6 August 2015

Mission not accomplished

Confirmation of the death of Taliban’s last unifying figure could set back the peace process in Afghanistan.

Former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. (Source: Reuters)
Ever since the announcement of the death of Mullah Omar, the Taliban amir al-mu’minin (commander of the faithful), by the Afghan authorities, experts have been pondering the future of the so-called “reconciliation” process in Afghanistan. Talks had taken place in Murree, Pakistan, on July 7, sponsored by Pakistan, China and the United States. Following the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death, a second meeting scheduled for July 31 was cancelled.

Concluding that this move has killed the reconciliation process in Afghanistan would, however, be an exaggeration, if for no other reason than because such a process had barely started. Reconciliation is by definition a long-term endeavour, likely to take months, if not years, and fragile until its very end, as it can be jeopardised at any stage by developments on the ground.

This is what a nuclear attack on Indian, or Pakistani, cities will look like. And it is scary as hell

New tool lets you assess impact nuclear bombs could have on any part of the world.

US bombed Hiroshima on August 9, 1945 and Nagasaki three days later.

Smart is as smart does

August 5, 2015

Smart Cities are inevitable in the same way that Smart Grids are inevitable. But we need something new, something better, and something that works

A few years ago, smart grids were all the rage — Amitabh Bachchan was even on the cover of a business magazine in 2010 with a Smart Meter, and was dubbed “Power Genie”. Given, however, the low percentage of Smart Meter rollouts across homes, we have to be wary of Gartner’s famous Hype Cycle. Similarly, are Smart Cities just the next buzzword?

If the benefits of a ‘smart’ system are apparent — and most specialists would attest to its potential — why don’t we have more such systems?

First, we don’t even know what a ‘Smart City’ really means. What are citizens to make of Smart Cities? Would anyone prefer a ‘Dumb City’ to a ‘Smart City’? The choice is less obvious than that between a regular phone and a smartphone, where price is a major factor. In reality, consumers aren’t participants in the decision-making process. They mostly pay for or adjust towards things that help them. The problem arises in cases where they may not have to bear all the costs of their actions — what economists call ‘externalities’ — like those associated with pollution. The challenge is amplified when we move from Smart Grids to Smart Cities, where multiple domains and jurisdictions need to interact for optimal outcomes, and we have risks of underinvestment in public goods (à la the tragedy of the commons).

Was it an Atomic Bomb?

By Lt Gen Eric A Vas
06 Aug , 2015

On 7 August, Bose was still unaware of what had happened at Hiroshima. In fact, the news of what had happened at Hiroshima was slow even to reach the Japanese Government in Tokyo. There was very little authentic reporting of what had actually taken place due to the chaotic conditions prevailing in Japan.

That same morning, Bose left Singapore to visit the INA Training Centre at Seremban, some miles north of Singapore, in order to resolve a disciplinary problem. He had meant to make a brief visit and return to Singapore and had, therefore, not carried his radio set with him. He found himself being drawn into the affairs of the Centre. The guesthouse at Seremban was restful and he decided to spend a few nights there. He was, therefore, unaware when, on 8 August, Stalin declared war on Japan. The next day the Russians crossed the Manchurian border.

The same day, a second atom bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, a city of 260,000 inhabitants, of whom probably 40,000 were killed and as many injured, and 1.8 square miles of the city destroyed. Though this bomb was more powerful that the first one, the uneven terrain confined the maximum intensity of damage to the valley over which it exploded.
Bose in Seremban still had no knowledge of what had happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that peace negotiations were taking place.

The battle between secular India and Bharat

August 04, 2015

A left-leaning centralised socialist model has created a shortage/entitlement economy. In fact one of the reasons for India's limited progress is that post-independent India is at odds with its true nature. It is something that educated right of centre Hindus are trying to correct, says Sanjeev Nayyar.
Sunil Sethi’s recent article, How India is a nation of cheats uses the Vyapam scandal in Madhya Pradesh and Rajiv Malhotra being accused of plagiarism with respect to his books Breaking India and Indra's Net to justify the title.

Using two examples to say we are a nation of cheats is an insult to 1.25 billion Indians. Notwithstanding aberrations, Indians are honest people and have earned a fair name for themselves worldwide.

