4 January 2015

Fifth column: A misconception

Tavleen Singh
January 4, 2015 
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"I continue to support the Prime Minister fully because I believe that he could be India’s only hope for a better tomorrow."

The last days of last year I appear to have created the wrong impression with people whose political views I loathe. So I am going to correct this in the first column of 2015. The same Lefties and dynasty devotees who spent months deriding me on Twitter and in letters to this newspaper for being a ‘Modi bhakt’ have lately been greeting this column with howls of delight. Oho, oho, they tweet and write, another one disappointed with her ‘sahib’. As usual they are completely wrong. I have never been anybody’s ‘bhakt’, but I continue to support the Prime Minister fully because I believe that he could be India’s only hope for a better tomorrow.

After decades of stagnant, festering Nehruvian socialism that benefited only officials, politicians and povertarians, Narendra Modi has dared to speak a new economic language. In speech after speech during the election campaign and in speech after speech since he became prime minister he has talked of the ‘elimination’ of poverty and not its ‘alleviation’. And this appeals to me deeply because I believe that India has no right to be poor.

Tourism alone could have made the people of some of our poorest, most backward states very rich. This was never considered an economic tool by the Leftist economists who have controlled India’s economy for nearly all our years as an independent nation. The reason why investment in tourism has helped many countries lift themselves out of poverty is because the infrastructure needed to attract tourists is exactly the infrastructure ordinary people benefit most from. Good roads, good telecommunications, good transport facilities and a clean and healthy environment. Modi is the first prime minister to emphasise the importance of investing in tourism.

Affirming the two-nation theory

Jan 03, 2015

Most Indians with the slightest knowledge of India’s nationalist struggle have at least a passing familiarity with Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s “two-nation theory” Pared to the bone, Jinnah’s contention was that Hindus and Muslims constituted two, distinct, primordial nations and in the immortal words of Wystan Hugh Auden, “implacably at odds”. A host of Indian historians, most notably Mushirul Hasan, have shown the falsity of Jinnah’s premise.

In a number of scholarly essays he demonstrated that far from constituting a monolithic community, Muslims in pre-Independence India paid much heed to questions of region, language, class and sect. A landowning Muslim notable in the United Provinces (later Uttar Pradesh) had pitiably little in common, for example, with a poor Muslim peasant in Kerala. Their class, regional, linguistic and very possibly sectarian differences contributed to vastly different identities and loyalties. Jinnah, of course, quite deftly sought to minimise these differences and adroitly played on the fears of Muslims in areas where they were in a minority about their future in a professedly secular and Independent India. Of course, the Indian National Congress’ failure to fully reassure Muslims helped out Jinnah’s cause. The rest, as is well known, is history.

Jinnah’s characterisation notwithstanding the framers of India’s post-Independence produced a secular, democratic Constitution that reflected the country’s inherent diversity. Obviously, despite this formal, constitutional commitment to secularism, India’s 60 odd year record of adherence to those principles is far from unblemished. There is little need to reproduce a litany of these failures. The vast majority of India’s attentive public is more than familiar with the country’s failures.

These departures, for the most part, stemmed from the exigencies of politics in a country of extraordinary diversity and against a backdrop of dramatic political mobilisation. Even the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government while creating a more permissive atmosphere for Hindu zealots did not launch a frontal assault on the edifice of Indian secularism.

The current regime, in which the BJP has a clear-cut majority, now seems intent on granting free rein to its associates, most notably the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bajrang Dal, to pursue an agenda of rampant Hindu nationalism. These range from quixotic as well as outrageous, unfounded claims of India’s supposed scientific achievements to egregious attempts to bring back putative converts to Islam and other faiths back into the Hindu fold. Against this disturbing backdrop, despite pleas from members of various minority communities, members of civil society and a few in the Opposition in Parliament, the Prime Minister has maintained a deafening silence on most of these matters. On occasion, he has even provided support for certain bizarre views such as the existence of plastic surgery in ancient India.

Silicon Valley’s mirror effect

By: Joe Nocera
January 4, 2015

“If meritocracy exists anywhere on earth, it is in Silicon Valley,” wrote David Sacks in an email to The New York Times’s Jodi Kantor.

Kantor was working on an article, published recently, about the Stanford class of 1994 — the class that graduated a year before Netscape went public, and, for all intents and purposes, started the Internet economy. She was exploring why the men in that class had done so much better in Silicon Valley than the women.

Sacks, meanwhile, was one of the most successful members of the class. At Stanford he wrote for The Stanford Review, “a conservative-libertarian campus newspaper”, where he befriended Peter Thiel, a fellow libertarian.

Then, in 1998, Sacks, Thiel and a handful of others — overwhelmingly white and male — founded PayPal, which made them all very rich. Since then, the PayPal Mafia, as these men are known in Silicon Valley, have seeded companies, founded companies and sold companies — in effect, financing another generation of (mostly) young white men.

In the email, which Kantor posted on her Facebook page, Sacks described meritocracy as one of his “core values”, and noted that when he has hired and promoted women, it was because they were the top candidates. “I chose the best person for the job and I wanted to foster a culture of excellence.”

Well, maybe. But, as Kantor pointedly asks in a short introduction to Sacks’s email, if Silicon Valley is truly a meritocracy, “why do mostly men prevail?”.

