9 May 2015

When Mr Narendra Modi goes to China

The conventional wisdom is that China and India, two fast-growing giants, are trapped in a zero-sum strategic rivalry. China, which was Asia’s dominant power for centuries, wants to reassert its hegemony and regards a powerful India as an obstacle to its ambitions. India, a victim of Western colonialism, sees itself as South Asia’s undisputed regional leader and views any attempt by China to establish its primacy in Asia as a threat to its national security and economic interests.

As with most conventional wisdoms, the perception that India and China are strategic rivals has substantial factual basis. Indeed, China and India have been engaged in delicate geopolitical manoeuvring to balance each other. China has given substantial economic and military aid to Pakistan, India’s nemesis, to check Indian power. In addition, Beijing has been energetically wooing Southeast Asian countries through trade and investment to gain “first mover” advantage in a region of enormous strategic value to both India and China.
In response, India has moved closer to the United States, which regards India as a natural strategic partner in maintaining Asia’s balance of power. The burgeoning US-India relationship has greatly strengthened New Delhi’s bargaining position vis-à-vis Beijing. At the same time, India has also become more active in East and Southeast Asia. India-Japan relations have greatly improved in recent years. On the maritime disputes in the South China Sea, India has taken a bold stance that essentially rejects Beijing’s claims. This has won Delhi friends in Southeast Asia, even though it has infuriated China.

Special to the Express: How the NDRF raced against time in Nepal

By: O P Singh
May 9, 2015
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As I boarded an Air India flight to India with my rescue teams, preparing to withdraw from disaster-stricken Nepal, the memories of a people who had survived a “natural” disaster filled my mind. I had seen a society in mourning, uncertainty and despair adding to their suffering.

I had witnessed arguments on the preparedness for such disasters. As people try to put back things together, they also know that future earthquakes are inevitable. Because as Edward Simpson, professor in social anthropology at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, writes: “An earthquake does not conclude. It lives in metaphor and history, passing in and out of popular consciousness.”
The April 25 earthquake that devastated Nepal stunned the entire world. It was the Himalayan nation’s deadliest disaster in more than 80 years, killing thousands and causing immense destruction.
The first international response and assurance to the Nepalese people came from the Indian Prime Minister who spoke to the political leaders of the devastated nation and promptly dispatched a strong contingent of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) as an Indian search-and-rescue force.

Swift and coordinated rescue efforts make a difference in coping with the aftermath of any disaster, natural or otherwise, in terms of saving lives and minimizing property loss. The severity of the Nepal disaster, with the death toll rising steadily and many buried in remote mountainous regions, warranted large, swift and coordinated rescue efforts.
Constrained by limited resources, Nepal simply could not cope alone and, therefore, the assurance given by India’s Prime Minister provided succour to the grief-stricken people. In keeping with its commitment to humanitarian causes, India led the way in rescue-and-relief. Its first seven rescue teams, comprising 305 multi-skilled and internationally-trained personnel of NDRF, reached Kathmandu within six hours of the tragedy and started round-the-clock rescue operations in the affected areas of the valley and its surroundings.

Regaining lost clout

Welcoming the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, in India recently, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, underlined that "the relationship between India and Afghanistan is not just between two countries or governments. It is a timeless link of human hearts." Modi was making it clear that India would support Afghanistan's security forces and open the Attari check-post in Punjab to Afghan trucks in order to increase trade between the two countries. He stated, "India will walk shoulder to shoulder with you and the Afghan people in a mission of global importance." Ghani stated that the "shadow of terror haunts our children, women and youth, terror must be confronted and must be overcome. Terror cannot be classified into good or bad... We are determined to change the regional nature of cooperation." In addition to proclaiming India's support for Afghanistan's security forces, Modi announced that India is "prepared to join the successor agreement to Afghan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement", which will "re-establish one of the oldest trading routes of South Asia".

But, even as the Afghan president is welcomed in India, there is a sense that New Delhi is fast losing its carefully nurtured decade-old clout in Afghanistan. Compared to his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, Ghani has been lukewarm to India. His visit to Delhi comes long after his outreach to Pakistan and China, both of which seem more firmly embedded in the peace overtures to the Taliban than India. Ghani has been to Pakistan twice and the Afghan army chief recently attended the passing-out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul. The Ghani government has also been keen to see China taking a more active role in the reconciliation process. India stands isolated, with many in the country wondering what happened to the much-hyped Delhi-Kabul strategic partnership.

