22 April 2015

No insaniyat for Pandits

Apr 21, 2015 

In Delhi, Mufti Sayeed and Union home minister Rajnath Singh agreed on clusters for Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley, but the next day Mr Sayeed reneged and echoed the views of the separatists 

It is a well-established fact that minorities in Muslim-majority countries have faced handicaps while Muslims in non-Muslim majority countries flourish, enjoying equal rights. The Indian subcontinent is a typical example. The population of Hindus in Pakistan has gone down from 24 per cent to one per cent and in Bangladesh from 28 per cent to nine per cent. On the other hand, the population of Muslims in India has been increasing in every decadal census. In the corresponding period, it increased from nine per cent to 13 per cent in 2001. Census data for 2011 has not yet been released but it is reported that their figure has increased further. 

In Pakistan, liberal press and columnists have been voicing concern over the abductions, forced conversions, misuse of blasphemy laws and the exodus of Hindus. In India, Muslims have been holding key positions in government, like those of President, vice-president, chief minister, home minister, service chief, intelligence chief and so on. They have also done well in the film industry and in business. The economic condition of Muslims in India is better than Muslims in Pakistan or Bangladesh. Of course, the overall condition of Muslims, like that of the Hindu backward classes, leaves much to be desired and suitable measures should be taken to improve their lot. 

The clean energy opportunity

April 22, 2015 

In the last six months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama have held historic meetings, brought India and the US closer together, and created a partnership to jointly seize the enormous economic and environmental opportunities,driving both countries towards a clean energy future. Addressing climate change will be challenging for each country in different ways, as we transition away from economies based on fossil fuels. But the clean energy future promises opportunities that dwarf these challenges: greater energy access, lower and less volatile energy costs over the long term, keeping energy dollars closer to home, spurring high-tech innovation, growing clean energy jobs and reducing greenhouse gasemissions and local air pollution. 

Eight years ago, with a focus on seizing these opportunities, the state government of Massachusetts (a small state in the US with a population 6.5 million) worked with the high-tech sector, universities, the investment community, municipalities and non-governmental organisations to re-write our energy reality. We harnessed markets. We brought regulations into the 21st century. We tried innovative policies. We encouraged new financing mechanisms. We opened the door for innovators to innovate and business people to grow businesses.Our goal was to take an outmoded energy system that was steeped in a 100-year history and unleash companies and entrepreneurs, cities and towns, and customers to deploy solar and wind power, buy electric vehicles, build smart grid infrastructure, developnew storage technologies and invest in a cleaner, more reliable, more stable system.The results have been astonishing, and on this Earth Day, it proves the notion thateconomic development and environmental protection can go hand in hand.

China’s landmark investments in Pakistan

April 21, 2015

The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and a former federal secretary. He has also served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board 

Hype aside, a seminal shift is taking place in Pakistan’s strategic orientation, as it dramatically enhances its cooperation with China in the economic, political and defence areas. With the US thinning its presence in Afghanistan and the region, China’s footprint will be fast increasing.The projected investment of $45 billion in various projects — spread over 10 to 15 years — that China is pledging is a manifestation of its expanding interest in Pakistan. For China, this would be the biggest investment it has made in any country, if it were to fully materialise. China’s investments are in line with its overall political and strategic goals, and are a demonstration of its confidence in Pakistan’s future. 

These investments, if properly executed, could be transformational. Pakistan’s greatest weakness is its dilapidated infrastructure. China’s investment aims at improving infrastructure, opening up of the neglected province of Balochistan and development of Gwadar as a strategic and commercial port. This in turn is likely to increase China’s and Pakistan’s presence in the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. The economic corridor will open up new business opportunities for both countries. Pakistan’s close alignment with China should partially contribute to countervailing India’s growing economic and military power. 

Modernising artillery to fight future wars

Gurmeet Kanwal
Apr 22 2015 

Modernisation of artillery has been neglected for over two decades. This despite the lessons learnt during the Kargil conflict of 1999, in which artillery firepower had undeniably paved the way for victory.

