10 May 2015

India and Asian Leadership

By Jayshree Borah
May 08, 2015

Sixty years ago, India was at the forefront of efforts to create a new world order. Times have changed. 
Sixty years ago, delegates from 29 Asian and African countries gathered in Bandung, Indonesia for a conference to decide their own futures and destinies, free of the yoke of colonialism. The aspiration of building an “intermediate camp” of national independence and neutralism to counter the “imperialist camp” of the United States and the “socialist camp” of the Soviet Union was also very much part of the motive behind the conference.

However, the tone for that 1955 conference on Afro-Asian solidarity was actually set by then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru almost a decade earlier. Nehru’s enthusiasm for pan-Asian cooperation found its expression in the Asian Relations Conference, convened in New Delhi in March and April 1947. This earlier conference had special significance as it created an Asian Relations Organization in New Delhi and made Nehru its president.

A historic first for Grenadiers

May 9, 2015 

The Grenadiers are all set to march at the Red Square in Moscow. Photo: Special Arrangement

They will march in Victory Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square on May 9.

It’s a historic day for a historic regiment of the Indian Army: the first time a contingent of the Nine Grenadiers regiment will march in an international military parade, as part of Russia’s Victory Day commemoration.

The 75-member contingent has been practising at an army facility outside Moscow since April 25, and will be part of 10 militaries, including Russia’s Red Army and China’s PLA, to take part in the May 9 parade. While Russia marks the day each year for the defeat of Hitler’s army in 1945, this year is special as it is the 70th anniversary, and President Pranab Mukherjee is one of about 16 presidents expected to attend the parade.

Coming Out of the Closet: India-Israel Ties Under Narendra Modi

MAY 7, 2015

Despite a cordial closeted relationship for decades, India and Israel are now making their private affair public — thanks in large part to the unprecedented embrace of the Jewish state by Narendra Modi. Is this stark departure one of style or substance?

Relations between India and Israel are experiencing a diplomatic renaissance. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landslide victory in India’s elections last year has ushered in a new, conspicuously more visible phase of bilateral ties.

Cooperation with Israel—conducted secretly throughout most of India’s history—has now become a public affair. Modi has openly and enthusiastically embraced the Jewish state. Although some wonder whether the change is merely one of style rather than substance, there is no question that India’s recent public displays of affection toward Israel are a stark departure from the past. If current trends continue, the Modi government could become the most pro-Israel government New Delhi has ever seen.

Throughout most of its post-independence history, India benefitted privately from Israel while refusing to publicly acknowledge it. New Delhi voted to recognize Israel in 1950, but Cold War alignments, fear of alienating its large Muslim population, and its need to maintain strong ties to the Arab world over the Kashmir issue resulted in New Delhi adopting an unsympathetic, if not outright hostile, posture toward Israel.

Narendra Modi Is Bad for Big Business And that's a good thing -- particularly when India’s top CEOs are getting mad at him.

MAY 7, 2015

A year ago this month, corporate titans around the world celebrated the victory of Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s elections. In a country where radical leftists still exert a mighty influence in some states and on the intellectual center of gravity, Modi’s platform was unapologetically pro-business. But to make India more friendly to the free market, Modi has had to step on the toes of some of the same business leaders who backed him.

Modi, before becoming prime minister, as chief minister of Gujarat was widely seen as presiding over one of the most business-friendly state governments in recent memory. Many of India’s top CEOs all but openly backed Modi and the center-right BJP last year. The result was a landslide victory in which the long ruling center-left Congress party was ousted from power. Now, however, some of these same business leaders have changed their tune, and there are more than a few grumblings of dissatisfaction.

In February, Deepak Parekh, chairman of Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC), a major financial institution, complained of “a little bit of impatience” regarding what he saw as the lack of change on the ground in the business environment. In March, following the budget, Anil Manibhai Naik, chairman of Larsen & Toubro, a major engineering and construction conglomerate, said that the government’s steps to revive the economy were not “adequate”. And, last month, Harsh Mariwala, chairman of consumer goods group Marico, took to Twitter to argue that the “sheen is falling” off the Modi government in the context of its promises and slow delivery.

What explains this backlash?

Explained: A RAW deal

May 8, 2015 

Over the last 3 weeks, Gen Raheel Sharif and others have blamed the Research & Analysis Wing for everything from killings in Karachi to the insurgency in Balochistan.