It is not that Delhi has not been active. Soon after the Modi government came to office in India, the external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, visited Afghanistan in September, 2014, to underscore India's commitment to remain engaged in the country's reconstruction activities in a significant way. Describing India as Afghanistan's first strategic partner, Swaraj suggested that Delhi would always share the Afghan people's vision of a "strong" and "prosperous" Afghanistan. Delhi has conveyed to the Ghani government, in strong terms, that India is there to stay in Afghanistan even after the Western troops have left. The Modi government is keen to expand its security profile in Afghanistan and has provided Kabul with military jeeps, choppers and automated weapons in a bid to strengthen the army as a first step in that direction. It has also, after years of dilly-dallying under the previous government, taken a decision to invest $85.21 million in developing the strategically important Chahbahar port in Iran, allowing India to circumvent Pakistan and open up a route to landlocked Afghanistan.

How Many Nuclear Weapons Do India and Pakistan Need?

Enough is enough. Time for a consensus.

Pakistan’s former Director-General of the Strategic Plans Division, Lt. General Khalid Kidwai’s recent remarks that Pakistan has enough nuclear weapons to ensure that war in South Asia is no longer an option, were carefully measured but caused apprehension. The remarks appeared to suggest that the nuclear deterrence debate in South Asia is settled. Of course, the debate is far from settled.

As nuclear arsenals around the world grow, the “how many nuclear weapons are enough” question continues to trouble policy-makers and strategists. In South Asia, the question is addressed by the local catch-phrase “credible minimum deterrence,” which suggests a small but highly survivable nuclear force. However, that concept is ambiguously-defined and vague enough to permit an expansion of nuclear arsenals able to meet both India and Pakistan’s dynamic security and deterrence requirements. In practice, both countries have interpreted credible minimum deterrence to mean nuclear arsenals sized currently between 90-120 weapons, deliverable by ballistic missiles, bombers, and eventually, nuclear submarines. The size of the arsenal has grown according to the strategic environment, adversary’s size and sophistication of forces. Despite protests that they are not engaged in a nuclear arms race, nuclear forces are growing in both countries.

The complications and ambiguities surrounding the notion of credible minimum deterrence—deliberate or not—confound many in the international community as to where Indian and Pakistani nuclear developments are headed. The discomfort is understandable. The Cold War’s ideational predecessor of minimum deterrence—the doctrine of nuclear sufficiency—ultimately led to enormous nuclear arsenals in both the United States and Soviet Union. A look at the strategic drivers for Indian and Pakistani credible minimum deterrence sheds light on India’s and Pakistan’s calculations as to how many nuclear weapons are enough.

RBI takes aim at defaulters

 Shantanu Guha Ray 
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The central bank chief, Raghuram Rajan, hopes to recover at least a part of `22,500 crore

India’s top banker, it is rumoured in Delhi’s corridors of power, is on a hyperbole to recover the lost cash of India’s nationalised banks and even set a deadline for the same.

Raghuram Rajan, the suave chief of the Mumbai-based Reserve Bank of India, has roped in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) because he feels that is the best way to get some “genuine action” in solving India’s 10 biggest bank frauds. What is interesting is these defaulters are all prominent real estate, media and diamond firms, all probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the country’s premier investigating agency.

Rajan, who has the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on his side, knows that the defaulters will hide in their high-value legal glasshouses and avoid paying up. But Rajan cannot let the banks slow down their pace of recovery to let the fraudsters off the hook.

The cash lost is huge, pegged at about Rs22,500 crore, almost the same amount New Delhi hopes to get from selling 10 per cent stake in the Kolkata-based Coal India, or the cash state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) is keeping as reserve for international investments in hydrocarbon projects.

India's Five Greatest Empires of All Time

May 8, 2015 

You won't believe what these states accomplished...

South Asia is like a world unto itself. Also known as the Indian subcontinent, its particular geography and climate have always led to it having distinct sets of histories and cultures. Currently, over a fifth of the world’s population lives on a landmass almost the size of Europe excluding Russia—it contains deserts, polar-like conditions, rainforests, plains, hills, and temperate forests. In short, South Asia is a microcosm of the world.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that its history is complex, with empires, states, and independent cities often coexisting together in the region. South Asia’s historical political configuration bears more resemblance to Europe’s than China’s: a recurring theme in South Asian history has been the difficulty of creating and maintaining empires that span the entire subcontinent, with smaller, regional states being the norm. As in traditional Hinduism's idea of reincarnation, empires are born to die, only to give rise to new empires, which then fall, in a never-ending cycle.

With that in mind, here are South Asia’s five greatest empires. Since the Mughal and British Empires are well known to western audiences, I have decided to omit them and focus on the pre-European, pre-Islamic empires of South Asia.

Maurya Empire

The Maurya Empire (320-185 B.C.E.) was the first major historical Indian empire, and definitely the largest one created by an Indian dynasty. The empire arose as a consequence of state consolidation in northern India, which led to one state, Magadha, in today’s Bihar, dominating the Ganges plain. In the wake of Alexander the Great’s invasion of northwest India, one Chandragupta Maurya took over Magadha and created the Maurya Empire.