So far as Indians being cheats has. Sethi read, 'The 10 Biggest Frauds in Recent US history' published by Forbes.com. Am taking the US because it is where Richard Fox Young, who has accused Malhotra of plagiarism, resides. Details are:

"Enron. The energy company's bankruptcy in 2001 after allegations of massive accounting fraud wiped out $78 billion in stock market value and led to the collapse of Arthur Andersen.

The Naga Peace Accord: A Historical Context

It is often said that history is chronicle of follies of the past! The history of Nagaland conflict aptly fits that description. It is worthwhile to take a dispassionate look at the past so that we can learn from the past mistakes.
Unlike the Shillong Accord of 1970s, this was a full photo op with PM in attendance. The idea was to send a clear message to the Naga people that they are indeed hounoured members of the Indian union. It is ironic that the accord took so long when the Naga’s desire was merely for a peace with honour!

The accord signed by the NSCN (National Socialist Council of Nagaland) IM (IssackSwu and Muiva) with the Govt. of India is indeed a landmark event. The biggest remaining insurgent group has thus come into the national mainstream. Peace in North East is a- priori requirement for India’s Act East policy. It is only through a peaceful NE that India can connect with Myanmar and SE Asia. In addition, whole of NE has immense natural resources like oil and gas that lie un explored due to unstable conditions. All that could well change with this accord if a quick follow up is undertaken.

India's MMRCA Is Officially Dead. Now What?

August 05, 2015

As my colleague Franz-Stefan Gady reported earlier, India’s request-for-proposal (RFP) for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft has been, as was expected, formally withdrawn. Following Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement in Paris earlier this year that New Delhi would opt to purchase 36 Dassault Rafale fighters off-the-shelf, it was only a matter of time before we received confirmation from the Indian Defense Ministry of the MMRCA’s demise. The government-to-government deal left little hope that long-standing disastrous negotiation process between France’s Dassault Aviation and the Indian defense ministry would go on. As I commented at the time, the “mother of all defense deals,” as India’s MMRCA tender was known, was effectively dead.

What’s interesting at this juncture is what New Delhi plans to do to meet the Indian Air Force’s outstanding requirement for another 90 medium multi-role fighters. The Times of India reports that, in line with the Modi government’s “Make in India” initiative, the Indian government will revive a new RFP for 90 medium multi-role combat aircraft, effectively reanimating the procurement process but with Indian manufacturers in line.

India’s Solar Dream: Resolving the ‘Land’ Conundrum

At the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has decided to take the next leap forward in its quest to achieve a low-carbon economy and energy security, inviting huge investments in renewable energy, particularly solar energy. By investing heavily in solar, wind, biomass, energy efficiency, and conservation (and even nuclear, which is considered “clean” by the establishment), the government aims to build energy self-sufficiency and self-reliance. However, the road ahead is not easy. The biggest stumbling block that could come in the way of India’s effort to become a leader in the solar energy market is land acquisition.

Double Standards over Black Money


While Indians will face the consequences of a draconian law, ‘foreign money’ gets to hide as faceless Participatory Notes

In 2007, Prof R Vaidyanathan (of IIM Bengaluru) wrote in The Hindu Business Line that Participatory Notes (PNs) had “created a storm in the stock market, with SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) coming out with a draft for discussion on how to regulate them, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) suggesting that they be phased out, and the finance minister assuring that the government is not going to phase them out.” 

Prof Vaidyanathan, who is working on a book on Black Money & Tax Havens and India’s Wealth Abroad—and is a member of several committees of the capital market regulator—has been strongly in favour of phasing out these faceless investment instruments.

PNs are offshore derivative instruments issued by foreign institutional investors (FIIs) or their associates against underlying Indian securities. They are issued to investors who are either not qualified to invest in the Indian market or not registered with the regulators. By their very nature, PNs camouflage the beneficial ownership and the fact that they are quickly and easily transferable makes it almost impossible to track true ownership. 

Can India counter?

Zorawar Daulet Singh
Aug 05, 2015

India's diplomatic strategy must seek to raise the stakes for Washington and Beijing by making them more responsible in their roles.

India will, declared Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, provide a “befitting reply” to Pakistan for its terror attacks. Usually, such statements are taken seriously. But in this case, we can expect Pakistan to brush aside such exhortations as empty talk. 

