19 April 2015

Obama’s Nobel no longer undeserved


ReutersAmong the accomplishments of the Nobel Laureate which were enumerated by the Nobel Committee were his Cairo speech to reach out to the Muslim world.

Barack Obama's accomplishments listed by the Nobel Committee will not match his recent, path-breaking moves towards Myanmar, Cuba and Iran.

In 2009, when the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided that the Nobel Peace Prize was to be awarded to U.S. President Barack Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”, and within the first year of his election as the American President, no one, not even the recipient himself, thought that he deserved it. “There was a sense of surprise and even shock,… a belief that the award was premature, a disservice and a political liability,” said a Washington Postcommentator. The Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjørn Jagland, himself, denied the charitable suggestion that the award was in anticipation of Mr. Obama living up to his promise. “We have not given the prize for what may happen in the future. We are awarding Obama for what he has done in the past year,” he said.

The U.S. Presidential Race: Hillary and India

By Alyssa Ayres
April 18, 2015

The recently announced presidential candidate has a deep familiarity with India. 

This post is the first of a series looking at how India and South Asia will feature in the American presidential election of 2016.
Hillary Clinton’s April 12, 2015 presidential campaign launch kicked the U.S. presidential race for 2016 into higher gear. It’s also the first American campaign announcement to garner significant media attention in India. Due to her long history with India—as first lady, a senator, and secretary of state—Clinton is a known quantity in the region and has a clearly articulated policy record on South Asia, unlike other presidential candidates. One Indian paper covered her campaign launch with the headline, “Hillary hearts India.” That background makes it easier to assess how a possible Clinton administration might approach ties with India.

First and foremost, she sees India as a crucial part of U.S. strategy in a world increasingly centered on Asia, where, in her words, “the future of politics will be decided.” As secretary of state her focus on rebalancing U.S. foreign policy toward Asia contained a strong emphasis on expanding ties with India, one of the emerging Asian powers highlighted in her Foreign Policy essay of 2011. This was the essay that referred to “actively support[ing] India’s Look East effort” and talked of India as a “linchpin” of an “economically integrated and politically stable South and Central Asia.”

Watch Out, China: India Is Launching New Stealth Destroyer

April 17, 2015

India will launch the lead vessel of its new class of super advanced, stealth destroyers on Saturday, according to numerous local media reports.

This week a number of Indian publications reported that the Indian Navy plans to launch the INS Visakhapatnam in Mumbai this weekend. The ship will be the first of four Visakhapatnam-class stealth destroyers that India is building as part of Project 15B. These vessels will serve as the follow-ons to the three Kolkata-class guided missile destroyers.

As India’s largest destroyer, INS Visakhapatnam and its sister ships will be a boon to India’s naval power projection capabilities.

“At 7,300 tonnes, Visakhapatnam will be the largest destroyer commissioned in the country and will be equipped with the Israeli Multi Function Surveillance Threat Alert Radar (MF-STAR) which will provide targeting information to 32 Barak 8 long-range surface to air missiles onboard the warship,” NDTV reported. India is co-developing the Barak 8 missile with Israel.

Impatience Seals Worst Possible Defence Deal

By Bharat karnad
17th April 2015

With the price negotiations meandering into the fourth year, an impatient Narendra Modi intervened, circumventing the elaborate Request for Proposal (RFP) system of competitive bidding under which the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal was initiated. The prime minister decided to purchase the Rafales “off the shelf” without transfer of technology at the government-to-government (G2G) level.

This was portrayed as Modi’s “out of the box” solution for a problem that didn’t really exist. Plainly, he mistook the hard, extended, bargaining between the two sides as evidence of red tape, and cutting it as his unique achievement. But impatience is a liability in international relations and can cost the country plenty.