This is a question that has become increasingly urgent. In 2014, Jesse Jackson shamed a number of important Silicon Valley companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple and LinkedIn, into publishing a breakdown of their employees by race and sex. The numbers are appalling. At LinkedIn, 2 per cent of the workforce is black, and 4 per cent is Hispanic.

Google is 70 per cent male, with 91 per cent of its employees either white or Asian. Facebook: 69 per cent male and 91 per cent white or Asian. When it comes to leadership positions, the numbers are even worse.

There aren’t many women or African-Americans working in Silicon Valley who would agree. “Silicon Valley’s obsession with meritocracy is delusional,” Freada Kapor Klein, the co-chair of the Kapor Center for Social Impact, told The Los Angeles Times.

“Unless someone wants to posit that intelligence is not evenly distributed across genders and race, there has to be some systemic explanation for what these numbers look like.” Her husband, Mitch Kapor, designed Lotus 1-2-3, the seminal spreadsheet programme that helped make the IBM PC famous, and he calls the reality of Silicon Valley’s hiring practices a “mirror-tocracy”.

India's Mighty Nuclear-Weapons Program: Aimed at China and Pakistan?

January 3, 2015 

India’s nuclear weapons program is a cornerstone of New Delhi’s security strategy for the 21st century. For most of the post-war period, India badly trailed the established nuclear powers in weapon quality, quantity, and the sophistication of delivery systems. In recent years, however, India has indicated a willingness to take the steps necessary to becoming a first rate nuclear power.

This article examines the development of the nuclear program over history, the current state of the program and its associated delivery system projects, the strategic rationale of India’s nuclear efforts, and the likely future contours of the program. The current balance of nuclear power in South and East Asia is unstable, and likely to result in a nuclear arms race involving Pakistan, India, and China.

History of the Program:

Indian work on nuclear technology began even prior to independence from the United Kingdom, but a period of instability and insecurity beginning in 1960 accelerated development. Indian defeat in the Sino-Indian War demonstrated conventional vulnerability, which the inconclusive 1965 Indo-Pakistani exacerbated. US efforts to intimidate New Delhi during the 1971 war with Pakistan also played a role.

India detonated its first nuclear device in 1974, in a “peaceful” nuclear demonstration. Yielding between 6 and 15 kilotons, the test drew widespread international criticism. Indian nuclear development progressed through fits and starts over the next two decades, with New Delhi reaching an uneasy accommodation with the world’s nuclear community to keep the program in the shadows. Ballistic missile development continued alongside the nuclear program.

Finally, Mountain Guns for India

By Debalina Ghoshal
January 03, 2015

In late November, the Indian Army’s artillery breathed a sigh of relief when the government gave clearance to a Rs. 15,570 crore ($2.5 billion) project for mountain artillery guns. The news came just a month after the Indian government cleared 80,000 crore worth of defense project deals. The guns to be purchased are 155 mm/52 caliber with a range of 40 km and will be part of the “Buy & Make India” program. At present, there is a plan to acquire 814 guns for the Indian Army. While 100 guns would be acquired off the shelf, the remainder of the 714 guns would be made in India.

This is a major boost to the Indian Army’s artillery, which has not acquired guns since the Bofors’ scam in the 1980s. India had already cancelled the acquisition of self-propelled 155 mm/52 caliber guns on the grounds that they failed to meet requirements. The only progress that was made in artillery was an upgrade to the Russian 130 mm/39 caliber M46 guns to 155 mm/45 caliber, which increased the range from 26 km to 39 km.

A ban on South Africa’s Denel had adverse repercussions for the progress of the Indian Army’s Bhim Artillery Project, an indigenous project under which Denel proposed to install a 155 mm gun on the Indian-made Arjun tank chassis. Now, though, given the government’s fast-track approach to procuring weapon systems for the Army, Air Force, and Navy, there is reason to believe that other lagging projects of the Indian Army’s Artillery could be about to get a boost. This haste in decision-making regarding defense procurements is due to the new government’s desire to “clear a backlog of defense orders” in order to provide an impetus to India’s military capability and boost its defense preparedness. China and Pakistan are already enhancing their artillery strength and India cannot afford to be left behind.

Several Indian companies are vying for the Army’s artillery project, namely TATA, L&T, and Bharat Forge, which can either develop the guns completely or build the guns in collaboration with a foreign firm. For instance, L&T has entered into an agreement with France’s Nexter Systems to offer the guns, while Mahindra Defence has joined with BAE systems. In August 2014, reports came in that India had lifted its ban on South Africa’s Denel company while in November 2014, India has also lifted its ban on Israeli Military Industries (IMI) and intends to plan for the future possibility of manufacturing ammunition for its 155 mm guns.

As New Delhi considers national security to be of “paramount concern” for the government, addressing the bottlenecks and hurdles in the defense procurement process will ensure that the “pace of acquisition is not stymied.” In July 2014, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley raised the foreign investment limit that can be contributed to the domestic defense industry from 29 percent to 49 percent in the hope of attracting more of its main arms suppliers in order to “reshape the defense industrial base dominated by state firms.” Under the new government, India has boosted defense spending by 12 per cent.

India’s decision to clear the 155 mm/52 caliber guns will no doubt lend momentum to the Indian Army’s artillery modernization program, and could cause foreign firms to “revisit their strategies” for the Indian market. It is clear that India is now keen on moving towards self-reliance with state-of-the-art equipment, rather than just buying complete systems from foreign firms.