Neither will Washington or Beijing take Indian opprobrium seriously. And they are not wrong in their assessment. India’s political elite and security community has failed spectacularly in formulating a viable response to Pakistan’s cross-border proxy war. Each terror incident invokes anger, frustration, and finally, a resigned acceptance. A powerful image underlying the political elite’s prism towards Pakistan is India’s economic stability constrains Indian options. An Indo-Pakistan crisis will frighten investors and isolate India from the world economy. Although in an age of interdependence such an assumption appears intuitive, it is really a self-constructed myth to justify inaction. 

India’s $2 trillion economy has its own fundamentals and can ride out spurts of brinkmanship and arguably even limited conflicts. Nevertheless, this notion that India’s economy requires a Pakistan policy that looks the other way to cross-border terror has had a pernicious effect on New Delhi’s strategic thinking. Instead of seeking to develop a credible counter-strategy to Pakistan’s sub-conventional war, India’s security community has taken the lazy way out.

Full text: This is the op-ed that has Indian media abuzz about Pakistan’s role in 26/11 attacks

The Mumbai terror attacks were claimed by India to be its 9/11. For more than 66 hours, 10 highly trained militants played havoc in India’s commercial metropolis, spraying bullets and shedding the blood of innocent civilians and tourists in November 2008, bringing the two nuclear neighbours to the brink of an all-out war.

In Ufa, Russia on July 10, 2015, both the prime ministers of Pakistan and India were “prepared to discuss all outstanding issues,” and both the leaders “condemned terrorism in all its forms” and agreed to cooperate with each other “to eliminate this menace from South Asia”. Therefore, we in Pakistan should welcome this development wholeheartedly.

Didn’t we suffer the pain and agony of our own 9/11 on December 16, 2014, at the hands of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and its surrogates and aren’t we as a nation determined to root out terrorism in all its forms from our soil? The answer is obviously a resounding yes and I have no doubt that the political and security leadership have resolved to eliminate the scourge of terrorism, militancy and extremism through the counterterrorism National Action Plan. The duality and distinction between good and bad Taliban, including all militants and terrorists, should stand removed from Miramshah to Muridke, from Karachi to Quetta.

2008 Mumbai attackers were trained on our soil, Pakistani official says

Today's major developments.

Evidence is clear, says former Pakistan investigator
A former Director of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency on Tuesday said that the Lashkar-e-Taiba militants who attacked Mumbai 2008 were trained on Pakistani soil. In an article published in Dawn, Tariq Khosa said that the investigation had established clear links to the LeT, such as the fact that the fishing trawler used by the gunmen to infiltrate Mumbai was traced to Pakistan. Welcoming Khosa’s article, former Indian Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh said that India now needed to bring up the points raised by the ex-FIA Director during National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s upcoming meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz. Ten gunmen infiltrated Mumbai from the Arabian Sea in November 2008 and killed 166 people.

Revoke suspensions, demands Opposition

What Next for the Afghanistan Peace Talks?

The admission by the Taliban that its leader Mullah Mohammed Omar had in fact died two years ago has appeared to derail nascent talks between the group and the government of Afghanistan. The confusion that has been on display over the past week or so has also exposed some serious rifts within the Taliban, with a hardline faction clearly opposed to any peace negotiations with Kabul. The new leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour has promised to continue fighting, but it is unclear how much control he has over the Taliban rank and file.

In early July, Pakistan hosted a first round of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the resort town of Murree, adjacent to Islamabad. The Murree meeting followed a series of unofficial interactions between the Afghan government and the Taliban representatives in recent months in China, Norway and Qatar. Independent Pakistani analysts say that Pakistan played a crucial role in facilitating the talks, convincing reluctant Taliban representatives to come to the negotiating table. The Muree talks ended with an agreement to meet again after several weeks. That second meeting has now been postponed.

Reforms: From Now Till 2019

3 Aug, 2015

Maximizing employment generation should be the exclusive focus of this government’s reform measures. This must be the singlemost important policy priority today.

At the end of the Narendra Modi government’s first year, the economy is slowly but surely emerging out of the morass it had descended into in the last two years of the UPA regime. A substantial part of the messy legacy has been cleared. A new start has been made with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley allocating an additional Rs 1.4 lakh crore for public capital expenditure in the previous Budget and with Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu coming up with the Kayakalp programme designed to modernize the Railways with sharply higher investment and technology upgradation. Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari is likely to follow suit by announcing the initiation of 70 new road projects for which regulatory and procedural impediments have been cleared along with those affecting 520 of the 600-odd public-private partnership (PPP) projects. All this will hopefully result in the much-needed upturn in the investment cycle in the coming months.