AFTER a decade of neglect under the two UPA regimes, military modernisation appears to be picking up pace again under the new NDA government. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), headed by interim Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, had approved projects worth Rs 80,000 crore in October 2014. The new Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, while chairing his maiden meeting of the DAC on November 22, 2014, cleared the long-pending proposal to acquire 814 truck-mounted guns of 155 mm/ 52-calibre for approximately Rs 15,750 crore. However, the approval merely amounted to “acceptance of necessity” (AON) — the first step in the acquisition process. It will be many years before the first few regiments are equipped with these guns.

Two birds, one $46 billion stone

By: Andrew Small
April 22, 2015 

After repeated cancellations, delays and false rumours, the fact that Chinese President Xi Jinping finally made it to Islamabad this week was a relief for the Pakistani government. As a rule, the China-Pakistan relationship rarely hinges on major bilateral visits, but each time Xi’s trip was pushed back, it seemed to reflect another hitch that might jeopardise China’s large-scale investment plans. Even now, there is understandable scepticism about whether the ambitions for a $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will actually come off. Security risks, logistical challenges and political controversies abound for what would be the largest overseas development-focused investment effort that China has ever attempted. But banking on another failure would be a mistake. This time, Beijing intends to press ahead with the initiatives despite Pakistan’s problems, and even partly because of them.

The clean energy opportunity

April 22, 2015 

In the last six months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama have held historic meetings, brought India and the US closer together, and created a partnership to jointly seize the enormous economic and environmental opportunities, driving both countries towards a clean energy future.

Addressing climate change will be challenging for each country in different ways, as we transition away from economies based on fossil fuels. But the clean energy future promises opportunities that dwarf these challenges: greater energy access, lower and less volatile energy costs over the long term, keeping energy dollars closer to home, spurring high-tech innovation, growing clean energy jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution.

A day in the fight for the right to know

April 22, 2015 12:42 am

Six bullets were pumped into my body on April 19, 2014 in Karachi. I was to make a journey from Islamabad to Karachi. I wasn’t very keen on the trip because I had received many threats a few days earlier. I wanted to go on leave and had already informed my management in writing about the threats.

The director of current affairs at Geo News was insistent that I conduct a special show from Karachi on suicide attacks: why the ratio of suicide attacks hadn’t gone down despite a 100-day break in US drone strikes. The channel was planning a talkshow with more than eight guests. It was not possible to do a programme like that in our humbler office in Islamabad. I agreed to do it from Karachi, but half-heartedly. I tried to deceive my ill-wishers by booking a flight from Islamabad to Quetta. I changed the flight only on the morning of April 19 and was sure that my enemies were much smarter than me. I shared my apprehensions with my wife. She sacrificed a black goat (Sadqa) before my departure.


By Air Marshal M. Matheswaran, AVSM VM PhD, (Retd)*
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France has resulted in several important agreements being signed. Two agreements stand out as the most important of these: the first is the inter-governmental agreement to buy 36 Rafale fighters off the shelf; the second is to expedite a techno-commercial agreement for the Jaitapur nuclear power plant project.

While the second was simply to ease the hindrances to an already concluded agreement, it is the first one that is of great relevance. The Rafale deal announced by the prime minister is indeed a very smart strategic decision taken by him. It is indicative of a deft and far-sighted handling of the issue by him. It, in all probability, brings down the curtains on the painfully long-drawn defence acquisition case.

Pakistan: The Most Dangerous Place

21 Apr , 2015

Today, it is well proven and acknowledged worldwide that the roots of Pakistan’s jihadism lie in its obsession with India, born out of the two-nation theory. Crafted by the fear that its powerful neighbour, India wants to dismember Pakistan and undo the Partition, supports the overall design of policies in Pakistan. The break-up of Pakistan in 1971 and emergence of Bangladesh from erstwhile East Pakistan as an independent nation has reinforced national paranoia. Contrary to convincing the country’s Punjabi elite of the need to come to terms with Pakistan’s size and power and finding security within the parameters of reality, the establishment in turn has fanned “India scare” to divert focus from internal challenges.

Pakistani society has drifted towards religious militancy over the last 20 to 25 years…

Xi visit to Pakistan: Strategic implications for India

20 Apr , 2015

The much-anticipated visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Pakistan is finally taking place on April 20 after having been postponed in September last year due to the internal political turmoil in Islamabad triggered at the time by Imran Khan. The two- day visit has aroused high expectations and has been preceded by a lyrical article in the Pakistan media authored by the Chinese president wherein he notes: “This will be my first trip to Pakistan, but I feel as if I am going to visit the home of my own brother.”