India’s Foreign Policy Reimagined

By Neelam Deo
January 03, 2015

The turn of the year and the middle of Narendra Modi’s first year as prime minister is an opportunity to compare the style and substance of the foreign policies of his government with those of the previous dispensation. The contrast is most apparent in the energy and attention that has been invested in international relations, rather than in the direction. After all, while core national interests—such as border security and development—endure, the manner of pursuing them can indeed change.

Modi’s articulation of his vision of the country has included new elements like the “Make in India” campaign; he has also brought a greater speed and intensity to the pursuit of foreign policy objectives such as attracting foreign direct investment to promote manufacturing in India. In pursuing the goal of industrialization, Modi has shed some of the ideological elements of “third-worldism” and non-alignment, which were the signature of the previous government.

His government’s decisive foreign engagements have already changed international perceptions. The change is most visible in India’s relationships with the U.S. and Pakistan, though the outcome of his proactive engagement with China remains ambiguous. The differences between Modi’s and the previous governments approaches to these three critical bilateral equations are discussed in the following sections.


Although it was the UPA government that signed the India-U.S. nuclear agreement in July 2005, it remained passive about implementing the deal. The new government has so far not been able to move ahead on amending the nuclear liability legislation, but it has been outspoken about the importance of a good relationship with the U.S.

Modi has proactively intensified interactions—the best proof of which is U.S. President Barack Obama’s acceptance of the invitation to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi in 2015, which will make it an unprecedented second visit to India by a serving U.S. president.

The importance explicitly placed by this government on India-U.S. ties stems from several factors such as India’s need for U.S. investment and access to its technology. Good relations with the U.S. also usually translate into good relations with its allies such as Australia, Japan, and Western European countries, which in turn bring strategic support and increased investments from all these countries.


By Santosh Sharma Poudel

India signed a nuclear and defence deal with Russia during the President Putin’s recent visit to New Delhi. India also concluded agreements with Japan, the US and China in an important display of its traditional diplomacy undergoing nuanced change under Prime Minister Modi.

Since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister, India’s foreign policy has gathered some pace. His visits to Australia, Japan and the United States brought the relationships with these countries to new heights with several economic and defence agreements. He had visited the three states proposed by a former Japanese prime minister to form an ‘arc of freedom’ democratic alliance. While the pacts with Australia were mostly socio-economic, the agreements with Japan and the US covered economic and security interests.

Japan pledged economic assistance worth US$35 billion over five years and culminated with the Tokyo Declaration of India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership by which the two sides agreed to enhance their defence and strategic cooperation. Similarly, PM Modi’s visit to the US was a welcome reset in the relations strained by the Devyani Khobragade issue and the reversal on the US ban for Modi for his alleged involvement in Gujarat in 2002. President Obama and PM Modi resolved to broaden their cooperation in various fields including defence, intelligence, and space exploration among others. President Obama was invited to be the Chief Guest for India’s Republic Day, symbolising the mutual regard of the oldest democracy and the largest.

The willful blindness of Pakistan’s civil population

By Massud Ebady
Jan 03 2015

A truly incredible spectacle is the Pakistani civil population ignoring and at times justifying their government’s sponsor of factions that perform terror which result to innocent civilians dying in Afghanistan and Kashmir. In Afghanistan the Pakistani government supports Taliban and other anti-government factions such as the Haqqani network through the ISI. The operation is quite sophisticated and it has been for many years now, however the government is but of a fraction of the population of Pakistan. The population of Pakistani in 2014 is roughly 188 million, can the majority overlook the murder of innocent human beings in Afghanistan and Kashmir? There are few Pakistani individuals who have voiced their concerns however their arguments have been nullified, voided and looked frowned upon by the rest to the point where they had to leave Pakistan for security reasons.

Pakistan has mastered propagating religion as a coating around their geo-political agenda, as the Americans and British did prior to them. Since Pakistan deems itself an Islamic ideological state to its population it makes this process almost seamless. This strategy they have implemented has created a willfully blind population towards their government’s action, and when the population hears about innocent children and women dying in Afghanistan they turn the cheek as if it was justified for them to die. Even if some find the humanist element link to the innocents who have died, the propaganda through religion easily destroys the link and any remorse.

The state sponsoring factions outside of Pakistan and the heavy influence of neighboring nations through military means has also shifted an enormous amount of power from the civil government to the Pakistani army. The most influential Pakistani Prime Ministers have been Generals of the Pakistani army and a few of them won over the country through a coup d’état. This also may explain why the government of Pakistan is spending $ 8.127 Billion dollars on military expenditure while roughly 40 million live below the poverty line. The more humanist and logical approach would allocate that budget otherwise; the money should have been spent on social welfare and not on the military.

We are also now witnessing some of the repercussions of this policy Pakistan has adopted and it was recently though the Peshawar attacks. The use of religion for a deeper political agenda always has double edged sword, the other side of the sword in this case is the TTP. Although a small population, which is gaining support rapidly because it is utilizing the extremist approach the government rooted into the population. There are already popular Pakistani Muslim clerics that are not condemning the Peshawar attacks. We can now only hope there is a revamp in policy that can end the innocent slayings of Afghans which occur on a daily basis.