The Jan Dhan Yojana, under which 160 million new accounts have been opened until 10 June, and more than Rs 18,000 crore mobilized as fresh deposits, will surely improve the access of poor households to the formal banking sector. A 100 million new policies have been issued under the three insurance schemes that were launched in May. Both these financial inclusion measures will significantly reduce the dualism between the formal and informal sector that has characterised the Indian economy so far. These financial inclusion measures and the initiative to directly transfer subsidy payments will improve the flow of benefits of more rapid growth to the bottom of the pyramid.

The Afghan Government Should Take Advantage of Mullah Omar’s Death ASAP

August 04, 2015

It is now confirmed that the erstwhile leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Omar, is no longer in this world. Moreover, he has been dead and buried (somewhere in Afghanistan) for over two years,unknown to most of the Taliban. The death of Mullah Omar changes the calculus in Afghanistan as it impacts ongoing negotiations between the Taliban and the government. It has been suggested that groups as disparate as the Afghan government, the Chinese government, and the West may all miss Mullah Omar because he was the glue that held the Taliban together and made negotiating with them meaningful.

In fact, the Taliban is already fragmenting and that is a good thing. It is precisely because top commanders did not want the movement to fragment that they kept Mullah Omar’s death secret; but now that the cat is out of the bag, it is too late to stuff it back in. In addition to Mullah Omar, another key Taliban leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani of the Haqqani Network—allies of the Taliban based in Waziristan, Pakistan—was revealed to have died over a year ago (he is also buried in Afghanistan). With these important leaders gone, the Taliban is rudderless. An ally of the group and notorious warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar declared his support for the Islamic State last month.

Pakistan's Shocking Strategic Shift

August 4, 2015 

Mounting internal threats have caused Pakistan to step back from its focus on perceived threats from India.
Pakistan is often characterized as a belligerent, unyielding, and destabilizing force in international affairs. But despite longstanding and widespread negative perceptions, Pakistani behavior and strategic culture is changing for the better in important respects, as recently exemplified by anti-Taliban operations in the country’s North Waziristan region and thawing relations with the United States and Afghanistan.

The reorientation of Pakistan’s national security policies remains little noticed because media coverage of Pakistan is crisis-driven and narrowly focused, often overlooking longer-term trends. Pakistan is still routinely chastised forinadequately demobilizing militant groups, overspending on its military (bothconventional and nuclear forces) relative to its social needs, and tradingaccusations with India without initiatives to improve relations.


August 5, 2015

Admiral, is China an adversary?” On July 30, Sen. Tom Cotton (R–AR) asked that question to Adm. John Richardson, who is President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next chief of naval operations. Heretofore, the most common answer in official Washington to that question has been to describe China as a competitor, not an adversary. Richardson avoided a straight answer; he said China was “a complex nation,” doing some things that possessed an “adversarial nature.” But by declining to give the standard response, Richardson may have signaled a transition in official thinking to the view that China is in fact an adversary.

The Obama administration now faces a critical decision on two flashpoints created by Chinese aggression. The first is how the United States government will respond to the cyber intrusion into the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) database, an attack that resulted in the theft of over 20 million government personnel records. The administration has reached a series of conclusions regarding the OPM hack that represents a significant departure from past practices. The National Security Agency is confident that the Chinese government is responsible for the OPM hack. After the magnitude and audacity of the OPM hack became clear, the U.S. government decided to go beyond defensive cyber software and computer hygiene to defend against cyber challenges. Deterrence, created by a punishing response to this intrusion, will now be the U.S. government’s approach to such cyber attacks. As a result, President Obama is “clearly seeking leverage, [and] has asked his staff to come up with a more creative set of responses.”

Why China's Massive Military Buildup Is Doomed

With confrontation looming in the South China Sea, all eyes are turned to China's military expansion. News that China is building massive naval docking facilities and transforming its new South China Sea island into a mid-ocean air force base is scaring the whole region into arming up. The message is clear: after 200 years of western domination, China is back.

Or is it? Contrary to the prognostications of western doomsayers, China is not facing imminent political collapse. Its economic growth is inevitably slowingdown but its economy is relatively healthy compared to those of its peers. But claims (or fears) of Chinese global domination are clearly overblown. The budget numbers just don't add up.