Rather than pressuring French president Francois Hollande and the French aviation major, Dassault, which is in dire straits and was in no position to resist sustained Indian pressure to deliver the Rafale and the technologies involved in toto to India, Modi eased off, promising a munificent $5billion-$8 billion for 36 Rafales off the shelf minus any reference to the L1 (lowest cost) MMRCA tender offer, possibly a buy of another 30 of them, and no onerous technology transfer obligation.

Pakistan Tests Ballistic Missile

April 18, 2015

The Ghauri ballistic missile (centre) on display at the IDEAS 2008 defence exhibition, Karachi, mounted in its launch mechanism on the transporter erector launcher (TEL).

For the first time since 2012, Pakistan tests a nuclear-capable medium-range ballistic missile. 

The Pakistani military successfully test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) this Wednesday, AFP reported.

The nuclear-capable Ghauri MRBM (aka Hatf-V), developed by Khan Research Laboratories under the Pakistani-integrated missile research and development program, is allegedly a variation of North Korea’s Rodong-1 missile.

The test was conducted by the Strategic Missile Group of the Army Strategic Forces Command (ASFC). “The training launch of the Ghauri missile system was aimed at testing operational and technical readiness,” the military said in a statement.

The head of the Strategic Plans Division, Lt. Gen. Zubair Mahmood Hayat, congratulated the scientists, engineers, and all ranks of the strategic forces, expressing his satisfaction with the “excellent standard” displayed by Pakistan’s strategic forces..

Home Front The changing face of Balochistan’s separatist insurgency

1 July 2014

IN THE EARLY HOURS of 25 December 2012, the paramilitary Frontier Corps of Pakistan’s Balochistan province launched an operation in the small, remote village of Mai. The operation went unnoticed by all save a handful of local newspapers. According to residents of Mai, which lies deep inside Balochistan, six helicopters and up to two hundred cars carrying soldiers arrived on that winter morning. The soldiers went door-to-door pointing guns, and were surprised when people answered their accusations of being foreign spies with recitations of the kalima. “They thought we were Hindu agents,” said Muhammad Amin, a wrinkled farmer who witnessed the soldiers’ arrival.

Three helicopters circled above the village, and shelled some mud homes. A few abandoned huts with mortar holes still dot the landscape. “It was as if the earth was on fire, and the sky was raining bullets,” Amin said. Three other choppers landed in front of a mosque, where the village’s women and children had hidden themselves. “Soldiers pulled us outside to stand in the cold for several hours,” Mahnaz, a peasant woman, said. Other villages nearby underwent similar attacks. By the time the operation ended, the Frontier Corps had set up 12 checkpoints controlling every entry and exit around Mai.

Gilgit Baltistan wants to join India and break away from Pak

enge Hasnan Sering — activist and president of the Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies (IGBS) demanded that India intervene in the violation of human rights in PoK and open the Kargil border to ensure that divided families meet their ancestors in India. 

Senge Hasnan Sering — activist and president of the Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies (IGBS) demanded that India intervene in the violation of human rights in PoK and open the Kargil border to ensure that divided families meet their ancestors in India. The IGBS is headquartered out of Washington D.C. and works for the betterment of the people of Gilgit Baltistan located in Pakistan occupied

Kashmir (PoK). Mr Sering is in the city to deliver lectures at IIT Powai and other educational institutes. Speaking to The Asian Age on Thursday Mr Sering said that if the Indian government did not insist on making the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan permanent, the people would be in favour of becoming part of India and not Pakistan.

“There is a feeling in Gilgit Baltistan that the region should get the status of an independent country. In an indirect way, India is responsible for this feeling. We want to be a part of India but the Indian government is considering making the LoC an international border,” said Mr Sering

Riyalpolitik – Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan

by Rohan Joshi
 April 8, 2015 

There are compelling reasons for Pakistan to participate in Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen.
Yemen is in the throes of yet another iteration of violence and instability. Since 2004, the group Ansar Allah, popularly referred to as the Houthis, has waged an insurgency against the Yemeni government, demanding more autonomy in the northern governorate of Saada. The Houthis belong to the Zaidiyya or “Fiver” sect of Shia Islam, but unlike other Shias, follow the tradition of Abu Hanifa, the founder of the Sunni Hanafi school of jurisprudence.

