2 May 2016

*** India's Foreign Policy: The Foreign Hand

by Bharat Karnad
Bharat Karnad is Professor of National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi
Has India outsourced foreign policy to American think tanks?
IN 2013, Brookings Institution, a prestigious American think tank, opened its New Delhi chapter, promising to disseminate ‘recommendations for Indian policymakers’. Three years later, its Washington twin, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, set up shop in the country, hoping to develop ‘fresh policy ideas and direct[ly] [engage] and collaborat[e] with decision makers in [Indian] government, business, and civil society’. It is reasonable to surmise that the policy advice proffered by these two organisations will, at a minimum, be in tune with the US interests and geopolitics.

In fact, at an event on 6 April, Sunil Mittal, owner of Bharti Airtel, a big donor and chairman of the board of trustees of Carnegie India, removed any doubts on this score. “We have put out our flag here,” he declared, without a trace of irony in a speech that to some seemed studded with many other cringe-worthy gems, such as his plea to numerous Indian moneybags in the audience to show more “generosity in moving our agenda forward”—meaning, presumably, the Carnegie (cum-Brookings)-qua-US government policy agenda in this country.
Carnegie and Brookings have established a presence financed by Indians, to influence the Indian Government and engender domestic policies that resonate with the United States’ regional and international posture. It is a business model last implemented when the famed Jagat Seths of Murshidabad subsidised the East India Company’s operations.
It marks an astonishing turn in Indian foreign policy that until the last years of the 20th century had made good by leveraging the country’s autonomous heft and independent standing in the world—keeping all big powers at bay while getting close to this or that major country on a contingency basis to advance specific strategic interests from time to time, and by scrupulously preserving its broad policy latitude and freedom of action. But Shivshankar Menon, a star in the Brookings India firmament, during his time as India’s Foreign Secretary and National Security Adviser in the Manmohan Singh dispensation, scoffed at Indian policies to ‘balance’ regional and international power as “oh so 19th century” and now foresees no detrimental outcomes from buying into US security schemes. That such sentiments are mainstream today is attributable to the institutionalisation in the late 1990s of the collaborationist school of national security policy thinking propagated by the late K Subrahmanyam, the ‘go to’ strategist for the Indian Government.

In a nutshell, Subrahmanyam’s idea was that in a world dominated by the US, it made economic, technological and military sense to foster a strategic partnership with it to help propel the Indian economy forward and enable the country to technologically and militarily compete with China, and, by acting as a ‘responsible’ country with ‘reasonable’ policies, become a stakeholder in a system of durable peace in Asia overseen by Washington DC. The policies of AB Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh, and Narendra Modi have hewed to the Subrahmanyam script. They have made capital purchases ($10 billion worth of transport planes, for example, with $25 billion worth of nuclear reactors in the pipeline), courted US trade and investments, enhanced military cooperation, and even compromised India’s nuclear security (by acquiescing in a testing moratorium cemented by the Indo-US nuclear deal and restricting India to a small nuclear arsenal for ‘minimum deterrence’). It may be recalled that Subrahmanyam and his acolytes campaigned for India’s signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1995-96, which would have left India stranded short of even basic low-yield fission weapons.

Reliance Defence inks pact with 3 Ukrainian state firms

April 30, 2016
Piyush Pandey

To bid jointly for the Medium Military Transport Aircraft program of HAL
Reliance Defence has signed an agreement with three Ukrainian state-owned firms — Ukroboronprom, Spetstechno Exports and Antonov — to collaborate on a range of military products including transport aircraft, armoured vehicles, maritime gas turbines and unmanned aerial vehicles.
This follows Reliance Group chairman Anil Ambani’s meeting with the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine this week, where they discussed issues of strategic interest between Indian and Ukrainian Defence and Aerospace industries.
“As a follow up of the meeting, a Strategic Partnership Agreement was signed between State-owned Ukroboronprom of Ukraine and Reliance Defence, which will allow it to collaborate with Antonov for its range of military and commercial transport aircraft,” according to statement from Reliance Defence. Reliance Defence is a wholly owned subsidiary of Reliance Infrastructure Ltd., a part of the Reliance Group.

Under the agreement with Antonov, credited as the manufacturer of largest transport aircraft in the world, Reliance and Antonov will jointly bid for the Medium Military Transport Aircraft program of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Besides, both companies will also collaborate for the assembly and manufacture, and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of Antonov series of aircraft to address the requirements of the Indian market and agreed global markets.
The Indian Air Force currently operates more than 100 AN-32 aircraft, which form the backbone of its transport fleet.Market size
HAL is looking at a market size of up to 300 aircraft in the medium range.