The 2015 headline expansion in China's military spending is 10.1 percent, continuing two decades ofdouble-digit growth. Astute economists have pointed out that these figures are rarely adjusted for inflation. Worse, they do not take into account the fact that wages (the PLA's largest expenditure category) are rising much faster than inflation in China. It may still be a lot of money, but 741 billion yuan just doesn't go as far as it used to.


Is China Planning to Build a Military Base on Scarborough Shoal?

If officials in The Philippines are correct, China could be setting up what may be a ‘game changer’ in the always turbulent South China Sea: some sort of military outpost or base on the hotly contested Scarborough Shoal.

In a piece yesterday for the Wall Street Journal, Philippine officials laid out their fears that Beijing could move at some point in the future to turn the shoal, just 120 miles west of Subic Bay, into some sort of military installation.

At the Journal points out, Scarborough is nearly submerged at high tide. However, control of what seems to be a bunch of worthless rocks could be invaluable if the area were reclaimed and made much larger, as China has already done in many instances at various reefs and small islands throughout the South China Sea.

The article also notes that “by running a cordon across the rock formation’s mouth, Philippine officials note, China has captured 58 square miles of territory, including fisheries and any other resources under the surface.”

This Is How Russia and China Could Make Big Trouble for America

August 5, 2015

As Russia and China plan their latest installment of joint naval exercises, strategic planners in Washington are invited yet again to take stock of the health and trajectory of America’s relationships with the world’s great powers. Will the U.S. be able to hold its own in an increasingly multipolar international system? Should more be done to foster friendships with rising and resurgent great powers? Or is the goal to defend military preponderance at any price?

Although it is questionable just how close the Sino-Russian relationship is destined to become, any degree of military cooperation between these two powers is unappealing from Washington’s perspective. Despite the hopes of some that U.S.-Russian relations might improve in the wake of a successful deal over Iran’s nuclear capabilities, Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Georgia andelsewhere mean that Moscow will remain a serious potential adversary for the foreseeable future. And while U.S.-China relations are on a much stronger footing—at the very least, they have not descended into proxy warfare—American angst about a rising China’s potential to assert itself in East Asia is well documented.

Making Sense of China's Confucius Institutes

August 5, 2015

Inside a modern lecture hall at The George Washington University (GW), a well-respected guest lecturer from China addressed me and the other women in his audience as “female comrades.”

I nearly spat out my tea.

It was a lazy April Saturday afternoon in Washington, DC. I had come to GW to attend a symposium sponsored by the university’s Confucius Institute, a Chinese language and cultural center. Meant to be a vehicle for exporting China’s soft power, Confucius Institutes—funded by Beijing and numbering over four hundred—have sprung up around the world during the past decade.

China’s state-sponsored cultural exports inevitably create controversy in the West. Critics warn that educational institutions receiving financial support from the Chinese authoritarian regime risk ceding control of their curriculum, academic freedom and intellectual integrity. Just last year, the University of Chicago severed its relationship with the Confucius Institute due to intense faculty opposition, while the Toronto District School Board terminated an agreement that would have allowed the Confucius Institute to teach Chinese to elementary school children.

Southeast Asian Countries Warm to US-Proposed Freeze on South China Sea Land Reclamation

August 05, 2015
Ahead of the ASEAN Regional Forum summit this week, a number of Southeast Asian countries have called for a halt to land reclamation activities in the South China Sea, Reuters reports.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman (and this year’s ARF chairman) said that the ASEAN members agreed that “exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate tension must be enhanced.”

The 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, an agreement between ASEAN and China, already saw all parties agree “to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features.” Construction activities are generally considered to fall under the vague rubric of “activities that would complicate or escalate disputes” and China, the Philippines, and Vietnam have all accused one another of violating the DoC through construction in the disputed area (which all have engaged in).

China's Anti-Corruption Fight Turns Toward Environmental Agency

By chinadialogue
August 05, 2015

Retired Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) vice minister Zhang Lijun has fallen foul of China’s ongoing corruption crackdown, becoming the highest-ranking environmental official yet to be investigated.
China’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), announced details of the probe on July 30.

“Zhang Lijun, former vice minister for environmental protection and member of the ministry’s Party group, is under investigation for serious breaches of discipline and law,” the CCDI said on its website.