In March 2015, the Yemeni capital Sanaa was overrun by Houthi insurgents, following which the Yemeni government resigned. Yemen’s president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, whom the Saudis had backed and bankrolled since 2011, fled Yemen for the Kingdom as violence escalated. The Saudis, who were attempting to negotiate with the Houthis and forces loyal to former president Abdullah Saleh, then decided that military action was essential to dislodge and degrade the insurgency. The response – Operation Decisive Storm – launched on March 27, 2015, is but the latest instance of Saudi Arabia’s history of intervention in Yemen.

Pakistani Military Resorting to Unorthodox Tactics to Fight Taliban Insurgents

Tim Craig
April 16, 2015

To fight the Taliban, Pakistani military turns to unorthodox but simple tactics

KHARIAN, Pakistan — Pakistan’s army is finally making significant gains in its campaign against Islamist militants, and some of the success can be traced back to unlikely sources: paintballs and bird calls.

Here, tucked in a forest, Pakistan’s military has built a sprawling base to train soldiers in how to fight small groups of terrorists. The National Counterterrorism Center Pabbi is one of a half-dozen training sites in Pakistan, but military leaders say 65 percent of the troops fighting militants in the northwest have been trained at this facility in Punjab province.

Earlier this month, the Pakistani military took The Washington Post on a rare public tour of the 2,500-acre facility, which opened in 2009 and resembles a hunting ranch on the scrublands of Texas.

The training, which includes some un­or­tho­dox methods, is designed to make Pakistani troops more proficient in face-to-face combat. Although the troops have gained experience fighting in harsh terrain over the past few decades, they are still largely geared for a tank-on-tank war with arch-rival India.

China's AIIB Challenge: How Should America Respond?

April 18, 2015

It may be time for America to adopt the attitude: "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

The well-worn advice that “if you can’t beat them, join them” may be the right counsel as Washington ponders what to do next about the new China-backed investment bank intended to finance Asian infrastructure needs while also promoting Chinese influence. And as they think about it, U.S. officials might also relax a bit.

Doing so would be much wiser than the Obama Administration’s first reaction—attempting to block the bank’s creation, or failing that, prevent it from becoming an important financial agency with broad membership and significant influence. That effort failed miserably, due either to bad judgment or inattention, so now, the new bank is off and running at high speed. Fifty-seven nations, including most of America’s closest friends and allies, have joined China as founding members of what is officially the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), with even Taiwan trying to devise what Beijing would consider “an appropriate name” so it too can be a member. Of the world’s major economies, only the United States and Japan remain outside (and Tokyo is considering a plan to join later with a $1.5 billion capital contribution).

North Korea's Master Plan to Crush South Korea in Battle

April 18, 2015

"We can hardly rule out that political circumstances might shift such that North Korea becomes desperate enough to launch an attack."

The most intense period of fighting in Korea ended some 62 years ago, but the divide across the Peninsula remains the world’s most visible legacy of the Cold War. While the Republic of Korea (ROK) has become economically successful and democratic, North Korea has become a punchline

Nevertheless, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has continued to increase the sophistication of its ballistic missiles, has developed nuclear weapons, and maintains the world’s largest garrison state. Pyongyang has also made clear that it isn’t afraid to provoke Seoul (and Seoul’s biggest supporter, the United States) with aggressive moves such as the sinking of the corvette Cheonan, and the bombardment of South Korean islands.

The general peace on the peninsula has more or less held since the 1950s. Still, while North Korea’s power has declined substantially relative to that of South Korea, the idea that Pyongyang might come to the conclusion that war could solve its problems still worries U.S. and South Korean planners. 

Chinese Intrusions into India’s Borders Ever End?