The current Xi visit to Pakistan is indicative of the manner in which China seeks to leverage the geography of Pakistan to its benefit.

Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons Program: 5 Things You Need to Know

April 21, 2015 

While the world continues to focus primarily on the threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, a potentially much greater nuclear threat has emerged just to its east: Pakistan, the Islamic world’s only nuclear-weapons state.

Pakistan is one of the world’s only eight declared nuclear powers and probably the one that causes the most mischief. Pakistan sponsors and harbors militant groups that carry out attacks in all of its neighbors: India, Afghanistan, Iran, and even China.

Although Pakistan argues that its nuclear weapons are well-guarded,many experts are not so sure, pointing out that the Taliban and other militants have frequently struck at supposedly secure military bases with impunity. More worrisome, though, is Pakistan’s history of proliferation, which increases the chance that one day some element or the other in the Pakistani military will provide nuclear materials to an even more dangerous third party—or even to a stable country like Saudi Arabia, which could set off an arms race in the Middle East.

Afghanistan and the Region

P. Stobdan
April 20, 2015

In its 16 March 2015 Resolution 2210 (2015) extending the mandate of United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA), the UN Security Council drew an optimistic scenario for the country. From all angles, Afghanistan is a transformed place: a robust unity government; stronger security force; better living standards; higher GDP growth; better schools for children and greater presence of women in the workforce. It further noted that Afghanistan is free of al-Qaeda training camps, the Taliban is subdued, and there is an improved atmosphere in its ties with Pakistan.

Not every observer is, however, convinced that Afghanistan is stable. The Unity Government, created to end the crisis set off by widespread election fraud, remains inherently divided and fragile. Power sharing among coalition groups remains hung up due to delay and differences. Ashraf Ghani is facing accusations of centralizing power, which he justifies as necessary for fighting corruption and better governance. Critics say the Chief Executive’s role remains ill-defined and they suspect that Abdullah Abdullah will be eventually sidelined. Already, the First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum is feeling marginalized. He was distraught and believed to have broken down during a recent meeting of the National Security Council.

Moreover, Afghanistan’s corrupt elite remains divided on a host of issues ranging from tackling terror, the Taliban and the economic agenda. The country is already facing a budget deficit. The external assistance needed to run the economy and ensure security is likely to gradually dry up. And not all are convinced that regional players are unlikely to resume their proxy war any time soon. No one can also wish away the fact that Afghanistan is tied to geopolitical issues relating to Pakistan-India, Iran-Saudi Arabia, and China-US-Russia. Given all this, the expectation is that Afghanistan may either fail or at best muddle through by struggling to survive as a divided country ruled by regional and tribal warlords and fiefdoms, and posing a significant security concern for the region and the world.

Balochistan: Enduring Tragedy

Ambreen Agha

On April 10, 2015, Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) militants shot dead at least 20 Punjabi and Sindhi construction labourers at point blank range at their camp in the Gagdan area of Turbat District. Out of the 20 deceased labourers, 16 were Punjabis, and four were Sindhis from the Hyderabad District in Sindh. A senior administration official Akbar Hussain Durrani disclosed that the militants had lined the labourers up and shot them at point blank range after confirming their identity.

BLF 'spokesman' Goran Baloch claimed responsibility for the attack, asserting, “We will continue our fight against Pakistani occupation until (the) liberation of Balochistan.”

Retaliating to the killing, the Frontier Corps killed at least 13 BLF militants in a raid on April 13, 2015, including one key militant 'commander' Hayat Bewas in the same area. Leveling charges of extrajudicial killing on the SFs, leader of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) Abdul Qadeer Baloch, also known as Mama Qadeer, at a Press Conference at the Karachi Press Club in Karachi, on April 16, 2015, claimed that five of the 13 suspects killed had been missing for some time. The claim leaves the incident shrouded in controversy. As SAIR has noted in the past,extrajudicial killings by state agencies have become a recurring problem in the Province.

