears to be determined to use its newfound power to assert its sovereignty claims, which in end effect would amount to its dominance of the region. The prospects for regional security hinges heavily on how these actors relate to the South China Sea (SCS) issue.

The Stakes

The prevailing narrative portrays the SCS issue as a territorial dispute driven by conflict over natural resources between the littoral states. This provides a very truncated picture that fails to illuminate the identity and motives of the stakeholders. Besides its economic value, the SCS also has an enormous strategic value for several countries and an increasing symbolic value for some of the disputants.

China claims a vast area of the SCS that lies within a unilaterally drawn U-shape line as its own territories and waters, while Vietnam claims sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands and the EEZ and continental shelf surrounding its mainland’s coasts. The SCS is believed to be rich in fish stocks, energy reserves, and mineral ores. Some estimates put the oil and gas reserves in the SCS at about 80 percent of Saudi Arabia’s. With roughly ten percent of the world’s catch, the region also has one of the largest fishing stocks in the world.

International Shifts and Their Security Impact on the Gulf: Quantifying Key Trends

NOV 25, 2014 

(In conjunction with the Third International Conference on Strategic Studies: Shifts and Changes in the World System and its Impacts on the Middle East; November 25-26, 2014, Doha, Qatar)

I have been asked to help set the stage for this conference by looking at the broader issues that can address the issue ofA World with No Axis? International Shifts and their Impact on the Gulf. 

I have spent enough time in the Gulf over the years to know how often people have strong opinions, interesting conspiracy theories, and a tendency to ignore hard numbers and facts. We all suffer from the same problems, but today I’m going to focus as much on facts and numbers as possible. 

I’m only going to select only a portion of the key trends and numbers involved in my oral remarks, but I will leave the conference with a much longer paper that lists a fuller range of such data. This paper that will also be on the CSIS web site, along with a series of very detailed papers on the military balance in the Gulf.

If you want to provide me with your card, I’ll also make sure the papers involved are sent to your directly.

International Shifts in the Balance of Power

Let me begin with the issue of international shifts in the balance of power. The US must deal with the emergence of China as a major regional, and potential global power, although this may well prove to be more a matter of competition that a threat.

At the same time, the US has had to constantly respond to “international shifts” since it emerged as a global power and has never been able to treat the world as if it had one major power or axis.

• The rebalancing to Asia may seem new, but the US has had security problems in dealing with Asia since 1931, ranging from Japan to China to Vietnam to China.

• Similarly Russia and the Ukraine may seem to be new challenges, but the US invaded Russia in 1918, dealt with the rise of communism – had Russia as an ally from 1941 to 1946, lived with the Cold War, saw the break up of the USSR and then began to have problems with Russia over Serbia, the expansion of NATO, Croatia, and now the Ukraine – moreover, the problems of dealing with Europe have been on ongoing challenge since 1914.

• The US became actively involved in the Middle East in World War II, has been directly involved in the Arab-Israeli crisis since 1945, became a key military player in the Gulf after British withdrawal, and has been involved in two major wars since 1990 and now is edging into a third.


AUGUST 12, 2014 
The Islamic State (ISIS) has built a sophisticated and impactful online propaganda campaign using many social media networks, including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WhatsApp. The group employs experts in the areas of marketing, PR and visual content production to ensure the legitimate appearance of its messages. The intended goals of the campaign – mainly recruiting new members (including westerners), inciting fear in adversaries, creating a united front geographically and raising funds – are consistently being achieved.

We have seen social media platforms act as channels for virtual grassroots campaigns, where the voices of millions coalesce into a single actionable goal. ISIS has taken this use of these platforms a step further by mastering the art of taking the voices of few and making them sound like the voices of millions. It is important that social media users understand the real-world impact this type of propaganda can have, because unfortunately social media is not always used for good.

While the advancement of incoming armies used to be marked by battle cries and the distant pounding of war drums, conquering forces are now implementing more personal tactics – namely those found through your mobile device and personal computer. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) recently issued a successful social media blitz that managed to promote and spread their brand, propaganda and news across the globe to costly and devastating results for those on this side of democracy.

What Exactly is ISIS?

Government, Industry Countering Islamic State’s Social Media Campaign (UPDATED)

By Yasmin Tadjdeh 
December 2014 

The U.S. government, along with industry partners, is working to stymie the Islamic State’s burgeoning social media campaign, which experts say is widespread and highly advanced for a terror organization.

ISIL — which currently controls large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq — has documented its brutal tactics, such as beheadings, on various social media accounts ranging from Facebook and Instagram to Twitter.