For months now, as Pakistan’s anti-jihadist campaign has escalated, Islamists have accused the army of being apostates, acting at the behest of the US, India and Israel.

Somewhere inside Pakistan, an Indian spy has unleashed an inner Rajinikanth no one ever suspected existed — if the Pak Army is to be believed, that is. Over the last 3 weeks, Gen Raheel Sharif and others have blamed the Research & Analysis Wing for everything from killings in Karachi to the insurgency in Balochistan. PRAVEEN SWAMI gives the facts and perspective.

For months now, as Pakistan’s anti-jihadist campaign has escalated, Islamists have accused the army of being apostates, acting at the behest of the US, India and Israel. Propaganda videos circulated by groups like al-Qaeda are suffused with images of killings carried out by the Pak army. In a society radicalised by state-backed Islamism, these allegations carry weight. Hitting out at India is an easy way to get the public together behind nationalism, and the Pak army.

Government must change the Gilgit-Baltistan narrative

08 May , 2015

Sadly, successive government in India since independence has chosen to remain silent spectators with regard to the oppression and atrocity that is being heaped on the people of Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistan.

The word Gilgit-Baltistan is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution of Pakistan.

Despite the people of Gilgit-Baltistan opting to join the state of Pakistan at the time of division of the Indian Sub-continent in 1947, Pakistan has not honoured its commitment of totally integrating the region with the nation. It misused the UN resolution on Jammu and Kashmir to declare Gilgit-Baltistan a disputed territory; re-designated the region as Northern Area and exercised control over it through political agents. The word Gilgit-Baltistan is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution of Pakistan.

In the last six decades plus, Gilgit-Baltistan has been given only cosmetic rights of self governance. Actual power is vested upon the federal government and exercised through the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas. The demand for a full fledged Provincial status has also not been met by the federal government.

For The Record: Preserving Calcutta for the future

By: Amit Chaudhuri
May 9, 2015

A letter to the chief minister of West Bengal on safeguarding and restoring the city’s architectural heritage.

Calcutta is one of the great cities of modernity, and Asia’s first cosmopolitan metropolis. Like other great modern cities, its cultural inheritance is contained not only in its literature, cinema, art and music, or in its political and intellectual history, but palpably in its lived spaces and its architectural ethos. This ethos is remarkably distinctive, and unique to Calcutta; it includes not only the rajbari mansions of north Calcutta and the grand colonial institutional buildings of central Calcutta, but the houses in which people have lived, and still live, in various neighbourhoods in the city — Bakulbagan, Hindustan Park, Kidderpore, Paddapukur Road, Bhowanipore, Sarat Bose Road, and Ganguly Bagan, to name just a few. These and others areas should really be declared heritage precincts. As Esther Duflo, professor of poverty alleviation and development economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has said, Calcutta neighbourhoods should be showcased to the world in the same way that Prague and other great cities showcase their architecture. The first reason for this is the vivid way in which the history of a unique Bengali modernity is represented by Calcutta’s buildings from the last century to the 1950s. The second reason is that, as Duflo points out, these buildings and precincts are the very things that will attract the international visitor to the city.

Deadly Pakistan Helicopter Crash Kills Diplomats

May 09, 2015

The TTP has claimed responsibility, but experts believe the tragic crash was an accident. 

A military helicopter carrying foreign diplomats and their wives crash-landed in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan territory on Friday, killing seven of the 17 passengers aboard. According to the Twitter account of Asim Bajwa, the director-general of Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR), the Pakistan army’s media brand, the dead included four foreigners – the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines, and the wives of the Indonesian and Malaysian ambassadors – and three Pakistanis (two pilots and one crew member). Ambassadors from Poland and the Netherlands were injured in the crash.

The Mi-17 helicopter crashed into a building that part of an army school complex, but fortunately there were no children inside at the time. No on-ground casualties were reported from the crash.

The helicopter was one of three carrying passengers to the Naltar valley, where the guests were to attend the opening ceremony of a new ski chairlift donated by Switzerland. According to the BBC, the ceremony had already been delayed several times due to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s schedule. The aircraft carrying Sharif, who was also slated to attend, turned back immediately upon hearing of the crash.

The ceremony has been cancelled and Sharif had declared a day of mourning over the crash. Sharif and Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif (no relation) both expressed grief over the accident and condolences to the families in separate statements.

Are Afghanistan’s Police Safe?