Zhang, 63, retired from the MEP two years ago. He previously served as deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Agency in 2004, and four years later was promoted to vice-minister with the granting of ministerial status to SEPA (now known as the MEP) in 2008. He held that post until his retirement in 2013.

According to China Business News (CBN), Zhang and other unnamed parties are accused of taking advantage of their positions to influence policy decisions, build networks of influence, obtain bribes, and undermine market competition.

Why China Will Base an Aircraft Carrier Near the South China Sea

August 05, 2015
In July 2015, the Canadian-based, Chinese-languageKanwa Defense Review reported that China had finished building its second aircraft carrier base. The first base is in Dalian, in northern Liaoning Province; the new base, the larger of the two, is reportedly based in Sanya, on Hainan Island off China’s southern coast.

According to details of the report, which was picked up by Chinese media outlets, the base has a large pier that could accommodate two aircraft carriers at once. China currently operates only one aircraft carrier, theLiaoning, a retrofitted Ukrainian carrier believed to be used primarily for training purposes. In March, after months of rumors, Chinese media quoted naval officers who confirmed that China is constructing a second carrier, which would be its first indigenously produced model. Kanwa expects this new carrier to be principally based at Hainan (the Liaoning is based in Dalian).

At 700 meters long, the new base at Hainan is the longest carrier berth in the world, and the widest at 120 meters. Want China Times, citing the Kanwa report, said that construction on the base began in 2011 and was completed by 2015, although the base will likely continued to be worked on and expanded. The new carrier base is close to the existing Yulin nuclear submarine base; as Want China Times notes, “if the two bases are taken together, they will constitute the PLA Navy’s largest multirole base.”

US to Challenge China for World’s Fastest Supercomputer

Since June 2013, China has boasted the world’s fastest supercomputer: the Tianhe-2, built by China’s National University of Defense Technology and housed at the National Super Computer Center in Guangzhou. According to the TOP500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers, Tianhe-2 boasts a speed of 33.86 pentaflops (one pentaflop is one quadrillion floating-point calculations per second), nearly double the United States’ second-place computer, Titan (housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee). The United States still holds the title for most systems on the list, accounting for 233 of the 500 (China only had 37 supercomputers on the July 2015 list).

However, U.S. President Barack Obama is determined to win the number one ranking back for the United States. On July 29, he issued an Executive Order creating the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI), with the goal of researching and building the first supercomputer to reach 1,000 pentaflops (or one exaflop) – nearly 30 times faster than Tianhe-2. The U.S. already has a 100-petaflop computer in development, slated to be ready in 2017; Obama wants computers capable of speeds 10 times that.

China’s Sovereign Wealth Fund Seeking Alpha in Silk Road

August 04, 2015

China Investment Corporation (CIC), one of China’s four sovereign wealth funds, began overseas direct investment operations last Monday in the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. Caixin.com reported that CIC Capital, CIC’s overseas direct investment branch started in 2015, may have received $100 billion from a Ministry of Finance (MOF) bond issue in part for this purpose. CIC is seeking to profit from OBOR projects in line with its aim of maintaining a direct investment in a number of countries.

China Investment Corporation’s investment in OBOR may encounter the returns it is looking for, as the sovereign wealth fund appears to have found its footing in a longer-term investment strategy after several years of mixed success. CIC has faced funding issues, with a sporadic source of funding coming from MOF bond issues, as well as major losses in 2008, having invested heavily in Morgan Stanley and Blackstone Group, which suffered greatly during the global financial crisis. However, after posting negative annual returns on its global portfolio in 2008 and 2011, CIC shifted its strategy toward long-term investments, particularly direct investments, using funds to renew infrastructure in Europe after the crisis, to invest in African industry, and now to build up infrastructure along the Silk Road.

Yemen forces launch major offensive to recapture air base from Houthi rebels

News from around the world.

Pro-government forces advance on key Yemeni air base

Forces loyal to exiled Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi on Monday launched a major offensive to recapture the strategic Al-Anad air base from the Shia Houthi rebels. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which has been attacking the rebels, provided tanks and armoured vehicles to the forces apart from air cover. Later, while Yemeni military officials said their forces had gained control of the air base's western gate, Houthi officials said they still had command of the base. The base, which provides access to a road between the strategic cities of Aden and Taiz, was previously used by the United States to launch drone strikes against the Yemeni branch of the militant group al-Qaeda.