The empire was initially very successful both internally and in terms of foreign policy. Many of its policies were set out by Chanakya, Chandragupta’s minister, who wrote a book advocating a strong, centralized, authoritarian state, The Arthashastra. After a treaty with Alexander’s generals, the empire acquired territory in Afghanistan and Iran. By the time of Chandragupta’s grandson’s reign, the empire included most of South Asia except the southernmost parts of it. This grandson, Ashoka, is famous for having embraced Buddhism due to remorse after his bloody conquest of Kalinga (today’s Orissa) around 260 B.C.E. This elevated the nascent religion.

Afghanistan: Where Warlords Fear to Tread

By Patrick Knapp
May 07, 2015

Afghanistan’s complexity refuses to fade as quickly as its strategic importance. 

Among the greatest hits of a popular wedding singer in Tarin Kot, the capital city of the Afghan province that has produced such specimens as Mullah Omar and the man who cut off the nose of the girl on the 2010 Time cover, is a ditty about an illiterate former taxi driver, set to rebab and accordion. “Across the mountains all the people know you / For you have killed many Talibs with your bare hands / God has saved you every time / You are Matiullah Khan.”

But if you believe the reports of Afghan security officials, God did not save Matiullah Khan – a warlord and longtime U.S. patron in the Afghanistan War – from a cross-dressing suicide bomber who lured him into the backstreets of Kabul’s police district 6 one night last March. The assassination, and the demure reaction of U.S. and Afghan officials, suggests Afghanistan is moving beyond the days when American counterinsurgents channeled tens of millions of dollars to anti-Taliban strongmen, and is thus in line with the White House’s February National Security Strategy declaration that “we have moved beyond the large ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that defined so much of American foreign policy over the past decade.”

Yet war has not yet moved beyond the elders of Uruzgan, where Matiullah’s replacement as police chief was shot dead by a suspected Taliban infiltrator last Sunday. They remain suspicious of the circumstances and contradictory official reports of the death of Matiullah, a man as infamous for his security precautions as he was for his summary executions of alleged Talibs. They wonder how he was seen exiting his downtown hotel on his cell phone during a rare visit to Kabul one moment, only to be blown up across town the next. Being quite familiar with the various compositions of corpses of suicide bombings, they wonder how his remained intact. Not having received any public condolences from President Ashraf Ghani, they have led protests of thousands in Tarin Kot, threatening to renounce a government that has moved beyond them.

U.S. Arms Sales and Grants to Pakistan from 2001 to May 4, 2015 (as compiled by the Congressional Research Service)

How Pakistan Plays the Middle East

Anthony Bubalo recently lamented that alliances and enmities in the Middle East are becoming so complex that even long-term watchers are struggling to keep up. Well, if that's the case, Pakistan just added to the layers of confusion.

Last month, Pakistan surprisingly refused to join its long-time ally and benefactor Saudi Arabia in its intervention to combat Houthi rebels in Yemen. As the royal kingdom sought to build its coalition, most analysts believed Pakistan's involvement was a foregone conclusion. 

There were many reasons to make this assumption. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spent much of his time in exile in Riyadh and may owe his political career and even his life to the deft diplomacy of the royal family (Nawaz and his brother Shahbaz were provided sanctuary in Saudi Arabia after General Pervez Musharraf seized power in a military coup).

Beyond these close personal ties, the Saudi-Pakistan relationship has been extremely close since the 1960s, when Saudi King Faisal sought to consolidate the Gulf state's position as a leader of the Muslim world by bringing the newly established Pakistan into its orbit.

Military links also grew rapidly. In 1969, Pakistani pilots flew Saudi jets to thwart Yemeni incursions into the kingdom, and throughout the Cold War Pakistani troops were stationed in the royal kingdom to defend Saudi territory. In 1991, Pakistan deployed troops to the kingdom during the first Iraq War. Most recently, Saudi Arabia gave an “unconditional loan” to the new Nawaz Government to shore up its foreign exchange reserves. So it seemed logical that, in what is often described as a patron-client relationship, Islamabad would be there for its benefactor. 

But there are several obvious reasons why Pakistan declined, and few of them point to a fundamental shift in Pakistan's strategic outlook. Indeed, they reflect continuity in Pakistan's handling of the Middle East.

Afghanistan Is Too Dangerous for Congressional Visits


Lawmakers and their aides say that oversight of America’s longest war is hampered by the military’s decision. 
President Obama may have declared that the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan has ended. But the country is still so dangerous that the Pentagon has banned members of Congress and their aides from traveling there this summer, U.S. officials told The Daily Beast. 