Limited options leave Afghan refugees reluctant to return home

January 2, 2015

KABUL, Afghanistan — Eight years after returning from Pakistan, Feda Mohammed wishes he’d never come back.

For the better part of a decade, 45-year-old Mohammed, his wife, and eight children have been among several dozen returned refugees occupying makeshift tents and shacks on a small vacant lot on a street corner in Kabul. He has a job as a city sanitation worker, but the $80 per month salary barely covers the family’s food.

As Afghanistan slips deeper into another winter, hundreds of thousands of returned refugees and others will be trying to survive another cold season while facing a future as uncertain as ever.

Record numbers of Afghans left the country during the 1980s and 1990s after the Soviet invasion triggered decades of war. Many came back after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime in 2001. More than 5.8 million refugees — roughly a fifth of Afghanistan’s entire population — returned.

But after more than a decade of international intervention, U.S.-led forces have failed to end the stubborn insurgency destabilizing the country. Fewer Afghan refugees are trying to return than during any time since 2002, even as increased violence sends new waves of people fleeing their homes.


History is a fine mirror, particularly among the war opponents where ‘cognitive dissonance’ plagued them deep all along. Thirteen years ago, US pre-attack psy-warfare effort depicted a shirtless herculean-looking American GI, kneeling and wielding his knife as if US was about to mow down their opponents in a blow. Taliban along with Al-Qaida were dancing to celebrate, on seeing another prey rushing for the trap called Afghanistan on the heels of the Soviets. No one in US DoD bothered to take cue from history that remains kind to Afghans when they are ready to spill their own as well as others blood. Time scale means nothing to them.

About 150 years ago, the British Army supported by native forces in the Indian sub-continent invaded Afghanistan. Several battles during First and Second Afghan War, won and lost by both sides, made it absolutely clear that Afghans, fanatically loyal to their soil, could not be ruled by the alien forces. At one point of time, General Robert, recommending swift withdrawal, wrote to the Viceroy of India, less they (Afghans) see of us, the better, even though he had won the battle near Kabul. That was an era of extensive colonization when European major powers were competing to secure maximum territories in Asia, Africa and South America. It inspired Lenin to compile a table, proving that the European powers’ wealth was directly proportionate to the volume of territorial expansion overseas. He even proved that their number of banks could be accommodated in the same thumb rule. Britain was certainly a Super Power, embroiled in a conflict on the western borders of its Indian Empire. The people who stuck out to challenge its might were again Afghans.


By Amit R. Saksena

UN Peacekeeping Mission. A Pakistani UNOSOM armed convoy making the rounds in Mogadishu, Somalia. Photo by Ctsnow, Wikipedia Commons. 

According to many war historians and international relations scholars, the end of the Cold War was the epitome of a shift in the paradigm of a generally accepted or resolved to global politico environment. One of the most closely followed forums, in accordance with President Bush’s ‘collective security’ stance, was the change in the conducting of UN Peacekeeping operations, which were believed to turn for the better, with a new US-Russia partnership. However, such was not the case. This abstract looks at the political transformations which took place, post the Cold War, which shaped much of the intergovernmental dealings, as we know of them today.
Collective security and UN Peacekeeping

During the Cold war, the UN’s ability to engage in collective action was seen to have been impeded by East – West divisions which effectively limited the possibility of cooperation in the UN Security Council. The end of the Cold War was to have introduced an era of peace with an emphasis on the rights and privileges of human rights.

However, expectations of more effective peacekeeping post cold war proved misplaced. As early as 1994, UN peacekeeping has been described as ‘in crisis’. Tried and tested principles and practices had been modified or abandoned and the distinction between peacekeeping and various enforcement activities had become blurred. Certainly the late 1980’s witnessed a number of successful resolutions of conflicts in Central America, Africa and the Middle East, while by the 1990’s there was a significant increase in the number of authorization of new missions. However, UN efforts in Bosnia had exposed the organization to accusations of weakness and the initially successful operation in Angola had been followed by resumption of warfare.

Taliban delegation hold talks with Chinese officials on Afghanistan

Jan 02 2015,

According to reports, a delegation of of Taliban officials have recently visited China to meet with the Chinese officials and discuss issues related to Afghanistan.

Sources privy of the development have told the Afghan Islamic Press that the delegation was led by Qari Din Mohammad who is a member of the Taliban political office in Doha.

No further details were given regarding the outcome of the visit, however a Taliban official has said that the purpose of the visit was share the Islamic Emirate’s stance with China.

The delegation reportedly visited China late in November last year when Beijing had put forward a proposal for a “peace and reconciliation forum” in a bid to help revive peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban militants group.

The peace plan proposed by China would gather representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the Taliban command.

The Afghan officials have not formally commented regarding Beijing’s proposal but reports suggest that the plan was discussed at a meeting of nations taking part in the “Istanbul Process”.

Efforts to revive peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban group comes as US-led combat troops formally ended their combat mission after 13 years of war.

China is concerned that the withdrawal of bulk of the NATO troops will leave a security vacuum which would further help the Uighur militants to step up their fight as they seek a separate state in western China’s Xinjiang region.

Chinese Takeaway: Beijing’s South Asia

January 3, 2015 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Kathmandu and Dhaka in the last few days underlined, once again, the emergence of Beijing as the most important external economic power in the subcontinent.