The April 10 killing was the first incident of ethnic violence in Balochistan in 2015. There are, however, other precedents in the Province, such as the October 19, 2014, incident in which at least nine Punjabi poultry farm labourers were found dead in the Sakran area of Hub tehsil (revenue unit) in Lasbela District. Unidentified militants had abducted the 11 workers from a poultry farm in Sakran on October 18, 2015, and had killed nine of them after checking their identity cards. The remaining two were set free because they were from the Lasbela District of Balochistan. The United Baloch Front (UBF) had claimed responsibility for the October 2014 killings.

Danger: China Is Building Massive Mobile Islands

April 20, 2015 

Not content with transforming reefs into air strips, China is now building massive new floating islands that are likely to be used by the military in the South China Sea.

Over at their “Eastern Arsenal” blog on Popular Science, Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer report on a press conference this month announcing the new floating islands. They note that the islands will be built by two Chinese companies— Jidong Development Group (JDG) and Hainan Hai Industrial Company—and the first of them will be used for offshore oil and gas exploration at the South China Sea.

However, Lin and Singer also report that a People’s Liberation Army officer spoke at the press conference, and that the floating islands have many military uses.

Japan's Increasingly Uncertain Security Environment

April 21, 2015

The National Institute for Defense Studies, the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s think tank, produced its annual report, the East Asian Strategic Review, for 2015 on April 10. A key theme throughout the analysis (which covers the 2014 calendar year) was the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s national defense reform and increasing range of exercises.

For example, China and Russia have increased the number of joint military drills in a way that is sparking concern in Tokyo. One such joint exercise involved aircraft identification and air defense, with consideration given to how a crisis situation involving the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea might play out.

Cambodia’s Hun Sen Slams ASEAN-Splitting TPP

April 21, 2015

On April 19, the 24th World Economic Forum on East Asia kicked off in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. One of the main events was a conversation on “East Asia in the New Global Context,” which featured two heads of state – Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen and Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Jokowi’s keynote address stole the show as he delivered a vigorous defense of the case for reform in Indonesia, which has seen its fair share of challenges under his presidency thus far. But Hun Sen’s remarks before that were notable too.

When Hun Sen began his speech, there was little about it that suggested that a sudden tirade was on the way. He began by politely thanking Indonesia for hosting the forum and then delved into a brief and rather predictable list on what regional priorities should be, including ensuring regional cooperation and inclusive economic growth.

This Is Where ISIS Gets Its Weed


THE BEKAA VALLEY, Lebanon — They are killing Syrians and each other at an astronomical rate but there seems to be one thing that jihadist troops and Assad allies are working together on: getting high on Lebanon’s supply. 

Just across a snow-capped mountain range from the Bekaa Valley are weed fields tended mostly by poor, Assad-friendly Shia farmers. But business is business. They tell The Daily Beast they are selling their products to ISIS recruits, who are allegedly blazing Lebanese blond and reselling it to fund their atrocities. 

“Last month we sold one ton of hash to ISIS,” says “Imad,” who farms a 15-acre cannabis plot in the shadow of the Qalamoun Mountains that separate the valley from Syria. 

Beyond the Iran Deal: Imagining the Regional Security Implications

April 21, 2015 

The likely achievement this year of a decade-plus containment of Iran's nuclear activities has broad and largely positive implications for regional security, but it will take leadership, courage and imagination to realize them. For now, the loudest voices in the Arab world show that the nuclear negotiations were only one way of measuring the threat perception from Iran. Even if everyone agreed that the actual danger of a nuclear armed Iran has been dramatically reduced for many years to come, Iran still poses a profound threat because of its potential to set the regional agenda and successfully engage internationally in ways the turbulent and troubled Arab world cannot. But Arab leaders, particularly in the Gulf, could shift their mindset, show more confidence that, as a collective, they are a worthy peer of Iran, and begin to build a regional strategy for constructive engagement with Iran.

How Iran Fooled the United States

April 20, 2015 

The recent interim framework struck by the United States, its partners, and Iran in Lausanne has generated a tremendous amount of commentary from both supporters and opponents of the deal. Unfortunately, little of that commentary has focused on what Iran was trying to achieve in these negotiations.