While the Pentagon’s ban was officially issued as “guidance,” congressional aides are calling it a “blackout” that prevents lawmakers from performing their oversight duties. The U.S. has spent trillions in taxpayer dollars fighting a war in Afghanistan and training and equipping the country’s security forces. But this summer sees the beginning of the traditional fighting season, when Taliban violence flares up. And with thousands of American troops pulling out of the country, the Pentagon doesn’t have the equipment and manpower to keep visiting legislators and their staff safe, officials said. 

“What we find problematic about this is that it highlights the fact that we don’t have enough troops there to support the mission,” one senior Senate aide told The Daily Beast. “Concerns regarding taking U.S. congressional staff or lawmakers to the region show that there aren’t enough resources in the region to take people there safely—and that it’s not safe even though [the Obama administration] said the war is over.” 

The Pentagon has issued travel restrictions during the summer for the past several years. But the fact that these restrictions are now continuing through the official end of U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan highlights the fragile security situation nearly 14 years after the U.S. invaded the country to topple the Taliban and attack Al Qaeda terrorists. 

The First Battle of the 21st Century

MAY 5, 2015 

 An Afghan soldier at Qala-i-Jangi, where Taliban fighters fought the Northern Alliance and U.S. special forces in 2001.Ben Brody

MAZAR-I–SHARIF, Afghanistan—A thin, black ribbon of highway known as the Ring Road wound its way out of this bustling city through a patchwork of lush wheat and cotton fields. We turned onto a dirt road where the mud-brick ramparts of an imposing 19th-century fortress rose suddenly on the horizon.

The Qala-i-Jangi fortress is protected by walls 60 feet high and 30 feet thick. Along the walls are gun turrets and lookouts that have been used to guard against invaders from the British to the Soviets to the Americans. It was here that the United States suffered its first casualty in what would become the longest war in American history. I had come with a reporting team in the early spring as the fields turned green, at the start of what has become known in Afghanistan as “the fighting season.”

What If America Had Never Invaded Afghanistan?Qala-i-Jangi was the site of a legendary and bloody battle in November 2001, during the earliest days of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. Mike Spann, a former Marine turned CIA agent, was killed while interrogating Taliban fighters, including many foreigners allied with the movement, who then staged an uprising inside the fortress. The leaders of the Taliban forces had previously feigned surrender and then ambushed Spann and Afghan forces who belonged to the U.S.-supported network of anti-Taliban militias known as the Northern Alliance. A three-day siege followed. U.S. special forces arrived on horseback and pointed lasers on targets, providing the coordinates for F-18 fighter jets to slam 500-pound guided missiles down on the ragtag Taliban fighters. The scene was a mix of the medieval and the modern: the first battle of the 21st century.

Why Are Chinese Frigates in the Black Sea?

May 07, 2015

The Chinese People's Liberation Army-Navy Jiangkai II-class frigate Linyi (FFG 547) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

China’s frigates may be in the Black Sea on a mission that’s part symbolism, part marketing. 

Marking a new milestone for China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), two guided missile frigates, reportedly the Linyi and the Weifang, entered the Black Sea on Monday. USNI News broke the story, accompanying it with photographs of the Linyi passing through the Bosphorous on May 4. The pair of frigates are en route to Russia’s naval base at Novorossiysk where they will arrive on May 9 and remain until Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Moscow to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe.

The two frigates are in the Black Sea after participating with Russia in the first joint Russia-China naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea. (The Linyi, as some Diplomat readers may recall, drew headlines last month after being used to evacuate Chinese and non-Chinese citizens alike from Yemen amid a Saudi-led bombing campaign there.)

The visit of the two frigates could have commercial intentions as well. A report in the Taiwan-based Want China Times last week made the case that the PLAN was using the Mediterranean exercise as an opportunity to show off the ability of its Type 054A Jiangkai II-class frigates for the Russian Navy. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s surface ship-building capability is known to have taken a great hit.


Many Indian prime ministers have visited abroad in pursuit of national interests, although such visits to China were few and far in between, with five PMs visiting Beijing six times in as many decades. Some of these visits – by Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi and Vajpayee – have been described as “breakthroughs” for recognising Tibet and Taiwan as a part of China, with no reciprocal Chinese statement that Kashmir or Arunachal Pradesh are a part of India. With PM Modi planning to make a trip to China from May 14-16, the first time an Indian prime minister will be visiting Beijing in the first year of his first term, it is natural – as PM Modi told his Chinese interlocutors – to expect “concrete outcomes” during the visit. For this visit to be successful, India needs to seek several clarifications and positive approvals from China on a host of issues in the realm of bilateral relations and beyond.

Firstly, PM Modi needs to draw certain red and amber lines in diplomatic interactions with Beijing. This is in the light of China’s recent policies towards Arunachal Pradesh and Kashmir. China had revised the Arunachal Pradesh policy by arguing in the 1950s that the 1914 McMahon Line is illegal to agreeing in the late 1950s to recognisethe southern portion of McMahon Line [i.e. the current state of Arunachal Pradesh] to the 2006 position that the “entire state of Arunachal Pradesh is disputed”. Since 2006, China’s documents have been referring to Arunachal Pradesh as “southern Tibet” i.e. as an extension of Tibet!