By D. S. Rajan

There has been a faceoff between the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops and Indian soldiers in Burtse and Depsang in northern Ladakh, as late as March 20 and 28, 2015, according to press reports.

The two locations had been the targets of the PLA patrolling in the past also. The involved Chinese troops withdrew to their areas after being challenged by the Indian side.[1] The reports are disquieting from India’s point of view. The development, if confirmed, comes at a time close to the scheduled visit to China of the Indian Prime Minister Modi in May 2015. Modi had told China that if bilateral relations were to improve then border intrusions by PLA troops had to cease. Going by the India-China Joint Statement issued at the end of President Xi Jinping’s visit to India (September 2014) which laid stress on border tranquility, it appeared that the PRC understood what Modi said. Even then, the latest incident in Ladakh has happened. It will therefore be incumbent on the Chinese side to explain why there is still no let up in its transgressions across Indian borders. 

2. India- China borders remain rather quiet without any serious military incident since last several years. The last major standoff between the troops of the two sides took place in 1987 in Sumdorong Chu valley in Arunachal Pradesh. It followed the veteran Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s threat in October 1986, as reported in the press, to teach a lesson to India if it continued nibbling across the border.[2] This being so, Chinese PLA intrusions into India’s borders have been a regular feature in recent periods; the reported March 2015 border happenings are a case in point. 

Beyond 1962 How to Upgrade the Sino-Indian Relationship

APRIL 15, 2015

A soldier of the Indian army stands guard on the road to India-China border in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, September 2007. (Parth Sanyal / Courtesy Reuters)

Does Obama Care What Iran Wants in Iraq?

April 17, 2015

Marina Shalabi and Ian Duff, two researchers at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, have done some interesting spadework on the history of how the U.S. Director of National Intelligence’s annual Worldwide Threat Assessment represents Iran and its proxies. While assessments from 2013 and earlier “[call] out Iran’s hegemonic goals” and explicitly identify Iran as a sponsor of terrorism, the last two “shifted away from Tehran's efforts to expand its regional hegemony and toward describing Iran as a protector of oppressed Shiites that seeks to reduce sectarian violence.” Shalabi and Duff offer a number of examples of this shift—consider this quote from the 2013 report:

In its efforts to spread influence abroad and undermine the United States and our allies, Iran is trying to exploit the fighting and unrest in the Arab world...Iran's efforts to secure regional hegemony, however, have achieved limited results, and the fall of the Asad regime in Syria would be a major strategic loss for Tehran.

The Conversationalist Guide to the Modern Middle East

APRIL 16, 2015 

Landon Shroder is a Security Consultant who specializes in threat assessment for high risk and complex environments. He has spent the past ten years w

Landon Shroder provides a lowdown on the modern Middle East.

The Middle East has exploded into an elaborate vortex of aerial campaigns, proxy wars and shifting alliances. Unless you are an expert on international affairs, it is almost impossible to get a balanced opinion on what is happening throughout the region — especially with the salvo of commentary coming from the media.

Nevertheless, as the spring months will contain an excess of cocktail parties and happy hours, it is incumbent upon us to speak intelligently about these things. Therefore, I give you the first-ever “Conversationalist Guide to the Modern Middle East.” A pithy collection of talking points, which will help you astonish your friends, colleagues and lovers at any social event where alcohol might be present.

Putin’s Hard Sell

Why the Russian leader’s offer to sell missiles to Iran just made the nuclear deal more attractive. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting outside Moscow on July 30, 2014.
Russia’s offer to sell advanced air-defense missiles to Iran is regrettable and craven, but far from undermining the nuclear talks with Iran, as some Republican senators claim, the move bolsters the case for completing and signing a deal as soon as possible.

Iran contracted to buy these missiles, known as S-300s, back in 2010, but on the eve of delivery, then–Russian President Dmitry Medvedev canceled the contract and refunded the money ($800 million worth), which Iran had paid up front. Medvedev took this step, at financial sacrifice and political risk, as part of the “reset” in Russian-American relations (which reaped great benefits, briefly, until Vladimir Putin returned to the helm).