This will be potentially the largest collaborative effort involving the public sector, private sector and global OEM as part of the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’ initiatives of the government with the value of the projects exceeding Rs.50,000 crore.Upgrades
The cooperation between Reliance Defence and Spetstechno Exports, a foreign trade enterprise of Ukraine, will focus on upgrades for the amphibious infantry fighting vehicle (BMP 2), Armoured Vehicles, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Marine Gas Turbines for the Indian Navy Frigate programme in India.

** Are The Ottoman Empire's Borders Relevant Today?

By George Friedman

The Muslim Ottoman Empire lasted for about six centuries before it collapsed after World War I. At one point its forces had penetrated as far as Vienna. Its power was enormous and enduring.
Every week we share a map and analysis with our paid subscribers. This week's map shows the extent of the empire in the late 19th/early 20th century, long after it was past its prime. You can see from this map how extensive its power still was. You can also see how finely it parsed its empire into small provinces. The reason for this was partly a matter of efficiency. It was also the recognition, however imperfect, of the deep divisions that existed within its empire.

In Turkey, what was left of the Ottoman Empire, the divisions were welded together by Kamal Atatürk. In the Middle East, the British and the French created new states. They are the ones that currently exist. Compare the way the Europeans organized the region with how the Ottomans did. North Africa was left as it had been. But in the Middle East, the British and French fused the various provinces into nations like Syria and Iraq, in spite of the differences between the provinces.

The Ottomans understood the region and created small, manageable and reasonably harmonious provinces. The British and French fused them together. Because of the underlying divisions within these new nations they could only be held together by an outside force or a domestic dictator, and when those weakened, the old divisions emerged with a vengeance.

*** White Elephants

Posted on April 28, 2016 by Martin van Creveld

At least since 9/11, and possibly since the First Gulf War back in 1991, it has been clear that the most immediate threat facing developed countries is not other developed countries. It is terrorism, guerrilla, insurgencies, asymmetric war, fourth generation war, war among the people, nontrinitarian war (my own favorite term), whatever. Follows a list-–a very partial one, to be sure—of expensive new American weapons and weapon systems, now in various stages of development, all of which have this in common that they are not relevant to the threat in question.

The USAF’s new bomber. America’s last bomber, the B-2, was an absolute disaster. Originally the program, which went back to the late 1980s, was supposed to result in a fleet of 132 aircraft. That figure was later reduced to just 20, plus one used for all kinds of experimental purposes. The machines cost $ 500,000,000 each, which is far more than almost any conceivable target. Some sources, taking development costs into consideration, provide a much higher figure still. Yet so vulnerable are the machines that, when they are not in the air, they need to stay in air-conditioned hangars. That in turn means that they can only be operated from the Continental US and take hours and hours to reach their targets. Nevertheless, fixated on bombers as the USAF has been for so many years, none of these problems have prevented it from going for an even more ambitious program. This is the so-called Next Generation Bomber of which 175 are planned. Suppose, which in view of past experience seems rather unlikely, that anything like this number is in fact produced at a cost of God knows how many dozens and dozens of billions. The contribution to effectively fighting the kind of organization that has mounted 9/11? Zero. Zip. 

The USAF’s new ICBM. America’s last ICBM, known as the Peacemaker, was deployed from 1986 on (as so often, cost overruns reduced their number from the original 100 to just 50). In 2005 the last of them was decommissioned. Why? The answer is by no means clear. The START II Treaty, which prohibited putting multiple warheads on a single launcher, was already dead. Killed by President G. W. Bush’s decision to go ahead with missile defense, another unbelievably expensive system which to-date has only yielded a handful of launchers totally unable to stop either a Russian or a Chinese attack. Or perhaps it died because running too different ICBM systems, one made up of Peacemakers and the other of the older Minutemans, was too expensive? In any case, the warheads were put on the old Minuteman missiles and the launching crews retrained for operating them; a rare case of fortunes being spent so the old can take the place of the new. And the contribution of all this to effectively fighting the kind of organization that has mounted 9/11? Zero. Zip. 