Looking at the framework the negotiations produced it seems that U.S. negotiators suffered from this same myopia. In any negotiation, success rests, in part, on the ability to see things from the other party’s point of view. The failure to understand Iran’s actual goals in Switzerland has led to a deal that focuses on things that don’t matter very much, like breakout times and the logistics of inspections, and not at all on the things that matter most. The result is a deal that gives Iran what it wanted most: time and money. The United States and its international partners received in return vague assurances and a press conference that Iran is already backing away from.

A Colorado Biker Who Calls Himself 'Necromancer' Is Fighting ISIS In Iraq

04.20.155:25 AM ET 

From Colorado biker gang to the front lines in Iraq, ‘Mickey’ is the American the Kurds respect. 
Of the American volunteers who have joined Kurdish Peshmerga forces battling against ISIS in Iraq, Mickey stands out. The blonde hair combed back on his head comes to a point on his chin in a goatee, like the kind he might have worn when he was still riding with his motorcycle club in Colorado. Mickey is not his real name but it’s what he’s called by his fellow Americans and their Kurdish comrades. The name tape on his military uniform reads “necromancer.” 

“The Peshmerga officer was dying next to me, but there was nowhere to go. He died there. I couldn’t move him because of all the machinegun fire,” Mickey tells me, describing a recent battle against ISIS. 

Three weeks ago, 45 km south of Kirkuk, near the city of Daquq, American soldiers were once again locked in deadly combat with Islamic extremists. This time though it was not the U.S. military or private security contractors. These were American volunteers fighting alongside the Peshmerga and wearing Kurdish flags.

Sale of U.S. Arms Fuels the Wars of Arab States

APRIL 18, 2015 

Qatar is seeking to purchase Boeing F-15 fighters to replace its aging French Mirage jets, above.CreditLouisa Gouliamaki/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

ar in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is using F-15 fighter jets bought from Boeing. Pilots from the United Arab Emirates are flying Lockheed Martin’s F-16 to bomb both Yemen and Syria. Soon, the Emirates are expected to complete a deal with General Atomics for a fleet of Predator drones to run spying missions in their neighborhood.

As the Middle East descends into proxy wars, sectarian conflicts and battles against terrorist networks, countries in the region that have stockpiled American military hardware are now actually using it and wanting more. The result is a boom for American defense contractors looking for foreign business in an era of shrinking Pentagon budgets — but also the prospect of a dangerous new arms race in a region where the map of alliances has been sharply redrawn.

Last week, defense industry officials told Congress that they were expecting within days a request from Arab allies fighting the Islamic State — Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt — to buy thousands of American-made missiles, bombs and other weapons, replenishing an arsenal that has been depleted over the past year.

The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State

By Christoph Reuter

An Iraqi officer planned Islamic State's takeover in Syria and SPIEGEL has been given exclusive access to his papers. They portray an organization that, while seemingly driven by religious fanaticism, is actually coldly calculating.

Aloof. Polite. Cajoling. Extremely attentive. Restrained. Dishonest. Inscrutable. Malicious. The rebels from northern Syria, remembering encounters with him months later, recall completely different facets of the man. But they agree on one thing: "We never knew exactly who we were sitting across from."

In fact, not even those who shot and killed him after a brief firefight in the town of Tal Rifaat on a January morning in 2014 knew the true identity of the tall man in his late fifties. They were unaware that they had killed the strategic head of the group calling itself "Islamic State" (IS). The fact that this could have happened at all was the result of a rare but fatal miscalculation by the brilliant planner. The local rebels placed the body into a refrigerator, in which they intended to bury him. Only later, when they realized how important the man was, did they lift his body out again.Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi was the real name of the Iraqi, whose bony features were softened by a white beard. But no one knew him by that name. Even his best-known pseudonym, Haji Bakr, wasn't widely known. But that was precisely part of the plan. The former colonel in the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein's air defense force had been secretly pulling the strings at IS for years. Former members of the group had repeatedly mentioned him as one of its leading figures. Still, it was never clear what exactly his role was.

Maoists: Chhattisgarh: TCO Escalates

Deepak Kumar Nayak

…our subjective forces seriously lag behind the objective situation. Thus we see the contradiction, the glaring gap between the potential of the objective situation and the subjective capacities of the Maoist forces. The history of the world revolution teaches us that the principal way to overcome this is by waging revolution and advancing to victory. 