Had the sale gone through, it would have altered the balance of power between Iran and the U.S.-Israeli alliance. The ability to launch a massive airstrike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, if it seemed on the verge of producing an A-bomb, was one way that the alliance held the country’s nuclear ambitions in check. The S-300 missiles had therange, speed, and power to shoot down almost any airplane. Possessing the missiles might have encouraged the Iranians to go ahead and build a small nuclear arsenal, on the assumption that they could stave off any aerial attacks.

America's 5 Worst Wartime Presidents

Where does Obama rank? 
No presidential decision is as politically hazardous as the war decision. That’s because voters are quicker and more ferocious in turning on their chief executives when wars go awry than when events become troublesome in other areas of governance. Woe be to the president who finds himself in a war he can’t win and can’t get out of, or finds that the price of war far outweighs the promised benefits, or learns that the rationale for war doesn’t hold up.

Herewith, then, a catalogue of the country’s five worst wartime presidents, men who took their country to war, or continued an inherited war, but couldn’t bring success to the war effort. In four instances, we can see what kind of price they paid, or their parties paid, for their lack of success. In the fifth instance, the case of Barack Obama’s war decisions in Iraq, Afghanistan and surrounding Mideast lands, it’s still an open question what kind of price will be paid.

Of the country’s forty-four chief executives, thirteen were serious war presidents, four through inheritance and the rest through initiation. They are: Madison, Polk, Lincoln, McKinley, Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Truman (by inheritance and initiation), Eisenhower (by inheritance), Lyndon Johnson, Nixon (by inheritance), George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Obama (by inheritance). Of these, the clear failures were Wilson, Truman, Johnson, and George W. Bush. Obama occupies a kind of middle territory, but ultimately he must be placed in the circle of those who couldn’t bring success to their wartime management. (Madison is the subject of ongoing historical debate as to his success or failure as a wartime president, but I consider him, on balance, more of a success than a failure, for reasons outlined in my book, Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians.)

Fact: America's Rebalance to Asia Has Some Serious Military Muscle

April 16, 2015 

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s travels to Japan and South Korea last week—designed no doubt to highlight the continued U.S. commitment to the region—instead resurfaced concerns that the rebalance to Asia is no longer a priority for Washington. Skeptics worry that world events from Russian aggression in Ukraine, to the continued conflagrations across the Middle East, and negotiations with Iran will continue to challenge Washington’s ability to deploy what Carter referred to as the “next phase of our rebalance.” Debates over the defense budget back in Washington further stoke worries that the military side of the rebalance will remain more talk that action. While there may be other valid concerns about the rebalance (Is it focused sufficiently on Southeast Asia? Overly provocative toward China? Likely to be derailed entirely without the TPP?), concerns that the United States has not prioritized the rebalance do not stand up to the facts. A survey of actual U.S. military activity in the region helps differentiate facts from opinion.

That Secretary Carter visited Tokyo and Seoul so soon after stepping into the job reflects the priority the Pentagon places on the region. Between them, these two countries host over 80,000 U.S. military personnel and the majority of forward deployed assets in the Western Pacific (note: there are 65,000 U.S. troops stationed in Europe and roughly 35,000 currently deployed to the Middle East).

Coming to Terms With American Empire

April 15, 2015

"Empire" is a dirty word. Considering the behavior of many empires, that is not unreasonable. But empire is also simply a description of a condition, many times unplanned and rarely intended. It is a condition that arises from a massive imbalance of power. Indeed, the empires created on purpose, such as Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany, have rarely lasted. Most empires do not plan to become one. They become one and then realize what they are. Sometimes they do not realize what they are for a long time, and that failure to see reality can have massive consequences.