A grand show of ships

Abhijit Bhattacharyya

The second International Fleet Review 2016 off the Visakhapatnam coast has been indeed successful from all accounts. Nevertheless, there exists a similarity between the first IFR in 2001 in Mumbai and this one of 2016 too conspicuous to be ignored. The first IFR in February 2001 took place two years after the unceremonious exit in December 1998 of the then navy chief, Vishnu Bhagwat (who reportedly had conceived the idea of an IFR), during George Fernandes's tenure as defence minister. Again, the second IFR in February 2016 took place after another prematurely aborted tenure, the inglorious exit of the navy chief, D.K. Joshi, in February 2014, followed by the resignation of the next-senior-most vice-admiral of the Western Command, Mumbai in April 2014, during the period that A.K. Antony was defence minister.

A brief comparison between the two mega naval shows of 21st-century India is not only essential, but inevitable. When a recent media blitzkrieg was launched to harp on the point that the 2016 IFR was much bigger, better and more glittering in comparison to the one held in Mumbai in 2001, it left one wondering. True, 2016 was better than 2001. Should not the successor, as a matter of routine, be better and brighter than the predecessor?

Be that as it may, going purely by the statistics of nations and the ships thereof, the first IFR saw the participation of 29 nations and 22 foreign ships lined up for fleet review. But it undoubtedly gave access to more people, both naval as well as civilians, to witness the show, owing to Mumbai's better logistics. In contrast, although the second IFR saw the participation of 50 foreign nations, the participation of a total of only 25 foreign ships does not match up to the Mumbai 2001 IFR, thereby reflecting the host's inability to attract more modern ships to be deployed to the Visakhapatnam anchorage. Does this imply that nations which came without ships for the fleet review were non-serious? Or were they wary of potential espionage? Or perhaps they did not want to showcase their technological advancement in public in an alien arena?

Dear CJI, An Outburst Is Not What We Need From You Now

Jay Bhattacharjee April 29, 2016,

For a long time, our judiciary has chosen to protect its fiefdom in order to isolate itself from – and become unaccountable to - the rest of the sociopolitical structure.

Justice Thakur’s public display of emotion failed to provoke any outpouring of sympathy for the judiciary. This is because the ordinary person does not see the judiciary working for him or her. 

The Chief Justice of India (CJI) TS Thakur sought to effectively pass on the entire blame to the executive and pleaded with Narendra Modi to take urgent steps to drastically increase the number of judges. 

The Chief Justice of India’s tears may not earn any sympathy. For a long time, our judiciary has chosen to protect its fiefdom in order to isolate itself from – and become unaccountable to - the rest of the sociopolitical structure.

Civilisations, cultures, empires and ideologies collapse when leaders consistently fail to display the basic qualities that are needed in crisis situations – integrity, courage, vision and character. There can be other factors at work, but this is the basic matrix.

It should be obvious to all dispassionate analysts that the Indian judicial system is about to collapse. On many criteria, ranging from the number of cases waiting for closure in courts, to the abominable delays in rendering justice to litigants, and finally, the dismal levels of corruption and graft that plague the structure, we are staring at an abyss.

For years, the judiciary (we are talking about the higher judiciary which has the powers to deal with many problems itself) has swept these problems under the carpet.

Worse, it has vigorously fought against the executive and the legislature, whenever there has been any attempt, however feeble or cosmetic, to tackle the deadly diseases that plague the Indian justice delivery system.

But what do we see the captain doing when we are nearing a catastrophe? He breaks down in front of a distinguished audience and launches an emotional appeal to the Prime Minister to help arrive at a solution.

The Chief Justice of India (CJI) TS Thakur sought to effectively pass on the entire blame to the executive and pleaded with Narendra Modi to take urgent steps to drastically increase the number of judges. No one detected the slightest effort at introspection on the part of the CJI. This was a classic blame-game exercise.

Justice Thakur’s public display of emotion failed to provoke any outpouring of sympathy for the judiciary. This is because the ordinary person does not see the judiciary working for him or her. For nearly four decades, dispassionate observers of the country’s governing system have been expressing concern about the increasing dysfunctionality of the judicial framework.