Muppalla Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathy in a supplement to Central Committee message issued on 10th anniversary of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) 

There has been an abrupt spike in Maoist violence in the Bastar Division of Chhattisgarh, with 14 Security Force (SF) personnel killed, and 17 vehicles set on fire, by cadres of the Communist Party of India – Maoist (CPI-Maoist) between April 11 and 15, 2015. 

On April 11, seven personnel of the Special Task Force (STF) of Chhattisgarh Police, including Platoon Commander Shankar Rao, were killed and 11 others were injured when Maoists ambushed an STF team of 49 personnel in the forests near Pidmal village under the Polampalli Police Station in Sukma District.

Barely, 24 hours had passed, when the Maoists set afire at least 17 vehicles engaged in mining work at the Barbaspur iron ore mining site under the limits of the Korar Police Station in Kanker District on April 12.

Striking on the same day, the Maoists attacked a Border Security Force (BSF) contingent that was patrolling the Chhote Baithiya BSF Camp under the Bande Police Station area, in Kanker District, late in the night of April 12, killing a trooper. Later, the body of one Maoist, killed in the return of fire, was recovered.

The New U.S. Maritime Strategy: A Navy Perspective

"The 2015 Maritime Strategy is where vision and action come together."

The nation’s three Sea Services have revised their 2007 Maritime Strategy, more formally titled A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower: Forward, Engaged Ready. Changes in the world since 2007, new strategic guidance, and our current fiscal circumstances have compelled this revision. Security threats have become more sophisticated, widespread, and sinister. We face new or evolving threats from violent extremist organizations such as Boko Haram, al Qaeda in Yemen, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); from Russia with its current unlawful aggression in the Ukraine; from North Korea and Iran; and from the proliferation of anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities that threaten our access in cyberspace and in the global commons. Additionally, we face a rising China that presents both opportunities and challenges. In response to this new security calculus, the revised Strategy explains how the U.S. Navy will design, organize, and employ its forces in support of national security interests. It describes a Navy built and ready for any challenge from a high-end war to humanitarian operations.

The Hillary Clinton Doctrine

April 21, 2015 

AS THE 2016 U.S. presidential race begins to take shape, would-be Republican candidates have begun to outline their foreign-policy agendas. But little remains known officially of the foreign-policy agenda of the current favorite to win the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, who has not publicly announced her intent to run for the presidency. As terrorism, cybersecurity, communicable diseases and other global concerns remain in the forefront of Americans’ minds, and with no incumbent running, the race presents an opportunity for a healthy—and perhaps heated—discussion of foreign policy.

In recent decades, the most notable change in presidential politics has been the end of the Republican Party’s dominance on national-security issues. After the 1988 presidential election, when George H. W. Bush crushed a hapless Michael Dukakis, many observers postulated that Democrats could no longer win the presidency in light of their vulnerability on foreign policy.

Obama's Realism

April 20, 2015 

Edward Luce in the Financial Times has a take on Barack Obama's foreign policythat is accurate and should be evident to all. But given the state of foreign policy discourse within American politics, perhaps it is not surprising that it falls to a longtime foreign observer of American policy and politics to make this particular observation. Luce states that as Mr. Obama's presidency “matures,” he “is showing qualities one would normally associate with Henry Kissinger—the arch-realist of U.S. diplomacy.” Luce points to Obama's handling of relations with both Iran and Cuba as evidence that he “is grasping the essence of diplomacy—when adversaries come to terms, neither achieves everything they want,” and that he realizes that “the perfect should not be the enemy of the good.”

Australia, MIKTA and the Middle Power Question

By Helen Clark
April 20, 2015

What should you call Australia: a middle power or a top 20 nation? It’s a debate that has been going on for a while now, and is largely driven by whoever is in power. The question is not useful in itself – and is largely a matter of political taste – but using it to explore Australia’s place in the world, and its region, can be illuminating.

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd liked the “middle power” tag for Australia. Julie Bishop prefers “top 20 nation,” a tag debuted not so long before Australia hosted the G20. So, which one? The former term has a lengthy history. The latter builds on ideas put forward by previous Liberal foreign ministers that Australia is more important than middle, or middling.