World War II and the Birth of an Empire

The United States became an empire in 1945. It is true that in the Spanish-American War, the United States intentionally took control of the Philippines and Cuba. It is also true that it began thinking of itself as an empire, but it really was not. Cuba and the Philippines were the fantasy of empire, and this illusion dissolved during World War I, the subsequent period of isolationism and the Great Depression.

The power of families Dynasties

Apr 18th 2015
The enduring power of families in business and politics should trouble believers in meritocracy 

“AS A democracy the United States ought presumably to be able to dispense with dynastic families,” wrote Arthur Schlesinger junior, one of America’s best-known historians, in 1947. Yet almost 70 years on, next year’s presidential election could well become a family affair. A Clinton or a Bush has been on the ticket in seven of the past nine races. Hillary v Jeb may offend against equal opportunity, but not the laws of statistics.

How, people wonder, can this happen in a country that went to war to rid itself of a king’s hereditary authority? That is the wrong question. Around the world, in politics and business, power is still concentrated in the family. Power families and dynasties are here to stay. The question is how to ensure that they are a force for good.

In politics the Clintons and the Bushes hardly count as exceptions. The leaders of Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Bangladesh are all related to former political chiefs. The “Stans” of Central Asia are family fiefs. The Gandhis are struggling in India, as are the Bhuttos in Pakistan, but the Kenyattas are kings in Kenya, a Fujimori is once again leading the polls in Peru and a Trudeau has a fighting chance in Canada. Meanwhile the lengthy catalogue of China’s “princelings”, the children of Communist Party grandees, starts right at the top with the president, Xi Jinping.

The Long Road to Dismantling Ukraine's Oligarchic Democracy

April 16, 2015

A new report on how to rebuild Ukraine's economy shows why Ukraine can't follow Poland's example. To ensure reforms succeed, Kiev must take on the oligarchs.

There have been any number of reports about the parlous state of Ukraine's economy, and any number of working groups have been set up, each offering advice and advisers to the government in Kiev.

Even oligarchs such as Dmytro Firtash, who is steeped in corruption and has perpetuated Ukraine's dysfunctional institutions, is trying to build his own so-called reform team from Vienna. This is despite the fact that the business activities of Firtash, an energy mogul, thrived under ousted president Viktor Yanukovych. He is under effective house arrest in Viennaawaiting extradition to the United States to face corruption charges over accusations of bribery.

It is also from the Austrian capital that the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, a research center long respected for its analysis of Europe's Eastern neighbors, published a report on April 15 on what Ukraine and the EU have to do to reform Ukraine and stabilize its economy. The study paints a gloomy picture of a long and difficult road ahead.

In Exile, but Ready to Save Russia

APRIL 15, 2015 

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Early in the morning on Monday last week, a phone call woke me. It was a friend from Washington, a political consultant who follows Russia closely: “There’s a billboard with your picture facing the Kremlin. It’s huge. Sending you the pic, in case you didn’t see it yet.”

My smartphone vibrated a second time, with the image: There, on the facade of a 10-story Stalinist-era building on Moscow’s central Tverskaya Street, were the words “National Traitor,” across a photo showing me, smiling. “I kind of like the picture, but not so sure about the message,” I told my friend, in an attempt at levity.

The next day, the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, voted to lift my legislative immunity so that I can be prosecuted on charges of misappropriation of public funds and then removed from office. The charges were trumped up, in a fashion typical for modern Russia.

My real crime: I was the lone dissenter, in March 2014, when the Duma voted, 445 to 1, to approve the annexation of Crimea. My vote made headlines across the West, where my distaste for President Vladimir V. Putin is well known. I am an entrepreneur and an outspoken advocate of the use of technology to make government more transparent. I was democratically elected to represent Novosibirsk, Russia’s third-largest city. I once worked for one of Mr. Putin’s chief rivals, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, who was imprisoned from 2003 to 2013. I took part in mass protests against Mr. Putin’s rule in 2005 and 2012. Over the years I’ve received too many threats to keep count.