Experts and national security leaders have said that the terrorist organization, which started as an offshoot of al-Qaida, has an advanced understanding of social media, using it to disseminate information and connect with potential jihadists across the globe.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said during a speech in October that ISIL’s social media strategy is highly sophisticated.

A “new phenomena we see among terrorist organizations is the very adept use of social media, literature and propaganda that is very westernized in its language and tone. We look at some of it, it’s about as slick as I’ve ever seen in terms of advertising and promotion,” Johnson said during the Association of the United States Army annual meeting and exposition in Washington, D.C.

Through social media, ISIL is inspiring adherents who have never set foot in a terrorist compound to commit acts of violence, Johnson said.

ISIL has a ground force of more than 30,000 individuals in Iraq and Syria. It is extremely wealthy and takes in over $1 million per day in revenue, Johnson noted.

ISIL’s social media campaign is “very aggressive,” said Peter Bergen, a national security analyst at CNN, during a September panel discussion on jihadist terrorism at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. Bergen also co-authored the “Jihadist Terrorism: A Threat Assessment” report released by the center in September.

The report examined trends and threats within jihadist terrorist groups, including al-Qaida affiliates.

Interview with Henry Kissinger: 'Do We Achieve World Order Through Chaos or Insight?'

Interview Conducted By Juliane von Mittelstaedt and Erich Follath

Henry Kissinger is the most famous and most divisive secretary of state the US has ever had. In an interview, he discusses his new book exploring the crises of our time, from Syria to Ukraine, and the limits of American power. He says he acted in accordance with his convictions in Vietnam.

Henry Kissinger seems more youthful than his 91 years. He is focused and affable, but also guarded, ready at any time to defend himself or brusquely deflect overly critical questions. That, of course, should come as no surprise. While his intellect is widely respected, his political legacy is controversial. Over the years, repeated attempts have been made to try him for war crimes.

From 1969 to 1977, Kissinger served under President Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, first as national security advisor and then as secretary of state. In those roles, he also carried partial responsibility for the napalm bombings in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos the killed or maimed tens of thousands of civilians. Kissinger also backed the putsch against Salvador Allende in Chile and is accused of having had knowledge of CIA murder plots. Documents declassified just a few weeks ago show that Kissinger had drawn up secret plans to launch air strikes against Cuba. The idea got scrapped after Democrat Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976.

Nevertheless, Kissinger remains a man whose presence is often welcome in the White House, where he continues to advise presidents and secretaries of state to this day.

Little in Kissinger's early years hinted at his future meteoric rise in American politics. Born as Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Fürth, Germany in 1923, his Jewish family would later flee to the United States in 1938. After World War II, Kissinger went to Germany to assist in finding former members of the Gestapo. He later studied political science and became a professor at Harvard at the age of 40.

The 'Caliphate's' Colonies: Islamic State's Gradual Expansion into North Africa

By Mirco Keilberth, Juliane von Mittelstaedt and Christoph Reuter

Chaos, disillusionment and oppression provide the perfect conditions for Islamic State. Currently, the Islamist extremists are expanding from Syria and Iraq into North Africa. Several local groups have pledged their allegiance.

The caliphate has a beach. It is located on the Mediterranean Sea around 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Crete in Darna. The eastern Libya city has a population of around 80,000, a beautiful old town and an 18th century mosque, from which the black flag of the Islamic State flies. The port city is equipped with Sharia courts and an "Islamic Police" force which patrols the streets in all-terrain vehicles. A wall has been built in the university to separate female students from their male counterparts and the disciplines of law, natural sciences and languages have all been abolished. Those who would question the city's new societal order risk death.

Darna has become a colony of terror, and it is the first Islamic State enclave in North Africa. The conditions in Libya are perfect for the radical Islamists: a disintegrating state, a location that is strategically well situated and home to the largest oil reserves on the continent. Should Islamic State (IS) manage to establish control over a significant portion of Libya, it could trigger the destabilization of the entire Arab world.

The IS puts down roots wherever chaos reigns, where governments are weakest and where disillusionment over the Arab Spring is deepest. In recent weeks, terror groups that had thus far operated locally have quickly begun siding with the extremists from IS.

Map: Islamic State's Growing Sphere of InfluenceIn September, it was the Algerian group Soldiers of the Caliphate that threw in its lot with Islamic State. As though following a script, the group immediately beheaded a French mountaineer and uploaded the video to the Internet. In October, the "caliphate" was proclaimed in Darna. And last week, the strongest Egyptian terrorist group likewise announced its affiliation with IS.

The Latest Label of Horror

Hashtags and Holy War: Islamic State Tweets Its Way to Success

A screenshot of Islamic State's Twitter account:

In an interview, Ali Soufan, the former FBI agent who was a key figure in the arrest of the mastermind behind al-Qaida's 9/11 attacks, discusses Islamic State's massively successful social media strategy and serious errors made in the war against terror.