By Jack Detsch
May 08, 2015

The killing of 18 officers in Northeastern Afghanistan once again calls into question the safety of Afghan policemen 

Afghan militants reportedly attacked 13 police and military checkpoints in Badakhshan province Monday leaving 18 policemen dead, according to a hospital director in the provincial capital. Badakhshan borders both Pakistan and Tajikistan. The attack is yet another sign, with the Taliban’s spring offensive against police, military, and government officials well underway, that Kabul’s counteroffensive lies on tenuous ground. Militants seem increasingly comfortable fighting far from their center of gravity, in the bloody provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, which have seen the bulk of the fighting over the past fourteen years.

Afghanistan’s police have long been a target of militant attacks. With the Afghan state still taking small steps toward self-sufficiency, the Taliban has used suicide bombings, green-on-blue attacks, and infiltration within the ranks of Afghan security forces to stir up dissent and decrease morale for the underpaid, overworked, and overstretched hand of Kabul’s law enforcement.

Too Late To Tango? Ashraf Ghani’s Risky Outreach To Pakistan


The resurgence of fighting in Afghanistan might mean that Ghani's strategy of reaching out to Pakistan is too little too late. But Ghani did not seem to have many other options.

The Afghan Taliban have announced their spring offensive and followed it up with spectacular attacks around the country. This puts Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in a bind, given that he had gone out on a limb to reenergize the peace process with the Taliban by engaging with Pakistan. Does the renewed spring fighting in Afghanistan mean that his strategy has failed?
Ghani’s likely diagnosis is that the enduring Taliban insurgency is a symptom of an undeclared but constant state of hostility between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is precisely because he believes that Pakistan is the problem that he is trying to address it. His gamble is that if he can satisfy Pakistan’s main concerns regarding Afghanistan, then Pakistan may force the Afghan Taliban to strike a political deal with Kabul.

Ghani’s move is probably more a reflection of his lack of alternatives than any liking for Pakistan or naiveté about how much he can trust his neighbor. It is nonetheless a dramatic departure from former President Hamid Karzai’s policy of trying to coerce Pakistan into giving up support for the Taliban or attempting to engage with the Taliban without Pakistan’s support. Over the past decade, Pakistan has been able to maintain the Taliban and Haqqani network sanctuaries and thwart attempts at peace talks when it wanted to.

Why did the Pakistan army warn R&AW?

May 08, 2015

'After General Raheel Sharif took on the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, some sections of the military establishment may have felt unease as to whether the crackdown could be extended against friendlier 'non-State' actors like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba,' says Rana Banerji.

While it has been customary to use the media grapevine or pliable journalists to blame Indian intelligence agencies for whatever goes wrong in Pakistan, the Inter Services Public Relations May 5 press release, issued after the corps commanders conference the same day, 'taking serious note of RA&W's involvement in whipping up terrorism in Pakistan,' is certainly unusual in the sense that such a direct charge proximate to domestic events has not been made in the recent past.

Defence Minister Khwaja Asif -- who descends from a notable Muslim League family close to Jinnah, and who is currently engaged in a factional squabble within the ruling PML (Nawaz) party against Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali -- duly weighed in with a Geo TV cameo, alleging that RA&W had been 'formed to undo Pakistan' and 'wipe it off the map of the world.'

What’s our Hindustan problem?

May 01, 2015

Our heroes are the Muslim conquerors of Hind, from Mahmud Ghaznavi onwards. We name our missiles after them — Ghauri, Abdali — and of course after Iqbal’s mythical Shaheen. We take ourselves to be the descendants of the Timurid conquerors, the House of Babur. Yet Pakistan defines itself by its fear of Hindustan, the land conquered, occupied and ruled by the supposed ancestors, the spiritual and temporal forbears, of today’s Islamic Republic.

Perhaps there are a thousand justifications for Pakistan to have a large standing army. Perhaps there are many reasons, and valid ones at that, for Pakistan to possess a nuclear capability. But for Pakistan the overriding reason for tanks, missiles and nuke capability is not the Arabian Sea, not the Himalayas, but India.

What are we afraid of? What are our generals afraid of? Is Pakistan a morsel on a map that anyone can swallow? But we conduct ourselves and we talk as if we face an ‘existential’ threat from our neighbour to the east. I wish we would take this word existential out of our lexicon. It has been worked to death. The only threat Pakistan faces is: 1) from incompetence and 2) from fantasies about ‘jihad’ — about conquering lands to our west and east, fantasies which have brought us to our present pass.