India’s challenge of coping with China’s growing economic weight in the subcontinent is far more demanding than dealing with its military power. The problem of closing the military gap with China is not a hard one to think through. It involves accelerating India’s own military modernisation, developing a strategy to deter Beijing’s potential aggression on the long-disputed border and increasing security partnerships with other great powers.

New Delhi is certainly conscious that Beijing’s rising economic profile in the subcontinent will have major long-term consequences for the regional balance of power between India and China. Yet, there is no way Delhi can exclude Beijing, the world’s second-largest economic power, from its own calculus for accelerating India’s economic development. If the Manmohan Singh government sent out ambiguous signals on economic cooperation with China, Narendra Modi appears determined to advance the bilateral economic cooperation with Beijing.

Modi is eager to mobilise Chinese technology, capital and organisational skills to promote his agenda of infrastructure development and manufacturing at home. Delhi does not have the experience of operating at two levels — competing with Beijing for strategic influence and, at the same time, strengthening economic cooperation with China. This problem gets magnified at the regional level.

Top Chinese Diplomat Falls to Corruption Probe

January 03, 2015

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption probe captured its latest “tiger” to ring in 2015. Senior Chinese diplomat Zhang Kunsheng has been sacked on suspicions of “violating discipline” — a common euphemism used by the Chinese Communist Party for corruption. Zhang, 56, is notably the first prominent member of China’s diplomatic corps in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be sacked. Details on the circumstances leading up to Zhang’s investigation are unknown as the Chinese government has been characteristically tight-lipped about the situation.

According to Chinese media reports, Zhang was the most senior of the four individuals holding the rank of assistant foreign minister within the Chinese foreign ministry. Zhang’s portfolio concerned the ministry’s protocol department which will now be taken over by the ministry’s chief spokesperson Qin Gang. According to the South China Morning Post, Liu Jianchao will take over from Qin as the ministry’s spokesperson. Zhang recently represented China at the ASEAN Regional Forum Seminar on Sea Lines of Communications Security. He has additionally previously served at the Chinese embassy in Washington D.C., and worked in the Ministry’s Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs.

Zhang’s investigation somewhat expands the scope of Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption probe in practice. Where previously senior military leaders, politicians, and even Politburo members (Zhou Yongkang) have fallen to corruption investigation, Zhang is a top-level bureaucrat from the relatively clean Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Though details concerning Zhang’s case are sparse, there is considerable speculation that the investigation surrounding Zhang could have been motivated by politics in Zhang’s native Shanxi province.

Zhang has yet to officially be charged with any crime. In previous cases concerning corruption investigations, the individual under question has usually been sacked and removed from their public role for a period of weeks or months before being formally charged with a crime.

China: 2014 Year in Review

By Edited by Asif Farooq and Scott McKnight
January 03, 2015

With over 1.3 billion people and increasingly tied to the global order, China through 2014 remained a gripping story for any audience. “Chinese characteristics,” whether on issues of regional security, territorial disputes, one-party rule, media censorship, or sustained high-speed growth in global trade and market share, require us to understand China better. China: 2014 Year in Review provides a broad sketch of key trends and events in foreign relations, economy, party affairs, media and censorship, state-society relations, energy and environment as well as Taiwanese politics. What emerges is the image of a country undeniably “on the rise,” but one which nevertheless remains beset by a daunting array of social, political, and economic challenges – none of which bear simple solutions and any of which seem to threaten China’s long-term “rise” and one-party rule at home.

Foreign Relations: Great Power, Great Expectations

Yao Wen and Bowen Yu, University of Toronto

The year 2014 saw China move closer to great power status as part of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” (中华民族伟大复兴). Whereas for decades this was done by “hiding one’s capabilities and biding time” (韬光养晦), it now seems clear that, under President Xi Jinping, China already considers itself a great power – and so brings its own “big diplomacy with Chinese characteristics” (中国特色的大国外交). And being a great power has also meant finding a new modus vivendi with the United States – a “new type of great power relations” (新型大国关系) – which seems to imply that China already sees itself as America’s peer.

But Chinese foreign relations were focused on more than just America in 2014. Aside from its leaders visiting virtually every continent on earth, bearing gifts and signing agreements, China also hosted the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in May and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November as part of its “host diplomacy” (主场外交). CICA, once a forgettable talkshop for security issues, has been accorded a key position in China’s pursuit of a “new Asian security concept” – one in which Asian security relies on Asians, with China at the center and the U.S. as a guest, if not outsider.

Putin supports Xi’s new diplomatic strategy to put China centre stage

Rebecca Fabrizi
2 January 2015

China is working to make the international order suit its interests better and put China front and centre in global affairs. Xi Jinping’s new diplomatic focus on multilateral diplomacy includes giving new profile to existing arrangements where China can lead, such as the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). He is also pushing his own initiatives, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, while pursuing economic reform and military modernisation.

To make all this work in the face of scepticism or even hostility from the US and its allies, China needs junior partners with influence, like fellow UNSC member and friend in need Russia, even though Putin’s strategic aims are quite different from Xi’s. At his November 2014 speech to the Central Work Conference on Foreign Relations Xi kept the neighbourhood and great powers firmly in the diplomatic framework. But he also added a new category of ‘major developing powers’ – presumably including Russia – to China’s diplomatic strategy.