April 20, 2015

In October 2014, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglutold CNN’s Christian Amanpour that, should the United States impose a no-fly-zone, Turkey would deploy troops in Northern Syria. Thereafter, Ankara released a map describing a Turkish and American-patrolled buffer zone that included Turkey’s entire border with Syria, except for the Islamic State-controlled area surrounding the city of Tel Abyad.

Turkey has advocated for the use of air power to carve out a safe zone along the border – and extending down to the city of Aleppo – since November 2011. Ankara envisioned using this zone to help organize the Syrian opposition so that they could put pressure on Bashar al Assad to step down as president. Assad’s exit has been Ankara’s goal since September 2011, when it broke with the Syrian regime in Damascus.

The United States has balked at Turkey’s repeated requests for a more aggressive policy in Syria. This American reluctance has prompted considerable speculation that Ankara could choose to go it alone in Syria. In line with this, Turkish sources have been quietly telling people for months that they have been working closely with Saudi Arabia on a strategy to intervene in Syria.

Why Are Colleges Cancelling ‘American Sniper’?


Yes, it’s political correctness run amok. But it’s more than that. Campuses are grooming whiners because they aren’t nurturing citizens. 

The pattern of on-campus culture wars is now as familiar as the plot of a blockbuster film. And no sooner did the University of Michigan’s Center for Campus Involvement announce a screening of American Sniper than a wave of upset broke out. 

Things escalated quickly. The Michigan Muslim Students’ Association organized an open letter campaign, boasting 200 signatures, against the event. CCI balked, first canning and then rescheduling the social gathering. Michigan’s celebrity football coach, Jim Harbaugh, vehemently tweeted his support. A key administrator reinstated the original screening. And some irate students at other campuses—like Brown University’s Nicholas Asker—found themselves momentary media stars by claiming that, after all, “canceling the movie is perfectly consistent with freedom of expression, and showing the movie is what contradicts freedom of expression.”

Designing Sound Defence Offset Policies

April 17, 2015

‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread’ could well be an apt adage in the context of the rolling out of offsets and related counter-obligations in defence procurement rules worldwide. There has been a steadily growing clamour in many countries for imposing such requirements in big ticket government contracts. This has happened despite the fact that only a handful of the more than 100 countries that now impose such obligations in defence and civil acquisition programmes1 have been able to intelligently use offsets to invigorate domestic hi-tech production and manufacturing. Notable among these are the United States (direct offset requirements through “Buy American” and “little Buy American” provisions),2 Israel (mixed offsets as industrial cooperation),3 South Korea (mostly direct offsets),4 Canada (as industrial and regional benefits),5 Turkey (mixed offsets)6 and now Malaysia.7 In this commentary, these countries are referred to as ‘The Smarter Lot’ in terms of the design of sound offset policies.

For most other countries, ‘offsets for domestic industry development’ appears to be a merely convenient rhetoric. They have ignored the serious potential for the abuse of domestic offset partners, for instance as willing conduits to shroud fraudulent transactions in a manner that stays ‘compliant’ with anti-(foreign) bribery regulations such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in the US and the Anti-Bribery Act (ABA) in the UK by exploiting a variety of ingenuous loopholes that are intrinsically embedded therein.

Government claims of windfall gains from coal auction lack clarity

Nitin Sethi Ishan Bakshi 
April 21, 2015

The Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has made much of its claim that state governments stand to make windfall gains, upwards of Rs 2 lakh crore, from auction of coal blocks - more than the loss to the exchequer, as estimated by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), because of random allocation of blocks by the previous government.

Clearly, an auction will generate larger sums than the allocations did during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime, when states got only the royalties. But the government's claims over the auction proceeds do not seem to stand the test of a closer scrutiny.

Only when all auctioned blocks actually begin to produce in full steam, in line with existing mining plans, will coal-bearing states make an annual Rs 6,284 crore from the auction, shows a Business Standard analysis of government data. Over the lifetime of the mining plan for the auctioned blocks or over 30 years, whichever is lower, states stand to earn Rs 1.77 lakh crore. This is perhaps why the government has always claimed in its official communications that it is 'potential revenue' for states from auctions, and not 'revenue'.