China had also revised its Kashmir policy from Mao Zedong terming the division of the sub-continent in 1947 as “unnatural” to that of the 1960s position of self-determination rights for Kashmiris to the 1980s position of resolving the Kashmir dispute only through the bilateral process [i.e. India and Pakistan] and by peaceful means. Today, China has further revised this policy by actively financing strategic projects in Gilgit, Baltistan and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. These are among the core interests for India and as such it needs to articulate its position relentlessly with Beijing. The costs for not observing the red lines also need to be clearly articulated.

Why China’s consumers will continue to surprise the world

byJeffrey Towson and Jonathan Woetzel
May 2015

Fears about China’s slowing economy are overblown, authors Jeffrey Towson and Jonathan Woetzel argue in this adapted excerpt from the follow-up to their The One Hour China Book.

China has an awesome consumer story. Yet lately you can’t pick up a newspaper, go online, or watch television without hearing continual moaning about the country’s slowing economic growth and the need for “rebalancing.” The reality is that Chinese consumers are going to continue to increase in wealth and complexity. And if you’re worried the country’s economic importance is declining, you’re probably looking at its performance the wrong way.
Don’t worry about consumer spending as a percentage of GDP

As in most developing Asian economies, China’s early growth was based on savings, investment, and exports. You get your population to save, move to the cities, work in factories, and make stuff. This is sold, and cash is brought back home for investment. Plus, you get some foreign investment as well. This process enabled China to develop its infrastructure largely with its own cash. That, by the way, is not the norm. Developing economies typically borrow from foreigners and then default—for example, American states such as Mississippi and Florida were chronic defaulters on foreign debt as they initially developed.

Closing France’s €100 billion digital gap

byFrancesco Banfi, Florian Bressand, Eric Hazan, and Eric Labaye
May 2015

Accelerating the country’s rate of digital adoption could unlock billions of euros in economic value. The key is in executing a comprehensive digital transformation.

French businesses have an opportunity to capture billions of euros in additional revenue by expanding the country’s digital economy to its full potential. A recent McKinsey study, Accelerating the digital transformation of French businesses: A source of growth and competitiveness for France, finds French companies that have undergone thorough digital transformations may unlock revenue gains of up to 40 percent, while companies that do not quickly become digitally integrated could lose up to 20 percent of revenue to competitors.

The report finds that consumer demand is driving the digital opportunity in France, and companies need to catch up. Some 80 percent of the French population is online and have made France one of Europe’s online sales leaders. The country scores high in smartphone and tablet sales, and its “digital GDP”—the sum of digitally driven economic activity—has grown in the past three years from 3.2 percent to 5.5 percent of total GDP, or by more than €110 billion.

China & America: Headed Towards a Dangerous Cyber Arms Race?

May 7, 2015 

Last week, a Chinese Ministry of Defense spokesman condemned the Pentagon’s new cybersecurity strategy. Geng Yanshengnot only opposed the “groundless accusations” about Chinese cyber espionage contained in the strategy, but also suggested it “will further escalate tensions and trigger an arms race in cyberspace.” Geng called on the United States to promote common security and mutual trust, rather than “seeking absolute security for itself.”

This week a scholar from the Chinese Academy of Military Science published a short critique of the strategy. Lu Jinghua summarizes the strategy in three words: deterrence, offense, and alliances. As did many U.S.-based analysts, Lu also stresses the importance of the shift to offense in the report. In contrast to analysts outside of China, Lu gives greater weight to the strategy’s emphasis on alliances, highlighting NATO and the Middle East but paying special attention to the revisions of the U.S.-Japan Security Guidelines.

Watch Out, China: Japan Deploys 600 Troops, Missiles near Disputed Islands

May 7, 2015 

Japan is planning on deploying 600 troops to islands near the ones it disputes with China.

Russia’s Sputnik news, citing unnamed Japanese government officials, said that Japan’s Defense Ministry has decided to deploy 600 soldiers from the Ground Self-Defense Force to Miyako and Ishigaki Islands in the southwestern part of Okinawa Prefecture. The soldiers will be equipped with anti-ship missiles, the report also said.

Both islands are part of Japan’s Ryukyu Island chain, which also includes the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, which Japan administers but China also claims sovereignty over. According to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Ishigaki is located approximately 170 km south of the Senkaku Islands, roughly the same distance between the Senkakus and Taiwan. Japan also administers the Senkaku Islands as part of Ishigaki City.

Already, Miyako hosts a small radar installation that is maintained by the Self Defense Force Air Force. Besides that, however, and in contrast to Okinawa’s main island, the Sakishima Islands— which include Miyako, Ishigaki and Yonaguni— have remained largely unmilitizaried. This appears to be changing in response to the ramping up of tensions with China over the Senkaku Islands.