If only we had remained a normal country without the urge to hitch our national wagon to distant stars we could have avoided so many of our troubles and become the crossroads of east and west, and Central Asia and the Indian Ocean, that we can still become if only we choose to transcend some of the strange notions that afflict our national thinking.

How Pakistan Plays the Middle East

May 7, 2015 

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.


By Muhammad Sajjad Haider

The terrorist attack on Army Public School, Peshawar generated a serious debate as to how to confront terrorist attacks in future. The meeting of all parliamentary leaders held in Peshawar on next of the attack under the chair of the Prime Minister concluded with the decision to form a committee to recommend steps to be taken in this direction with the mandate to submit its recommendations within seven days from the date of its formation. The Government consequently constituted the committee comprising of leaders from different political parties, which includes one former Federal Minister for Interior who had rich knowledge and experience to confront these terrorists. The inclusion of professionals and expert on counter-terrorism in the committee would have been an extra advantage to the committee.

Although this was a right step towards creating consensus to deal with the Taliban/terrorists yet unfortunately it was not the first initiative. In the past, a similar APC was convened on the subject where certain decisions to deal with the terrorism were taken but without any results. The political as well as religious parties are widely divided on the lines of sects and opposing political philosophy. Apart from few political parties, majority of political parties depend on the vote bank of religious and rightist groups. The fear of losing vote bank by the ruling party consequent to an operation against proscribed groups helped those groups to energise themselves.

Decoding Chabahar

Chabahar and Gwadar; Do these names rings bell in your mind? These two are small ports of Iran and Pakistan respectively. Both these cities are in the news since last two weeks and are becoming the new centers of economic warfare between two giants of Asia - India and China; the battlefield has shifted from building their infrastructure within the country to build outside.

Not far from Gwadar is Chabahar Port. Gwadar’s main competitor in this region and better positioned to connect with Central Asian Republics and Afghanistan. And this is where India comes in picture. Chabahar port plays an important role in India’s Central Asian Diplomacy. Connecting landlocked Afghanistan to Chabahar Port is a major part of India’s $750 million USD aid to Afghanistan. Chabahar-Milak-Zaranj-Dilaram route is under construction by India and has already spent about $100 million USD to build a 220-km (140-mile) road in western Afghanistan to link up with Chabahar Port in Iran.

Indian Ocean 21st century security dilemma

By Amrita Jash

Indian Ocean is where global struggles will play out in the twenty-first century. It is a “new great game” in the making. 

Indian Ocean is the new theatre of ‘Great Power’ politics of the twenty-first century. With a tactical geopolitical landscape, the Indian Ocean- third largest waterway in the world surpassing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as the world’s largest and most strategically significant maritime trade for global economy and security. The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is surrounded by Africa, Asia and Australia serves as a maritime highway linking transcontinental human and economic relationships. In this context, the strategic importance of Indian Ocean can be best assessed in the prophetic words of maritime strategist Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, who famously stated: “Whoever attains maritime supremacy in the Indian Ocean would be a prominent player on the international scene. Whoever controls the Indian Ocean dominates Asia. This Ocean is the key to the seven seas in the twenty-first century, the destiny of the world will be decided in these waters.”

It is these prophetic words that forms the new pivot to the changing strategic dynamics in the Indian Ocean which Robert D. Kaplan envisaged as the ‘Centre Stage for the 21st Century’ whereby in the spiraling rivalry of a rising China and India, ‘Indian Ocean is where global struggles will play out in the twenty-first century’- a “new great game” in the making.With a gradual decline in U.S. dominance, the power struggle seem to have taken its initial roots, whereby both China and India are looking the “Mahanian way” in redirecting their gaze from the continent to the seas. In this view, the Indian Ocean is the new limit to China-India’s complex power politics- where both are determined to make it their nautical backyard. This strategic objective has added a maritime dimension to their geopolitical rivalry.

Road Rage in China: A Cautionary Tale

May 09, 2015

After an incident in Chengdu, many in China sympathize with a man who attacked the woman who cut him off in traffic. 

In Chengdu this past Monday, a traffic violation led to an act of brutal violence and then became a national news story that ended with many Chinese citizens supporting the attacker.