SPIEGEL: You recently conducted extensive research into Islamic State's media strategy, analyzing numerous documents including videos and Facebook and Twitter postings. What differentiates IS from other terrorist groups?

Soufan: They are very familiar with social media -- they know how it works. They are very smart in reaching out to the iPhone generation. They deploy different tools in different markets -- using mostly Twitter in the Gulf region, for example, and Facebook in Syria. It's very decentralized and that is interesting. It is the first organization of this kind that understands the impact of social media.

SPIEGEL: Do you know how many people are working in the IS propaganda department?

Soufan: We do know that a whole army of bloggers, writers and people who do nothing else other than to watch social media are working for IS. According to our research, most are based in the Gulf region or North Africa. The program was started by Abu Amr Al-Shami, a Syrian born in Saudi Arabia. And we know that at one point more than 12,000 Twitter accounts were connected to IS. This is one of the unique tactics used by this group: the decentralization of its propaganda work. The Islamic State has maximized control of its message by giving up control of its delivery. This is new.

SPIEGEL: What does that mean in reality?

World terrorism deaths spiked last year – but only in five countries. Why?

By Howard La Franchi
November 19, 2014 1:57 PM

Deaths from terrorism jumped 60 percent in 2013 over the previous year, according to the 2014 Global Terrorism Index. 

Terrorism is up – but concentrated in a handful of countries where an even smaller number of terror groups are carrying out the bulk of attacks.

No one will be surprised to hear that terrorism deaths are up in Iraq and Syria largely as a result of the rise of the violence-preaching Islamic State, and in Nigeria where Boko Haramcontinues to mount high-casualty attacks.

But here’s something else to know about terrorism: At the end of the day, it doesn’t work. Since the 1960s, only a very few terrorist organizations have achieved their goals through violence.

Nor does a military response alone serve to end terrorism. More effective, recent decades suggest, is a combination of improved community-based policing to boost public buy-in with governments, and a political process to address underlying grievances.

These are some of the findings of the 2014 Global Terrorism Index issued this week by the London-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).

Many of the headline-catching numbers in the index are not encouraging. The study of terrorist acts in 162 countries covering more than 99 percent of global population finds that deaths from terrorism jumped 60 percent in 2013 over the previous year, while the number of countries experiencing 50 or more deaths as a result of terrorist acts also rose about 60 percent, to 24 from 15.

But the index also finds that more than 80 percent of the almost 18,000 terrorism-attributed deaths in 2013 occurred in five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria.

Indeed, Iraq accounted for more than one-third of the deaths the organization tallied. At more than 6,300, Iraq’s staggering toll represented a 164 percent increase over 2012.

If it weren’t for the five top countries for terrorist attacks, the global tally of terrorist acts, although up last year, would stand broadly where it was in 2000, the index finds.

The IEP study assigns two-thirds of the global toll to just four groups: the Islamic State (also known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL), Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban. What that tally underscores is the link over the past decade between rising global terrorism and the rise and spreading of extremist Islamist groups.

The violent advent of Boko Haram in Nigeria portends a potential for increased terrorist activity in other religiously diverse African countries such as Mali, Central African Republic, and Ivory Coast, the IEP study suggests.

Chuck Out 178 38 162 Why Chuck Hagel didn’t last long at the Pentagon.

The departure of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense has been greeted as a surprise, but it really shouldn’t have. President Obama nominated him for the job, in January 2013, as the right man to watch over the winding down of two wars and the drawdown of the defense budget. Now, with the gearing up of U.S. involvement in new, complex conflicts, and the growing realization that policy is not among Hagel’s strong suits, it does seem time for him to go.

In retrospect, the appointment was ill-calculated from the start. Obama may have thought that Hagel’s standing as a Republican senator would help shield him from partisan attacks for cutting the budget. But, as it turned out, Hagel’s colleagues saw him as a RINO—Republican in name only. He’d criticized George W. Bush, the invasion of Iraq, the 2007 surge of U.S. troops in Iraq, and the outsized power of what he once called “the Jewish lobby.” And, early on, he’d advised and befriended Barack Obama. To many Republican senators, these things were all unforgivable.

His confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee were brutal, with Sen. John McCain trashing him for his views on Iraq. The committee’s session to vote on the nomination was more hair-raising still, with Sens. Ted Cruz and James Inhofe accusing him of “cozying” up with terrorists. Hagel passed on a straight party-line vote; the Senate confirmed him, with the support of just four Republicans.