For example, back in January 2013, Japanese media outlets began reporting that the Defense Ministry was considering proposals to deploy F-15s to various parts of the Sakishima Islands, in response to Chinese incursions around the Senkaku Islands. One unnamed Japanese defense official was quoted as saying at the time, “We can't do anything about the distance. We need to think about whether we can deploy a fleet closer" to the Senkaku Islands.

Senior diplomat decodes Chinese soft power

May 06, 2015

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Germany, Syed Hasan Javed delivers speeches at the launching ceremony of his new book "Chinese Soft Power Code" which is held at the Chinese Culture Centre in Berlin on March 25. (People's Daily/Guan Kejiang)

Editor's Note: Pakistan’s Ambassador to Germany, Syed Hasan Javed, came to Beijingin 1980 as a young diplomat for a two-year Chinese language course. He subsequentlyspent nearly a decade in China on two diplomatic assignments. After several decades ofobservation and reflection, Mr. Javed published his second book about China in English - "Chinese Soft Power Code". What are the relations between ancient and contemporaryChinese values? The book offers a unique perspective from a senior diplomat. People'sDaily reporter Guan Kejiang recently conducted an exclusive interview with Mr. Javed. 

Traditional culture provides a strong support to China's rapid development

I love China - said Mr. Javed to the People's Daily reporter during the interview. Wheneverthere are English books about China in bookstore, I will buy them. China's achievementsin the past decades have attracted worldwide attention, but unfortunately, the majority ofbooks written in English have failed to clarify the real reasons (behind China's success). SoI decided to decode the China Story through my own observations and thoughts.

With the launch ceremony having been organized and held by the Chinese Culture Centrein Berlin on March 25, the book titled "Chinese Soft Power Code" is the second bookauthored by the ambassador on Chinese culture. Mr. Javed explained the two meanings ofthe book's name. One is the quality of China's soft power based on his observations ofordinary Chinese people and China's traditional culture; the other is that the transmitterof soft power is the people.

Senior diplomat decodes Chinese soft power

May 06, 2015

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Germany, Syed Hasan Javed delivers speeches at the launching ceremony of his new book "Chinese Soft Power Code" which is held at the Chinese Culture Centre in Berlin on March 25. (People's Daily/Guan Kejiang) 

Editor's Note: Pakistan’s Ambassador to Germany, Syed Hasan Javed, came to Beijingin 1980 as a young diplomat for a two-year Chinese language course. He subsequentlyspent nearly a decade in China on two diplomatic assignments. After several decades ofobservation and reflection, Mr. Javed published his second book about China in English - "Chinese Soft Power Code". What are the relations between ancient and contemporaryChinese values? The book offers a unique perspective from a senior diplomat. People'sDaily reporter Guan Kejiang recently conducted an exclusive interview with Mr. Javed. 

Traditional culture provides a strong support to China's rapid development

I love China - said Mr. Javed to the People's Daily reporter during the interview. Wheneverthere are English books about China in bookstore, I will buy them. China's achievementsin the past decades have attracted worldwide attention, but unfortunately, the majority ofbooks written in English have failed to clarify the real reasons (behind China's success). SoI decided to decode the China Story through my own observations and thoughts.

With the launch ceremony having been organized and held by the Chinese Culture Centrein Berlin on March 25, the book titled "Chinese Soft Power Code" is the second bookauthored by the ambassador on Chinese culture. Mr. Javed explained the two meanings ofthe book's name. One is the quality of China's soft power based on his observations ofordinary Chinese people and China's traditional culture; the other is that the transmitterof soft power is the people.

Kazakhstan to Host Syria Talks

May 08, 2015

Is the Central Asian nation an ideal mediator for international disputes? 

Kazakhstan will host talks on the Syrian crisis later this month, according to a report from Tengrinewsciting RIA Novosti, the Russian state news agency. The talks, Tengrinews says, will occur in Astana from May 25 to 27.

In early April, Randa Kassis, an opposition figure, said at the Syria talks in Moscow that some of the opposition would reach out to explore the possibility of Astana’s participation in mediation the Syrian conflict. By late April, Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry was saying that a number of Syrian opposition groups — which it did not name — had asked the Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to host talks and a group visited Astana on April 27 to further explore the possibility.

This series of events seems to have built to actually scheduling talks, but it’s not time to celebrate yet. Not only have Syrian peace talks to-date yielded little tangible results, but Kazakhstan has scheduled talks on other disputes in recent months that have be postponed.

The Moscow and Geneva Syria peace talks have made little progress and Kazakhstan’s foreign minister, Erlan Idrissov, insisted that the country had no “intention to substitute the existing platforms.”