Both sides are wary about a hostile international environment dominated by the US. But Xi’s view of the US is much more nuanced than Putin’s, who regards the US as Enemy Number One. The Chinese government is not afraid to criticise the US, but has not forgotten that China is probably the world’s greatest beneficiary of globalisation and the US-led Asian order. Xi Jinping sees a stable, if different, relationship with the US. ‘Fostering a more enabling international environment for peaceful development’ is important to the achievement of his ‘Two Centenary Goals’.

China has used the Russian government’s helpful obfuscation to remain on the fence regarding Ukraine. Official press commentary of Putin’s recent — and strongly anti-US — speeches is factual and neutral in tone. It’s probable the Chinese government is increasingly uncomfortable with Putin’s Ukraine policy and his anti-Western ranting, though they would not report this in the press. It seems even more likely that they would be aghast at his denial that China’s vast land neighbour Kazakhstan is a state.


By Ghous Bux Khan Mahar*

“Let China sleep, when she wakes up, will shake the world”, once said Napoleon. If we take a look at contemporary China, the Napoleonic prediction has turned out to be a tangible reality as China has woken up from its long slumber and has emerged as an economic powerhouse of the world.

The awakening of dragon has triggered tectonic shift in global geo-political and economic order, marking the beginning of the era of a multipolar world order. The remarkable economic rise of China has transformed it into the second largest economy in the world. Its economy is poised to position itself as the largest economy by around 2030, dislodging the US from its current economic supremacy. What is important to note is that China has an illustrious past as well. It is the world’s oldest surviving civilization with many innovations and inventions to its credit. For instance, paper, the compass and gunpowder are among the greatest Chinese inventions and contributions to the human civilization.

Back in 1980, I happened to visit China. In sharp contrast to the China of today, I found my host country no markedly different from any typical third world country. Poverty and underdevelopment was palpably visible there. Even its capital Beijing was not that modern unlike any western capital. The city was devoid of world class infrastructure and basic features of any modern city. There were single or two-floor old buildings, no cobweb of modern roads or avenues and no skyscrapers at all. On the basis of my profound observation, I can say with confidence that Karachi and Islamabad were ahead of Beijing in terms of modern infrastructure and amenities at that time. The Great Wall of China, the most iconic tourist destination of the country, was also deprived of much facilities. It was still a poor country with a fragile economy and fractured international relations.

China’s Constellation of Yaogan Satellites & the Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile: January 2015 Update

S. Chandrashekar and Soma Perumal 
January 2, 2015 

With the recent launches of the Yaogan 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25 satellites China has augmented its advanced space capabilities to routinely identify, locate and track an Aircraft Carrier Group (ACG) on the high seas. This space capability is an important component of an Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) System that China has set up.

The current operational satellite constellation consists of ELINT satellites, satellites carrying Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) sensors as well as satellites carrying optical imaging sensors.

Based on the orbit characteristics, their local time of equatorial crossing and other related parameters, these satellites can be grouped into different categories that perform the various functions for identifying, locating and tracking the ACG.

Yaogan 9 (Yaogan 9A, 9B, 9C), Yaogan 16 (16A, 16B, 16C), Yaogan 17 (17A, 17B, 17C), Yaogan 20 (20A, 20B, 20C) and Yaogan25 (25A, 25B, 25C) are the five triplet cluster equipped with ELINT sensors that provide broad area surveillance over the Oceans. With a coverage radius of about 3500 Km, they provide the first coarse fix for identifying and locating an ACG in the Pacific Ocean. Yaogan 20 and Yaogan 25 may be replacements for the Yaogan 9 and the Yaogan 16 that may be nearing the end of their lives.

The Environmental Consequences of India’s Growth Model

By Gaurav Daga
January 03, 2015

India seems unprepared for the potential environmental outcomes of its development policies. 

India is in a peculiar position today. Not in terms of “harnessing its demographic dividend” – as an economist might put it, given that more than half of the country’s population is below the age of 25 – but in terms of its memory and future. Its under 25 population has no direct memory of the Emergency or the Bhopal Disaster, including your correspondent.

The period that has followed those difficult times has been an era of liberalization. A period in which color, choice, growth, income, prosperity and desire have mattered. The search for the new was expected from everything – from technology to governance.

During this liberalizing era, development has come to be seen as the key to progress. People from Narayana Murthy to Narendra Modi are revered as visionaries. People have felt motivated, driven, determined. The move from “imagined communities” to an “imagined future” has been seen as a form of empowerment. But in this vision of the future, nature is taken for granted, part of the background. As long as it looked pretty, no political regime has bothered to talk about it.

Yet we live in a different world today. A world of the Anthropocene, as some are calling this time when nature is unable to self-regulate to completely offset the activities of humans. Development, seen as a way to solve socio-economic problems, has given rise to new sets of socio-geological problems. According to French Philosopher Michel Serres we are living in a world where Earth in its totality is at stake, meaning nature is now emerging from history’s background. Worse, we don’t even have the language to comprehend the transformation that is taking place.

US sanctions North Korea in 1st official retaliation over Sony hacking

January 3, 2015

HONOLULU — The United States says its new round of sanctions against North Korea is just the opening salvo in its response to an unprecedented cyberattack on Sony. Yet there may be little else the U.S. can do to further isolate a country that already has few friends in the world.

Even the latest sanctions, handed down by President Barack Obama in an executive order, may not sting quite as badly as U.S. would have hoped. After all, North Korea is already under a strict sanctions regime imposed by the U.S. over the North's nuclear program.