Greek stocks plunge after five-week shut down

The Athens Stock Exchange plunged over 16% on Monday, its first day of trading after a five-week-long shutdown brought on by fears that the country would exit the Eurozone. "The market tanked, as expected," said Takis Zamanis, the chief trader for Beta Securities, a wealth management firm. While continuing to tackle the worsening economic situation in the country, the Greek government has been engaged in negotiations with its Eurozone creditors over the terms of a third bailout package worth 86 billion Euros. However, while the International Monetary Fund has threatened pull out of the bailout programme unless some debt relief is granted to Greece, countries such as Germany have opposed debt relief on the grounds that it would set a precedent for other economies in the Eurozone.

How the Iran Deal Erodes the Nonproliferation Treaty

August 5, 2015

Diplomats and other experts often refer to nonproliferation “regimes,” i.e. systems of laws, norms, and practices intended to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction The nuclear nonproliferation regime, based on the 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty and the statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency as the implementing body, has a spotty record.

It did not succeed in preventing Saddam Hussein’s Iraq from developing an advanced weapons program, though the IAEA, under UN authority, clearly did an excellent job of dismantling Iraqi nuclear infrastructure after the first Gulf War, as became clear later on, after the 2003 invasion.

Intensive U.S. bilateral diplomacy helped block North Korea’s withdrawal from the NPT, initially announced in 1993, for a decade. But Pyongyang then tested its first nuclear weapon in 2006. Iran remains party to the NPT, but nonetheless managed to flaunt its obligations under the treaty for quite some time.

The Real Danger: What If the Iran Deal Actually Works?

August 4, 2015

Last month, the P5+1 and Iran announced the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that represents the long-anticipated result of nearly two years of negotiation with Iran over its nuclear program. President Obama called the JCPOA a historic deal “that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” One week later, the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the 104-page resolution (UNSCR 2231) that is intended to fully implement the JCPOA. 

The resolution defines “Adoption Day” as 90 days after the UN Security Council’s endorsement of the JCPOA in order to provide Congress with sufficient time to review and vote on this highly detailed and complex document prior to its implementation.

Congressional deliberations are important as core U.S. national security interests are at stake that warrant intense scrutiny and sober assessment. In addition to raising and answering important questions regarding key nuclear-related issues such as the efficacy of the inspections regime and any “technical documents” negotiated separately between the IAEA and Iran, Congress would be wise to closely examine the strategic implications of lifting the embargoes on Iran’s conventional weapons and ballistic missiles that will allow Iran to modernize its military (as well as its proxies) and threaten the regional balance of power in the Middle East.

Uzbek Refugee Facing Terrorism Charges In the US

Fazliddin Kurbanov, a a 32-year old Uzbek refugee, moved to Idaho with his family in 2009. In 2013, he was arrested on federal terrorism charges filed in both Idaho and Utah. The indictment in Idaho included charges of conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and possession of an “unregistered destructive device.” In Utah, Kurbanov was charged with distributing information relating to explosives. Kurbanov’s trial was delayed several times but finally began in mid-July. The trial is expected to take six weeks and began on July 14.

According to the authorities, Kurbanov reached out to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The FBI says Kurbanov discussed bomb-making and attacking U.S. military bases or public transportation with what he thought was the IMU. When his apartment was raided in May 2013, authorities say they found materials that could have been made into an explosive device: a hollow hand grenade, a hobby fuse, aluminum powder, potassium nitrate, and sulfur. After his arrest, Kurbanov agreed to talk to FBI agents without an attorney present, signing a statement waiving his rights in both Uzbek and English. In January, the defense tried to have the interview tossed out, saying that Kurbanov did not understand his rights:

Is the ISIS Threat in Kyrgyzstan Real?

By Aidai Masylkanova
August 04, 2015

On the evening of a scorching hot mid-July day in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, one of the streets in the city center was looking like a scene from a war movie. Alpha, the special forces of the Kyrgyz State National Security Services (KSNSS), together with police had surrounded a mansion, formerly a privately owned hotel. Inside were armed men, and they were putting up a fierce resistance.