It all began when a young woman named Lu Yang abruptly changed lanes to avoid missing her exit, thereby cutting off another driver, later identified as Mr. Zhang, who was then forced to slam on his brakes. Zhang was with his wife and infant child, and the sudden stop caused his child to begin crying. He followed Lu off the main road, overtook her, and then cut her off as she had done to him. A few hundred meters later, Lu overtook Zhang again, driving him into the bicycle lane and almost forcing him to hit a pedestrian.

China and Russia Are More Likely to Become Allies Than You Think

May 09, 2015

Plus, Xi remembers WWII, China in Antarctica, and new leaders for China’s oil giants. Friday China links. 

It’s that time of the week again: your Friday wrap-up of China news.
With Xi Jinping heading to Russia to attend the Victory Day parade and other events commemorating the surrender of German forces 70 years ago, now’s a great time to check out Alexander Korolev’s piece for the Asan Forum debunking four myths about factors preventing a China-Russia alliance. The four myths: Russia will not ally with China because it fears being overshadowed by Chinese power; Russia is concerned about Chinese migrants flooding into Siberia; Russia worries about becoming too close to (and thus too economically dependent on) China; and China and Russia do not trust each other enough to form an alliance. If you’ve ever waved away a possible China-Russia axis on the basis on one (or all of these) arguments, read Korolev’s counterarguments.

Also as Xi heads to Russia, Xinhua ran an article highlighting China and Russia’s joint contributions to Allied victory in World War II. The pieces quotes at length from an article by Xi himself that appeared in the Russian Gazette. “Decades ago, the Chinese and Russian nations shared weal and woe and forged an unbreakable war friendship with fresh blood,” Xi wrote. “Today, the two peoples will jointly move forward, safeguarding peace and promoting development, and continue to contribute to enduring global peace and the common progress of mankind.”

Revealed: China's New 'Carrier Killer' Sub Simulator

May 08, 2015

When can we expect Beijing’s stealthy new submarine to enter service? A simulator may offer some clues. 

Over at Eastern Arsenal, Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer, are discussing in detail a new Chinese submarine simulator that could provide clues what could become Beijing’s stealthiest (and deadliest) nuclear-attack submarine (SSN) when it enters service in two to four years – the Type 095 (Chinese designation: 09-V).

Once in service, the Type 095 will “provide a generational improvement in many areas such as quieting and weapon capacity,” the Pentagon’s Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) states in an unclassified assessment of the Chinese navy’s new capabilities and missions in the years ahead.

Reclamation, Arbitration, Competition: South China Sea Situation Report

May 09, 2015

The Diplomat’s editors discuss recent events in the South China Sea. 

Host and editor Ankit Panda speaks to the The Diplomat‘s Shannon Tiezzi and Prashanth Parameswaran about recent events in the South China Sea, including China’s land reclamation activities and Southeast Asian claimant states reactions to China’s actions. For more on South China Sea disputes, following The Diplomat‘s Flashpoints blog which focuses on disputes and crises in the Asia-Pacific region.

Click the arrow to the right to listen. You can also subscribe to The Diplomat’s Asia Geopolitics podcast on iTunes here. If you like the podcast and have suggestions for content, please leave a review on iTunes.

China's Silk Road in the Spotlight as Xi Heads to Kazakhstan

May 08, 2015

Kazakhstan, the first stop on China’s Silk Road Economic Belt, is of growing strategic importance to Beijing. 

Before making his way to Russia for the Victory Day celebrations, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a one-day stopover in neighboring Kazakhstan. The Central Asian state is of growing diplomatic and strategic importance to China, a fact reflected in Beijing’s attention on the region in recent years.

Kazakhstan is crucial to getting China’s Silk Road Economic Belt off the ground, which is why Xi first announced that initiative during a visit to Astana in September 2013. Since then, Kazakhstan has become a major site of Chinese investment. During Premier Li Keqiang’s visit in December 2014, China and Kazakhstan signed a framework deal that will see the two countries cooperate on infrastructure, energy, and housing deals worth over $14 billion. When Kazakh Prime Minster Karim Masimov visited China in March, the two countries signed more deals worth another $23.6 billion, this time focusing on industrial capacity in the steel, oil refining, hydropower, and automobile sectors.

China's Coming 'Lawfare' and the South China Sea

By Patrick M. Renz and Frauke Heidemann
May 08, 2015

What China’s growing legal expertise could mean for its foreign policy. 