Obama also figured that Hagel’s military record, as an enlisted man who won two Purple Hearts in Vietnam, might further legitimize his budget cuts and form a bond with the soldiers returning from battle. But as a political matter, Hagel needed much more to muster support from the senior officer corps, and he never solidified that.

Chuck Hagel’s appointment was ill-calculated from the start. 

Nor did he insinuate himself with the White House staff, where power is concentrated in this administration. That was due, in part, to the staff’s much-noted insularity; but it was also due to Hagel’s own failure to bring much to the table. When Robert Gates took a stand, it was clear that he had (or could rally) the Pentagon’s full support—and that, in any case, he had the acumen to push his views. No such glow surrounded Hagel.

A large measure of Hagel’s isolation and lack of authority is that Obama has come to rely on Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as both an adviser and the Pentagon’s main spokesman on strategies to deal with the crises of our day—ISIS, Ebola, Iran, even the pivot to the Pacific. By statute, the JCS chairman does serve as the president’s top military adviser; but the secretary of defense should be that adviser on military policy. Hagel did not fill that role.

The Ukrainian Communications Standoff

NOVEMBER 25, 2014

In all political conflicts, when feverish crisis management turns into stalemate and the focus shifts from who acts quickest to who lasts longest, communications becomes of the essence. This moment has now been reached in the Ukrainianstandoff between the West and Russia.

Granted, escalation dominance still lies with the Kremlin. Moscow is in the tactically advantageous position of being able to scale up or down its involvement in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions almost as it wishes.

No one really knows what further ambitions Russian President Vladimir Putinharbors, or what additional show of strength he needs for long-term political survival at home. He might be satisfied with the status quo, having created another frozen conflict that guarantees him unlimited access to Ukrainian domestic affairs for the foreseeable future. Or the world might wake up tomorrow to see more territories occupied, more borders moved, and more people’s lives ruined.

After what everyone thought was a nerve-racking crisis, the real nerve game starts now. The two sides have taken their positions. The West is siding with the new government in Kiev and has slapped sanctions on Russia for its aggressive violations of international law and of several treaties and agreements.

The West’s hope is that sanctions will bite and that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko can make his country a success quickly enough that Moscow realizes it must change course. The longer the standoff lasts, those in the West believe, the more urgent it will be for Putin to crumble.

On the other side of the equation, Russia has annexed Crimea and is quickly solidifying its position in eastern Ukraine. Moscow hopes to undermine Poroshenko’s reform effort with the ultimate goal of winning back political control of all of Ukraine.

Putin, in the hope that the economic costs of sanctions will eventually undermine the Western position, is banking on Western short-termism to prevail. The longer the standoff lasts, he believes, the higher the chances that the West will succumb to its usual greed and lack of spine.

U.S. Policy to Counter Nigeria's Boko Haram

Author: John Campbell, Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies

The militant Islamist group Boko Haram's increasingly bold attacks in Nigeria—most notably its April kidnapping of nearly three hundred female students—threaten to fuel further Muslim-Christian violence and destabilize West Africa, making the group a leading concern for U.S. policymakers, writes former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell, CFR senior fellow for Africa policy studies, in a new Council Special Report from the Center for Preventive Action (CPA).

Boko Haram's proclamation that it has established an Islamic caliphate has stoked global fears over the insurgents' rapid ascent in Africa's most populous country ahead of the February 2015 national elections. Campbell, however, warns U.S. policymakers to resist characterizing Boko Haram as simply another foe in the global war on terrorism, since the group's grievances are primarily local.

"The Boko Haram insurgency," Campbell explains, "is a direct result of chronic poor governance by Nigeria's federal and state governments, the political marginalization of northeastern Nigeria, and the region's accelerating impoverishment." Rather than fighting the militant group solely through military force, he argues, the U.S. and Nigerian governments must work together to redress the alienation of Nigeria's Muslims.

"Washington should follow a short-term strategy that presses Abuja to end its gross human rights abuses, conduct credible national elections in 2015, and meet the immediate needs of refugees and persons internally displaced by fighting in the northeast," Campbell continues. He also recommends that the Obama administration revive plans to open a consulate in the northern city of Kano in order to improve U.S. outreach to that region's predominantly Muslim population

Though the United States has "little leverage" over President Goodluck Jonathan's government, Washington should "pursue a longer-term strategy to address the roots of northern disillusionment, preserve national unity, and restore Nigeria's trajectory toward democracy and the rule of law."

Campbell's long-term recommendations comprise: 
supporting Nigerians working for human rights and democracy; 
revoking U.S. visas held by Nigerians who promote ethnic and religious violence and commit financial crimes; and 
encouraging Abuja to revamp the culture of its military and police.