The new round of sanctions unveiled Friday hit three organizations closely tied to the North's defense apparatus, plus 10 individuals who work for those groups or for North Korea's government directly. Any assets they have in the U.S. will be frozen, and they'll be barred from using the U.S. financial system.

But all three groups were already on the U.S. sanctions list, and officials couldn't say whether any of the 10 individuals even have assets in the U.S. to freeze.

Still, American officials portrayed the move as a swift and decisive response to North Korean behavior they said had gone far over the line. Never before has the U.S. imposed sanctions on another nation in direct retaliation for a cyberattack on an American company.

"The order is not targeted at the people of North Korea, but rather is aimed at the government of North Korea and its activities that threaten the United States and others," Obama wrote in a letter to House and Senate leaders.

North Korea has denied involvement in the cyberattack, which led to the disclosure of tens of thousands of confidential Sony emails and business files, then escalated to threats of terrorist attacks against movie theaters. Many cybersecurity experts have said it's entirely possible that hackers or even Sony insiders could be the culprits, not North Korea, and questioned how the FBI can point the finger so conclusively.

Failure or triumph for U.S. Democrats? Answer: Yes.

Paul Wells
January 2, 2015

American presidents are term-limited by law, two and out. Having served his two terms, much will depend on the legacy Barack Obama leaves the next Democratic nominee. Only two months ago, it seemed he had managed to wreck everything for his party. But it’s been a long two months.

The mid-term elections of Nov. 4 were a rout. The Republicans posted gains in the Senate, in the House of Representatives, in elections for state governor and for state legislatures. By some measures, they won the strongest hand they’ve had since 1928. It was a chastening day for anyone who assumed Republicans had worked themselves into an extremist rut that made the party unelectable.

Most of all, it seemed to confirm that the Obama presidency was dying a listless, distracted death. It’s hard to remember the “Yes We Can” candidacy of 2008, when millions of Americans, and millions more around the world, felt caught up in a moment of historic change. The electoral results seemed only to ratify the judgment of history, delivered, in one instance, by Walter Russell Mead: “Rarely has any American administration experienced so much ignominious failure, or had its ignorance and miscalculation so brutally exposed.” Mead was writing about the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group, while other critics have used similar language to describe Obama’s handling of Syria, Israel, Iran, Russian President Vladimir Putin, health care reform, immigration or the Keystone XL pipeline.

Better Than New Sanctions: Could Obama's Cuba Strategy Work on North Korea?

January 3, 2015

"Obama’s latest actions are likely to join previous measures on the ash heap of failure. We need a radically different policy toward North Korea, since the current one is simultaneously provocative and ineffectual."

President Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba was a wise and courageous exercise of leadership. His action marked the first stage toward ending a policy that had been a spectacular failure for more than half a century. That move, along with the ongoing dialogue with Iran, also reflects a refreshing willingness to engage adversaries instead of trying to isolate them. The isolation strategy has rarely worked; Washington’s frustrating experience regarding Communist China in the 1950s and 1960s, Vietnam from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s and Iran until the past year or so underscore the futile, counterproductive nature of such a surly strategy.

But instead of pursuing a policy of engagement, Obama is moving in the opposite direction regarding North Korea. Primarily in response to the Sony cyberhacking incident, the president has now imposed an array of new sanctions against Pyongyang. That step intensifies the long-standing U.S. policy of attempting to isolate North Korea’s obnoxious and volatile communist regime. But that approach has worked no better than the now abandoned approach regarding Havana and Tehran. Instead of persisting with a coercive strategy based on ever-tightening sanctions, the administration should consider applying the new “Cuba model” of U.S. diplomacy to North Korea.

Admittedly, North Korea is a tougher case than either Cuba or Iran, Given North Korea’s dangerously disruptive behavior in recent years, including two armed attacks on South Korean targets, the Obama administration needs to adopt a two-track approach, rather than just duplicate the conciliatory model being used with respect to Cuba and Iran.

Nylons for nothing in Cuba

January 1 

There’s an old Cold War joke — pre-pantyhose — that to defeat communism we should empty our B-52 bombers of nuclear weapons and instead drop nylons over the Soviet Union. Flood the Russians with the soft consumer culture of capitalism, seduce them with Western contact and commerce, love-bomb them into freedom.

We did win the Cold War, but differently. We contained, constrained, squeezed and eventually exhausted the Soviets into giving up. The dissidents inside subsequently told us how much they were sustained by our support for them and our implacable pressure on their oppressors.
Charles Krauthammer writes a weekly political column that runs on Fridays. 

The logic behind President Obama’s Cuba normalization, assuming there is one, is the nylon strategy. We tried 50 years of containment and that didn’t bring democracy. So let’s try inundating them with American goods, visitors, culture, contact, commerce.

It’s not a crazy argument. But it does have its weaknesses. Normalization has not advanced democracy in China or Vietnam. Indeed, it hasn’t done so in Cuba. Except for the United States, Cuba has had normal relations with the rest of the world for decades. Tourists, trade, investment from Canada, France, Britain, Spain, everywhere. An avalanche of nylons — and not an inch of movement in Cuba toward freedom.