America’s Failed Approach to Chaos Theory

APR 16, 2015 

The Complexity Crisis in US Strategy 
The United States now faces a rapidly evolving world filled with new challenges at a time when real-world defense planning is focused on budget cuts, when U.S. “strategy” lacks plans and program budgets, and when talk of strategic partnership lacks clear and specific direction. Far too much U.S. strategic rhetoric is a hollow shell, while the real U.S. national security posture is based on suboptimizing the budget around the fiscal ceilings set by the Budget Control Act (BCA), persisting in issuing empty concepts and strategic rhetoric, and dealing with immediate problems out of any broader strategic context.

The end result resembles an exercise in chaos theory. Once one looks beyond the conceptual rhetoric, the reality is a steadily less coordinated set of reactions to each ongoing or new crisis: the strategic equivalent of the “butterfly effect.” To paraphrase Edward Lorenz, the chaos theorist who coined the term, “the present state determines a series of changes and uncertain adjustments in U.S. force postures and military actions in spite of the fact the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.

Put more simply, the United States has no clear strategy for dealing with Russia and Asia and is reacting tactically to the immediate pressures of events in the Middle East and Afghanistan without any clear goals or direction. Worse, these military tactical reactions are steadily more decoupled from the need to create an integrated civil-military strategy: Grab any short-term form of “win” and ignore the need to “hold” and build.”

Are Islamic Extremists Poised to Swallow Bangladesh?

By Bhaskar Roy

The assassination of two liberal bloggers in quick succession in February and March raises some very disturbing questions.

First was that of Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American, who came to attend the “21st February” book fair where a couple of his books were on sale. Machete wielding assailants killed him while his wife Rafida Bonna was injured. Policemen watching the incident simply walked away, ignoring Rafida’s pleas for help.

Avijit, a Hindu and his wife Rafida, believed in liberal humanity. Avijit’s blogs attacked religious extremism which is prohibited in Bangladesh’s constitution. That infuriated the Islamists who promised to get him. And get him they did, with some assistance from law enforcers.

Two of the three assailants of 27 year old blogger Washiqur Rahman who were apprehended by the police were both Madrassa students. When questioned by the police both confessed that they had no idea what a blog was, nor had they read Rahman’s writings. They were simply acting on the orders of another person who told them that killing Rahman was a religious duty.

Another case of hacking to death of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in 2013 remains unsolved.

What was the crime of these young men? They did not break any laws of the country. They were opposing a trend, which appears to have become a force, to convert Bangladesh’s Sufi oriented Islam to the obscurantist Wahabi Islam which is regressive, anti-inclusive and antediluvian.

How to Become a Grand Strategist (unpublished)

April 8, 2015 

Wrote it for Esquire back in the fall of 2008 at the request of an editor there, but it never got published. Recalled it today when queried in a lengthy interview with a member of the CNO's SSG and realized I never posted it anywhere, so I do so now - just for my own personal recordkeeping:

How to Become a Grand Strategist (draft title)

There are four fundamental reasons why American grand strategy matters more right now than any other nation’s grand strategy.

The first is that the American example is provided the source code for this era’s version of globalization, which superseded the colonial model of world integration previously pursued by the Eurasian imperial powers. These United States represent the oldest and most successful multinational economic, political and security union on the planet, a collection of states whose integration has been so successful and so deep that we forget the fantastic journey that brought us to this present state of being. We should not, because it is our essential gift to world history, currently finding its replication—finally—in the European context from which we sprang. The success of that model, the European Union, has made it the second great source code for the future of globalization. By both improving on and falling short of the original, it provides the world a much-needed contrast (i.e., “go slow” globalization compared to our “go fast” model) in these tumultuous economic times. 

Modi’s Transatlantic Agenda

April 16, 2015

WASHINGTON—Diplomatically speaking, it has been a busy first year in power for India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. In addition to hosting the leaders of the United States, China, and Russia, he has embarked upon state visits to India’s major democratic partners — including Japan, the United States, and Australia — and attended multilateral summits in Brazil, Nepal, Australia, and Myanmar.