Islamic State and Jihadi Realignments in Khorasan

By Hekmatullah Azamy and James Weir
May 08, 2015

The delicate yet volatile balance of jihadi movements and insurgents within Afghanistan may be about to shift. 

The relationship between the Taliban and the Islamic State (IS – also known as ISIS, ISIL and Da’esh) is emerging as the most influential factor in the future of violent jihadi movements in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region. To date, however, the Taliban finds itself in a bind, able to neither welcome nor resist IS in Afghanistan. For the Taliban, IS poses a strategic, potentially existential, threat, as both appeal to similar recruits; but the Taliban leadership has been reluctant to take a stand against IS due to their similar ideological and political goals, and shared enemies. Meanwhile, as the Afghan Taliban enter a peace process with the Kabul government, fear of losing their more radical or criminal supporters to IS likely weighs upon negotiations.

While concern deepens about the growing influence of IS in Afghanistan, the extent of their presence remains difficult to determine. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during a visit to the United States in March 2015, warned that IS poses a “terrible threat” to Afghanistan, and the region. A month later Ghani blamed IS for a deadly bank attack in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, which killed 35 and wounded more than 125. The top UN representative in Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom, has testified to the UN Security Council that IS has a foothold in the country. The Russian special envoy in Kabul, Zamir Kabulov, claims IS has established four training camps in Afghanistan. But naysayers also exist. Both former President Hamid Karzai and his intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh described concerns about IS as “media hype” and “psychological warfare,” suggesting Afghan circumstances, at least thus far, are not conducive to an impactful IS presence in Afghanistan.

In early September 2014 reports emerged of IS fliers distributed in Peshawar, Pakistan and nearby Afghan regions soliciting pledges of allegiance to the movement and its self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. An organizational presence appeared a few weeks later when six former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and a few Afghan Taliban announced allegiance to IS. In January 2015, IS leadership declared the Afghanistan-Pakistan region part of its Khorasan chapter, appointing Hafiz Sayed Khan (former TTP) as the Khorasan head, and selecting a high-profile Afghan Taliban commander, Abdul Rauf Khadim, as Sayed’s deputy.

Explained: Why ISIS Can Survive without Baghdadi

May 7, 2015 

Martin Chulov at the Guardian reported last month that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, had been “seriously wounded” in a coalition airstrike in al-Baaj, Iraq on March 18. Although al-Baghdadi’s injuries were life threatening at first, the report asserts he has since recovered. The report notes, however, that al-Baghdadi has not resumed day-to-day control of the organization, yet. Despite the Pentagon disputing this occurrence, the possible implications of targeting al-Baghdadi raise interesting concerns pertaining to the effectiveness of so-called “decapitation strikes” vis-à-vis the survivability of the Islamic State and its leadership, and consequently, the manner in which this should affect the coalition’s targeting practices.

One must note that al-Baghdadi was not deliberately targeted by the coalition air strike. In fact, this was an attack meant to target “local ISIS leaders” and, as Chulov specifies, “[coalition] officials did not know at the time that Baghdadi was in one of the cars.” This should raise concerns about the coalition’s intelligence gathering and targeting practices. The attack was designed to target the aforementioned ISIS leaders—and in that respect, it may have even succeeded—but the fact that coalition forces were entirely unaware of who else was present in the three-car convoy reemphasizes the fact that the United States does not knowwho it is targeting. This raises questions regarding the diligence with which these airstrikes are being carried out, especially with regard to collateral damage.

Russia prepares for hybrid wars

Denis Kungurov, specially for RIR
May 7, 2015 

‘Hybrid’ warfare, a military strategy that combines conventional warfare, irregular warfare including use of weapons of mass destruction, and cyber and information warfare is a leading form of international conflict today. The General Staff of the Russian armed forces accused the United States of conducting such war against Russia. RIR found out the meaning of “hybrid wars” and whether Russia can counter them.

National Defence Management Centre (NDMC) was established in 2014. Source: Alexey Nikolsky / RIA Novosti

The term “hybrid threat” incorporates a wide range of hostile circumstances and intentions, Alexander Bartosh, director of the Information Centre for International Security at Moscow State Linguistic University, said in an address at a round table (RT) on “Hybrid wars of the XXI century.” The RT was held in the Military University in January 2015 with the participation of representatives of law enforcement agencies and other departments.

Hybrid warfare is a military strategy that combines conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyber warfare. Hybrid warfare is also used to describe attacks by nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and information warfare. It is being viewed as a complex, potent variation of warfare.