As the South China Morning Post has learned, earlier this year the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs established an international legal committee with the hope of advancing its interests through treaties and legal provisions. This team of legal experts will be tasked with helping to repatriate fugitives of the anti-corruption campaign. From a Western perspective, this development should be welcomed. It forces China to face the concerns many nations have about the human rights situation and death penalty in China if the country wants to sign more bilateral extradition treaties.

Premier Li Urges Innovation in China’s ‘Silicon Valley’

May 08, 2015

Li continued his push for innovation in a visit to Beijing’s Zhongguancun technology district. 

While President Xi Jinping is headed to Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus, China’s number two, Premier Li Keqiang made his own tour – of Zhongguancun, the technology district in Beijing often referred to by Chinese media as “China’s Silicon Valley.” The purpose of Li’s visit, according to Xinhua, was “sending another heartening message to China’s budding entrepreneurs.”

“As China is upgrading its growth mode, your stories of striving for success will inspire an innovation-driven and knowledge-based economy,” Li told young IT workers at a coffee shop in Zhongguancun. He also promised that the government would eliminate red tape and other barriers to both new start-ups and innovation in general.

Why pessimistic views of China’s economy are unconvincing

Apr 9 2015
Source Link

In late 2001, I first used the phrase BRIC to discuss the likely rise of Brazil, Russia, India and China as growing shares of the world economy and outlined a number of scenarios in which it seemed pretty inevitable that their share would rise sharply by the end of that decade. In 2003, along with some Goldman Sachs colleagues, we first projected what the world might look like by 2050 if the BRIC and other large emerging economies reached their potential, a world that would be dramatically different than the one prevailing at the time.

It was these two papers that led to the beginning of the focus on the phrase BRIC and indeed, my own central role in the story that since unfolded. What is especially noteworthy over the subsequent 13 and ½ years is just how dominant China has become within the BRIC group in terms of economic size, as well of course, it’s increasing importance to the world economy. At the end of 2014, China’s economy surpassed $ 10 trillion in current US$ and according to the World Bank, in purchasing power parity terms (PPP), actually was larger than the US. At $ 10 trillion, China is around one and a half times the size of the other three BRIC countries put together. It is also bigger than the combined size of France, Germany and Italy. It is about twice the size of Japan (in the 2003 Paper, we thought it might take China until 2015 to reach the size of Japan, never mind twice). Its economic size has nearly risen tenfold since I first mentioned the word “BRIC” and since the 2008 global credit crisis, China has doubled its own size.

The World’s Leaders Are Avoiding Chinese Social Media


It's not hard to fathom why. India's Modi joined days ago -- and was promptly asked to 'give back' a part of Tibet.

On May 4, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his debut in the Chinese blogosphere, opening an account on microblogging platform Weibo that gained more than 44,000 followers within four days. Created ahead of Modi’s upcoming first visit to China on May 14, the social media account seems part of the prime minister’s effort to improve India’s image in the eyes of its giant neighbor, a bilateral relationship that has suffered due to territorial disputes and economic rivalry between the two Asian giants.

But while the NASDAQ-listed Weibo is one of China’s social media titans, with 176 million monthly active users, Modi is only the fifth current or former head of state to open an account there. Compare that to U.S.-based Twitter, which has 302 million monthly active users; according to a December 2012 report, 75 percent of all heads of state have Twitter accounts. Modi tweets too. With more than 12 million followers, he’s the second most-followed world leader, after U.S. President Barack Obama. That puts Modi in sparse company. The other four world leaders joining him on Weibo are Israeli President Shimon Peres, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Interactive Map: Follow the Roads, Railways, and Pipelines on China’s New Silk Road

MAY 7, 2015

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Kazakhstan on Thursday to solidify new deals for Beijing’s ambitious plan to revive the old Silk Road as a modern-day trade hub. Beijing has already spent billions of dollars on roads, railways, and other infrastructure and intends to invest billions more to connect China to Europe in what it calls the “Silk Road Economic Belt.”

Xi’s visit comes as other major powers have launched economic integration projects in Eurasia. Russia launched the Eurasian Economic Union in January and the United States is plugging its own infrastructure project, the “New Silk Road.” But Beijing has outshined both countries in investment and execution. Now both Washington and Moscow are trying to hitch their wagons to China’s massive project.