Over the past week, Modi undertook an unconventional transatlantic tour to France, Germany, and Canada. This constituted his first visit to Europe as prime minister and a common theme was implicit in that all three countries are G7 members, and as such, advanced, industrialized democracies. While Modi has received some criticism at home for his foreign trips, the flurry of diplomatic activity in his first year as prime minister indicates his clear desire to position India as an active international actor. Modi’s multifaceted agenda on his latest set of visits also conformed to what is now a familiar pattern of international engagement. Broadly speaking, his transatlantic tour over the past week served five important purposes.

The first was to seek investment and technological partnerships with the goal of rapidly developing India’s economy. This objective is at the centerpiece of Modi’s domestic agenda and political platform. While poverty levels in India have fallen dramatically since the early 1990s, the country is still home to the largest number of the world’s poor. The opportunity for growth is now immense given India’s political stability, market size, and low wages.

Why Russia Will Send More Troops to Central Asia

APRIL 11, 2015

Russian soldiers take part in the August 2014 Indestructible Brotherhood joint military exercises at the Ala-Too training ground in Kyrgyzstan. (VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia is making a concerted effort to increase its military and security presence throughout Central Asia, just not for the reasons it would have you think. Though the Kremlin is concerned with the threat of spillover violence from Islamist militancy in Afghanistan — its purported motive for deploying more troops — it is far more alarmed by what it sees as Chinese and Western encroachment into lands over which it has long held sway. It is this concern that will shape Moscow's behavior in Central Asia in the years to come.

Exploring the Indus Valley's Secrets

April 18, 2015

The oldest archaeologically attested civilization in South Asia continues to charm the world. 

This article is part of an ongoing series surveying archeological and historical sites across Asia. For the introduction to this series, please see here.

As mentioned in the introductory article to this series, one of the biggest problems facing many historical sites in Asia is a lack of funding and interest. However, there are also exceptions to this. One such exception: sites from the prestigious Indus Valley Civilization (IVC), which generates enormous interest in South Asia. The oldest archaeologically attested civilization in South Asia, roughly on par chronologically with ancient Egypt and Sumer, the IVC is considered the fount of ancient Indian civilization and its heritage is claimed by both Pakistan (where many IVC sites are now located) and India.

WikiLeaks publishes Sony docs, opens new phase of hacking

The release includes 30,287 documents and 173,132 e-mails, sent from or received by more than 2,200 Sony Pictures e-mail addresses

The material is searchable, giving legions of journalists and Sony competitors access to the information that was quickly taken down after it was first posted by hackers tied to North Korea. Photo: Bloomberg

Los Angeles: WikiLeaks published more than 200,000 internal Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. documents and e-mails, opening a new chapter in the hacking saga that enveloped Sony Corp.’s Hollywood studio late last year.

The release includes 30,287 documents and 173,132 e-mails, sent from or received by more than 2,200 Sony Pictures e-mail addresses, according to a WikiLeaks statement on Thursday. The material is searchable, giving legions of journalists and Sony competitors access to the information that was quickly taken down after it was first posted by hackers tied to North Korea.


April 14, 2015

Chinese Hackers Target Air-Gapped Networks In Southeast Asia

Swati Khandelwal, writing in the April 13, 2015 edition of TheHackerNews.com, describes how a state-sponsored cyber-espionage group — most likely linked to the Chinese government, has been targeting the so-called…“Air Gapped Networks,” that aren’t directly connected to the Internet.”

What Are Air-Gapped Systems?

As Mr. Khandelwal notes, “air-gapped systems are known to be the safest and most secure systems on Earth. These systems….are isolated from the Internet, or any other internet-connected computers, or external networks. Air gapped systems are generally used in the critical situations that demand high security — like payment networks — to process debit and credit card transactions, military networks, and in industrial control systems that operate the critical infrastructure of the Nation.”

Why Air-Gapped?