Reportedly, the special forces had earlier that day also eliminated two militants in the suburbs of Bishkek. The evening operation was unfolding in front of dozens of onlookers, unfazed by the heavy smoke billowing from the houses and the rising intensity of the gunfire. Ultimately, the gunfight ended with four militants killed and several reportedly captured, and with four special forces members wounded. Among the dead militants were both Kazakh and Kyrgyz nationals. No civilian casualties were reported, but five houses in the neighborhood were destroyed or damaged.

The Growing Fear Over Islamist Extremism

28 Jul 2015

A new study by the Pew Research Center finds that there are changing attitudes towards Islamist extremism, with concerns growing in Western countries and those with significant Muslim populations.

The Pew survey, published on 16 July 2015, was carried out across 21 countries between April and May 2015, with over 21,000 people interviewed. In the six months prior to the survey, high profile Islamist attacks took place in Peshawar, Ottawa, Sydney, Paris and Copenhagen.

The survey asked the question: 'How concerned, if at all, are you about Islamic extremism in our country these days?' It gave respondents the options of 'very concerned,' 'somewhat concerned,' not too concerned,' and 'not at all concerned.' The last time the question was asked in countries with significant Muslims populations was in 2013, prior to ISIS declaring acaliphate in Iraq and Syria.

The report finds that on average, 52 per cent of people surveyed across nine Western nations are very concerned about Islamist extremism today, with 42 per cent very concerned across the ten countries with significant Muslim populations.

Concerns over extremism have grown in France, from 29% in 2011 to 67% in 2015.

Defeating ISIS: The Board Game

JUL 31, 2015 

Everyone with a stake in Middle Eastern geopolitics publicly declares that ISIS must be defeated. Yet opinions range widely on how this should be achieved.
Saudi Arabia, for example, believes ISIS cannot be defeated unless Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is removed from power. Turkey has just convincedNATO nations that the war against ISIS can only be won if Turkey’s traditional Kurdish opponents are neutralized first. Israel sees only one way to defeat ISIS: destroy Iran’s nuclear program and clip its wings regionally.

The Confused Person's Guide to Middle East ConflictSo what explains these apparently contradictory aims? The cynical view would be that all these parties are less interested in defeating ISIS than in achieving their own regional goals, and that they’re only pretending to be concerned about wiping out the group. Clearly, however, there is no place for cynicism in Middle Eastern politics. Everyone involved in the region is known to be sincere, albeit in radically different ways.

Taliban Leadership Struggle Sows Confusion Amongst Movement’s Fighters Inside Afghanistan

Margherita Stancati and Habib Khan Totakhil
August 4, 2015

Taliban Leadership Rift Seeps Down to Fighters

KABUL—A power struggle has emerged within Afghanistan’s Taliban following the death of their supreme commander, causing confusion among foot soldiers and sowing fears that some might defect to Islamic State.

Just a few people within the Taliban knew of Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death until it was revealed with certainty last week, first by the Afghan government, which said it occurred in April 2013, and a day later by the Taliban. For years, the movement’s leadership continued to issue orders and statements in the name of their deceased founder.

Now the costs of that coverup are starting to become clear.

“Most ordinary Taliban feel like they’ve been deceived by their leaders,” said a Taliban commander in the eastern Afghan province of Khost. “We were kept in dark, and now we don’t know who to follow.”

The commander added that “disagreements between senior leaders are further discouraging fighters,” many of whom say they are tired of war after 14 years.


30 July 2015

While China has developed Tibet's infrastructure by leaps and bounds, India has been building up its border infrastructure at snail’s pace. The Modi Government has promised a change but this is easier said than done

The Indian electronic media has developed the art of inconsequence: They take an irrelevant issue and for days at the time, go on and on, repeating the same clichés, while ignoring the vital issues facing the nation. One of the subjects which has been grossly neglected is India’s borders, particularly with China in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.

While China has taken a great leap forward to develop Tibet’s infrastructure (using the great excuse of having to cater every year for 15 millions Han tourists visiting the Tibetan plateau), India develops its border areas at snail’s pace, struggling to create a semblance of infrastructure.

Soon after he took over as the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, this writer had interviewed Kiren Rijiju, a native of Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh; he had then said, “My immediate concern is to concentrate on the India-China border. That concern means securing our territory. When I say that we must strengthen our position on the India-China border, it’s not in offensive terms. We don’t want any kind of confrontation; by not developing or strengthening our area along the India-China border, we are indirectly conceding these areas to the other side.”