Here at Foreign Policy, we’ve put together an interactive guide tracking Beijing’s victories and obstacles along the new Silk Road. The list of participating countries is still not finalized, but with China forking out billions in trade deals and preferential loans, its appeal as an economic benefactor is only set to grow.

Takes two to tango

Premen Addy 

This reporter's book, six years in the making, has been meticulously researched through documentation and interviews with Chinese and Pakistani officials, many of whom spoke on conditions of anonymity. Its theme is a relationship "emerging from the shadows" into the glare of international attention. The clarity of the narrative, cool analysis and contemporary insights are worthy of close critical scrutiny, more so in the light of Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent visit to Islamabad and the $48 billion economic and military aid he is believed to have brought to an "all weather" friend, whose fellowship has withstood the pressures of time and circumstance.

The seedbed of this relationship was Kashmir and India on the Pakistani side; on China's it was India's perceived ambitions in Tibet. India, for its part, felt menaced by the newly arrived Chinese legions in a hitherto peaceful country, while Tibetan unrest and the flight of the Dalai Lama to India in 1959 and the emergent border dispute climaxed by the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962 brought mistrust and outright hostility to the fore. Tibet was the source of the Sino-Indian imbroglio: it has continued to blight the Sino-Indian relationship to this day. 

Defending Fortress Taiwan: It's About Economics

May 8, 2015

Geopolitical strategists see Taiwan as an ultimate test of Chinese and American resolve. But how strong is Taiwanese resolve?

Taiwan has been a relative oasis of Asian geopolitical calm in recent years, with cross-strait ties improving gradually. American observers like Kurt Campbell see Taiwan as a rare case of quiet Sino-American diplomacy (see video). In a relationship where, as Campbell says, competition far exceeds cooperation, an uneasy Taiwan consensus has been achieved. Still, circumstances can change quickly and unexpectedly, especially when Taiwanese elections loom.

Michael Cole and Hugh White both see Taiwan's eventual fate as a contest of American and Chinese resolve, though they differ mightily on the prescription. Less prominent in their debate is the question of Taiwan's own resolve. How strong is its will? Does Taiwan even have a national consensus about its sovereignty? Might it stumble unwittingly into provoking China and America to quarrel? Other authors have warned that it is Taipei's own actions which are likely to be the precipitate factor in a conflict.

Tajikistan Considers Ban on Arabic Names

Things could get awkward with a president whose name is derived from that of the fourth caliph, Imam Ali. 

Tajikistan’s ongoing attack on expressions of Islam in the country continues. In past weeks, we’ve heard stories about forced beard shavings and more than a few comments on how (and in what colors) Tajik women should dress.

Now, parliament is considering a law that would forbid parents from registering baby names that sound “too Arabic.” RFE/RL’s Farangis Najibullah previously reported on the proposed amendments to the country’s civil-registry laws in April. This week Eurasianet‘s David Trilling highlighted a May 4 Interfax report quoting Jaloliddin Rahimov, the deputy head of the Justice Ministry’s department of civil registry, as saying that “after the adoption of these regulations, the registry offices will not register names that are incorrect or alien to the local culture, including names denoting objects, flora, and fauna, as well as names of Arabic origin.”

Eurasianet gets right to the irony:

The effectiveness of such measures might be debatable. Besides, the name bill casts such a wide net that, if taken literally, it could catch the country’s biggest fish: the president [Emomali Rahmon]. Emomali is a version of Imam Ali, Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law, the fourth caliph for Sunnis and the first imam for Shia Muslims.

For South Korea’s Exporters, Innovate or Perish

May 09, 2015

According to a new report, South Korea is losing market share in export sectors where it has enjoyed an advantage. 

South Korea’s export-oriented industrialization (EOI) was, by any conventional measure, a great success. First taking advantage of the demand for cheap, labor-intensive goods and later for capital-intensive ones, South Korea’s economic growth has always been export-driven. Given its initial strategy, export-oriented growth has become path-dependent. South Korea’s high GDP-trade ratio shows just how dependent the country remains on export-led growth.

While it has fared well over the last few decades (indeed, South Korea traded its way out of the 1997 financial crisis), recent data suggests that South Korea may be losing its competitive edge. A report released on May 5 by the Korea Development Institute (KDI), finds that South Korea is facing stiff competition in export sectors where it has enjoyed a comparative advantage, much like Japan did in the early 1990s.

98-1: The US Senate Wants a Say in the Iran Deal

With the Senate’s 98-1 backing, it looks like Congress will have a say in any final Iran deal. 