Obama Slams North Korea with Sanctions for Sony Hack

JANUARY 2, 2015 

Hackers allegedly conspiring with North Korea were unable to keepThe Interview, a film that depicts a fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, out of movie theaters over the Christmas holiday. Now, in a second blow, President Barack Obama is tightening economic sanctions on Pyongyang.

Obama authorized the Treasury Department to impose new penalties in “proportional response” to “ongoing provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies, particularly its destructive and coercive cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment,” the White House said in a statement Friday. Senior administration officials said this is the first time a country has been punished for a cyberattack on an American company.

Three North Korean government entities — the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s primary intelligence agency; the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, Pyongyang’s main arms dealer; and the Korea Tangun Trading Corporation, responsible for procurement and technology connected to North Korean defense research and development — are subject to the new penalties, which prohibit American individuals or companies from doing business with them. All three are already being punished by previous sanctions, administration officials said.

Ten individuals with connections to Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation have also been cut off from the American financial system. Any assets they have inside the United States are now frozen.

Though none of the entities or individuals being targeted with the new sanctions were directly responsible for the Sony hack that stole employee data and threatened the release of The Interview, the sanctions announced Friday represent the first follow through on administration threats to punish Pyongyang for its cyber mischief. Administration officials called the sanctions “the first step in our proportional response,” declining to comment on whether the United States was involved in a recent internet outage in North Korea.

Top congressional voices, including Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, last month called for U.S. economic sanctions on North Korea in response to the Sony hack. But North Korea has been subject to numerous sanctions levied by the United Nations and the United States for years, so the impact of the new penalties is likely to be more symbolic than substantive. Administration officials said the executive order was broad enough to allow the Obama administration to impose additional penalties in the future.

The White House pushed ahead with new sanctions even as questions linger over whether North Korea was indeed responsible for the Sony hack. Many in the tech community have cast doubt on allegations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that placed the blame for the attack squarely on North Korea. Correctly identifying who carried out a cyber attack is one of the thorniest problems of cyber war.

But Obama administration officials pushed back against those doubts. “Some of these cyber security firms don’t have access to the same channels of information” that we do, an administration official said. “We stand firmly behind our call.”

10 Wars to Watch in 2015

JANUARY 2, 2015

The last year was a bad one for international peace and security. Sure, there were bright spots in 2014. Colombia’s peace process looks hopeful. The last round of Iran’s nuclear talks was more successful than many think. Tunisia, though not yet out of the woods, showed the power of dialogue over violence. Afghanistan bucked its history and has, notwithstanding many challenges, a government of national unity. President Barack Obama’s restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba can only be positive.

But for the most part, it has been a dispiriting year. Conflict is again on the rise after a major decrease following the end of the Cold War. Today’s wars kill and displace more people, and are harder to end than in years past.

The Arab world’s turmoil deepened: The Islamic State captured large swathes of Iraq and Syria, much of Gaza was destroyed again, Egypt turned toward authoritarianism and repression, and Libya and Yemen drifted toward civil war. In Africa, the world watched South Sudan’s leaders drive their new country into the ground. The optimism of 2013 faded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ebola ravaged parts of West Africa, and Boko Haram insurgents stepped up terrorist attacks in northern Nigeria. The international legal order was challenged with the annexation of Crimea by Russia, and war is back in Europe as fighting continues in eastern Ukraine.

So what do the last 12 months tell us is going wrong?

On a global level, increasing geopolitical competition appears, for the moment at least, to be leading to a less controlled, less predictable world. This is most obvious, of course, with regard to the relationship between Russia and the West. It’s not yet zero-sum: The two nations still work together on the Iran nuclear file, the threat of foreign terrorist fighters, and, for the most part, on African peacekeeping. But Russia’s policy in its neighborhood presents a real challenge, and its relationship with the United States and Europe has grown antagonistic.


By Barry A. Fisher

Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of open hostilities in World War II. During most of that time, the East and West waged the Cold War, and the downfall of the USSR and the reintegration of much of Central Europe into the West engendered great hope. But detritus of the world war remains, including land grabs, such as Russia’s takeover of Królewiec on the Baltic Sea and huge Sakhalin Island in the Pacific, the latter where tens of thousands of Korean slave laborers were stranded; mass expulsions, such as Germans from central Europe, Poles from Belarus, Ukraine, and Lithuania, and Armenians, Turks, and Greeks from the Black Sea coast; divided countries, such as Korea; and populations forced into diasporas all over Europe and Asia.

Russian military ventures today, including in Georgia and Ukraine, both formerly components of the USSR, stir the pot of these leftover problems.

Map of Georgia highlighting Abkhazia (green) and South Ossetia (purple).

Georgia turned west with the 2003 Rose Revolution. Russia invaded in 2008 and sliced off the large provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, declaring them independent. On November 24, 2014, Abkhazia signed a “treaty” with Russia, giving it even more control over Abkhazia’s economy and military. In February and March 2014, Russia invaded and then annexed the southern Ukrainian province of Crimea, gateway to the Black Sea. Later in the year it pushed further into Ukraine, proclaiming the new states of the Donetsk and Lugansk “People’s Republics,” which themselves then merged to form “Novorossiya” (New Russia). Novorossiya, a name from Czarist times, is envisaged as an expansionist state, ultimately to include all of southeastern Ukraine, thereby linking Russia with both Crimea and another breakaway state, “Transnistria,” in Moldova.
Is it now time to liberate Królewiec?