Instead of direct conflicts, the circumstances of hybrid wars comprise cyber war, a scenario of asymmetric low-intensity conflicts, global terrorism, piracy, illegal migration, corruption, ethnic and religious conflicts, demographic challenges, transnational organized crime, the problem of globalization and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The Arab-US Strategic Partnership in the Gulf

By Anthony H. Cordesman, with the assistance of Michael Peacock 
MAY 7, 2015 

The coming summit between the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the U.S. provides a key opportunity for both the Arab Gulf States and the U.S. to create a stronger strategic partnership, and address the need for common action in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. The summit will provide the opportunity for the GCC countries to not only to deal with the threat of Jihadist extremism, but also the fact that each country is to some extent a failed state with far deeper problems that must also be addressed to offer any change of lasting future stability and development.

It also offers a chance to deal with the full range of challenges posed by Iran – which go far beyond its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. These challenges include: 
Iran’s nuclear programs, and the extent to which any final agreement not only meets the security needs of the CCC states as well as the U.S., but the potential threat posed by Iran’s chemical weapon sand capabilities to create biological weapons as a replacement for its nuclear programs. 

The broader threat posed by Iran’s steadily larger and more capable mix of cruise and ballistic missiles, and the risks posed by Iran’s efforts to develop long-range, conventionally armed strike systems using precision guidance – developments which could hit critical military and infrastructure targets and effective replace nuclear weapons with “weapons of mass effectiveness”. 

Japan's Nuclear Diplomacy

May 07, 2015

A lantern floating ceremony on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.

At the NPT review conference, Japanese politicians and citizens push for a nuclear-weapons-free world. 
Japanese actors, including diplomats, mayors, andhibakusha (victims of the atomic bombing), are again playing a prominent role at the ninth review conference of the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to press for the elimination of the estimated 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world today.

The NPT is intended to promote the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons. Five states have signed on recognized as nuclear states, including the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China. These states have the burden of “negotiating in good faith” to reduce and ultimately destroy their nuclear arsenals. The remaining 186 signatories — particularly Japan — are getting frustrated at the slow pace of progress toward nuclear disarmament.

These review conferences are held every five years, with this year’s being held from April 27 to May 22 at the UN headquarters in New York City. The tone of this year’s conference is very different from that of 2010, when U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to seek a nuclear-free world. In 2015, there are new concerns over “Cold-War style tensions” stemming from the Ukraine crisis, conflicts in the Middle East, and concerns about terrorists. As Angela Kane, the high representative for disarmament affairs, put it, “Since the 2010 last review conference, the world has changed.”

Germany’s Nuclear Cutback Is Darkening European Skies

May 7, 2015

If Germany wants to phase out nuclear power, coal is the only realistic option 

Germany’s influence in Europe is unquestionable, but it appears that some of its neighbors may be adversely affected by recent German decisions; and Greece is not the neighbor in question here. France has beenreporting heavy levels of air pollution which authorities in the country are blaming on diesel cars there. But the real culprit may in fact be the renewed German penchant for coal power. 

Up until a few years ago, Germany, along with France, was at the forefront of nuclear power use. But after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011, the Germans were quick to begin phasing out nuclear power. In some countries, phasing out nuclear power would be easy, but in 2011, Germany obtained 25% of its power from nuclear sources. This nuclear power generated no carbon dioxide emissions of course, and little in the way of other forms of pollution. But after starting the phase out of nuclear power, Germany still needed to find a source of replacement power. 

Renewables like wind and solar sound great in theory, but the sporadic nature of power generation from those sources makes them imperfect substitutes for the consistency of nuclear. In that sense then, battery solutions like that announced by Tesla last week, or the solutions from General Electric, may eventually provide a solution for Germany. But as of now, the grid battery industry is still too nascent to provide serious help to Germany. 

Why America Should Really Fear Russia's Armata T-14 Tank

May 8, 2015 

Russia could become "the arsenal of autocracy."

There have been two general reactions in the West to the first public glimpses of the T-14 Armata tank, the first completely post-Soviet Russian design for a main battle tank. The first is to view its claims—of greater speed, maneuverability, firepower and survivability vis-à-vis anything being produced for Western armies—as being Potemkin in nature. In other words, the new model that will be appearing in the May 9 Victory Parade is good for show and propaganda, but won't actually be able to deliver in the field. The second is a high degree of incredulity that a country already under Western sanctions and whose economy has entered into a recession would devote an ever-shrinking pool of state resources to building a next-generation battle tank. Indeed, if Vladimir Putin continues to adhere to a military buildup plan that was developed under far different economic conditions, does he risk repeating one of the fundamental mistakes that led to the failure of the Soviet Union—having defense spending eat up more and more of the country's gross domestic product?

Yet there is another, compelling reason for investing in the research and design capacities of the Russian military-industrial complex—and highlighting the results: Moscow's bid for securing its position as the supplier of choice for a variety of countries around the world looking to bolster their defense capabilities—even when such plans may draw Washington's disapproval—becoming the world's "arsenal of autocracy", so to speak (although a number of Russia's best customers are in fact democratic states).