If you weren’t looking closely, you might read today’s 98-1 vote in favor of a bill that would allow for a 30-day period for congressional review of the terms of the United States’ participation in any final deal reached between the P5+1 group of powers and Iran this June as a bipartisan triumph. True, senators from both parties did come together (with Tom Cotton, the junior senator from Arkansas, the sole dissenter), but this show of bipartisan camaraderie is just building up to a greater storm over the summer.

Within the Republican Party, notably, the bill’s passage signaled a lack of interest in further amending the legislation–engineered primarily by Bob Corker and Robert Menendez earlier this year–according to the whims of some of the party’s more demanding legislators. Cotton, the sole dissenter, grabbed headlines earlier in the year when he and 46 other Republican leaders sent a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, outlining what they perceived as the constitutional fragility of the United States’ ability to commit to any final Iran deal.

Dismantling Empires Through Devolution

SEP 26, 2014 

Democracy is not the most potent political force of the 21st century.

Last week, the world’s most globe-spanning empire until the mid-20th century let its fate be decided by 3.6 million voters in Scotland. While Great Britain narrowly salvaged its nominal unity, the episode offered an important reminder: The 21st century’s strongest political force is not democracy but devolution.

Before the vote was cast, British Prime Minister David Cameron and his team were so worried by voter sentiment swinging toward Scottish independence thatthey promised a raft of additional powers to Edinburgh (and Wales and Northern Ireland) such as the right to set its own tax rates—granting even more concessions than Scotland’s own parliament had demanded. Scotland won before it lost. Furthermore, what it won it will never give back, and what it lost it can try to win again later. England, meanwhile, feels ever more like the center of a Devolved Kingdom rather than a united one.

Ukraine leader warns of worsening conflict, peace envoys more hopeful | Reuters

May 7, 2015

MINSK/KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko warned on Wednesday of a growing threat of large-scale military action in the east of the country, but peace envoys reported some progress towards full implementation of a fragile ceasefire agreement.

Earlier Ukraine's military said five of its servicemen had died in the past 24 hours, while pro-Russian separatist officials said three rebel fighters had been injured in the same period in attacks from the Ukrainian side.

Casualties are reported almost daily despite the truce, brokered in February in the Belarussian capital Minsk to end a year-old conflict in which more than 6,000 have been killed.

"The threat of large-scale military action from Russian terrorist groups not only remains but is growing," Poroshenko told a security and defence council meeting in Kiev.

He said there were more than 40,000 separatist fighters in the rebel-controlled territories and a further 50,000 Russian troops across the border, according to a statement posted on his website.

Later, the security council said it had approved plans to "accelerate the construction of fortified lines and borders" to improve Ukraine's defences, according to an online statement.

Moscow Conference on International Security 2015 Part 2: Gerasimov on military threats facing Russia

Here’s the second installment of my reporting from the 2015 MCIS conference. This one and the next will focus on Russian views of NATO as the primary source of military threat to the Russian Federation. The first speech was by General Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff. His topic was the military threats and dangers facing Russia in the contemporary period. He launched into a discussion of how the West saw Russia’s efforts to stabilize the situation in Ukraine as unacceptable independence in standing up for its national interests. He argued that this reaction was the cause of the increase in international tension over the last year, as the Western countries have sought to put political and economic pressure on Russia in order to “put it in its place.” He argues that while many Western experts believe that the Ukraine crisis has led to a sudden and rapid collapse of world order, the reality is that the situation has been developing since the start of the 1990s. The problems were caused by the collapse of the bipolar system, which allowed the US to consider itself the winner of the Cold War and to attempt to build a system in which it had total domination over international security. In such a system, the US would decide unilaterally which countries could be considered democratic and which were “evil empires,” which were freedom fighters and which terrorists and separatists. In doing so, the US stopped considering the interests of other states and would only selectively follow the norms of international law.

Russia has had to respond to this threat and has done so in its new military doctrine, which strictly follows international norms. The key points, as presented by Gerasimov in the slide below, include using violent means only as a last resort, using military force to contain and prevent conflicts, and preventing all (but especially nuclear) military conflicts. At the same time, the doctrine states that the current international security system does not provide for all countries to have security in equal measure. In other words, Russian military leaders continue to feel that Russian security is infringed by the current international security system and imply that they would like to see it revised.