‘Pak has China’s unwavering support’


Pakistan and China are also working to ensure that India does not enter an expanded UN Security Council as a Permanent Member with full veto rights.
When Pakistan’s Army Chief General Raheel Sharif early this year delivered his strongest warning yet and said “Kashmir is an unfinished agenda of partition. Pakistan and Kashmir are inseparable”, he did so in the absolute confidence that he had China’s unwavering support.
The announcement of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Islamabad in April 2015 showed China’s deep commitment to Pakistan and underscored that the strategic interests of both countries are closely aligned. Within weeks of Xi Jinping’s visit, senior Chinese leaders and officials were describing Pakistan as China’s “only friend”. The relationship was publicised when Prof Yan Xuetong, director of the Institute for International Relations at Beijing’s Tsinghua University and an influential Chinese strategic analyst close to Xi Jinping, told the New York Times on 9 February 2016 that “China has only one real ally, Pakistan.” 
The CPEC, with its 51 proposed projects valued by Pakistani analysts at US$46 billion and comprising a rail, road and dedicated fibre-optic link stretching from Xinjiang in China through Balochistan to Gwadar port in Pakistan, power plants, economic zones, helipads, airports etc., signalled China’s long-term commitment to Pakistan. With this, Xi Jinping also dispelled the decades-long ambiguity that had masked China’s stance on Kashmir and, disregarding India’s sovereign and territorial sensitivities, accorded de facto legitimacy to Pakistan’s illegal occupation of a large portion of Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan. Steps to formally integrate Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), Gilgit and Baltistan into Pakistan, reportedly to protect Chinese investments in the region, have already begun.
Independent credible information additionally reveals that Beijing informed Islamabad last month that it is “raising” a division-strength “private army” for deployment in the PoK, Gilgit and Baltistan areas to protect Chinese construction sites and personnel. This is in addition to the force being provided by Pakistan. The Pakistan army, which solidly backs the CPEC, has already raised a 10,000­strong division comprising elements of the Frontier Corps, police and Levies under Major General Abdul Rafiue to protect Chinese personnel and Chinese ­aided projects in Balochistan. China has also put in place the necessary legal framework permitting deployment of troops and security personnel for safeguarding Chinese national interests abroad. 

The Coming Collapse of Afghanistan But it’s not too late to save it

Afghanistan is in trouble. The U.S. lost more than 2,000 soldiers, spent more than half a trillion dollars and 15 years to defeat the Taliban and rebuild Afghanistan. Today the country is on the verge of collapse.
John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, delivered his quarterly report to Congress on April 29 and its almost 300 pages are a grim report of a troubled country. The Afghan Unity Government has fallen to infighting while trying to resolve a constitutional crisis.
“Survival will be an achievement for the National Unity Government,” said Nicholas Haysom, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
As the government fights, the security of the country deteriorates. A resurgent Taliban announced its annual spring offensive and quickly made good on its threats. On April 19 a suicide bomber in Kabul killed 64 and wounded 350. The revitalized militant group took a page from the Islamic State and now tracks their activities on a new English language website.

“Fighting in 2016 will be more intense than 2015, continuing a decade-long trend of deteriorating security,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.
“The Unity Government is in trouble,” U.S. Special Operations intelligence veteran Malcolm Nance told War Is Boring when asked about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. “Governments can come and go at this point. The big question is will the military be able to sustain the Taliban destabilizing the government and the absence of American forces.”
The current withdrawal plan would leave just 5,500 American soldiers in Afghanistan by the end of the year. But according to both SIGAR and Nance, that might not be enough to reverse a looming disaster for the country and for America’s efforts to rebuild the country after decades of war.

There is no doubt the situation is grim.
SIGAR’s quarterly report opens with a report titled, “Eroding Bedrock.” Sopko and his team analyzed Afghanistan’s security forces and found them wanting. The United States and its allies accomplished something impressive during the war in Afghanistan — they built a national military and police force from scratch. But those institutions are less than a decade old and can’t fight without Western support.
Coalition forces having largely withdrawn from the battlefield now rely on the Afghan military to provide the bulk of their signals intelligence. Worse, the United States and Western allies have little to no oversight on much of the Afghan security forces’ operations. The Afghan army is still undisciplined, unprofessional and poorly led, so the intelligence it provides isn’t reliable.
Some generals estimate that the Afghan Unity government controls no more than 70 percent of the country and has oversight of far less. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t seem to know what’s happening on a goat farm it spend millions on.

What We Learned From Chernobyl About How Radiation Affects Our Bodies

from The Conversation
-- this post authored by Ausrele Kesminiene, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
The world has never seen a nuclear accident as severe as the one that unfolded when a reactor exploded in Chernobyl on April 26 1986, sending vast amounts of radiation into the skies around Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
The planet had experienced massive releases like this before, in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. But Chernobyl-related radiation exposure had a more protracted character.
It was the first time in history that such a large population, particularly at a very young age, was exposed to radioactive isotopes, namely iodine-131 and cesium-137, not just through direct exposure, but through eating contaminated food as well.
In 2006, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published estimates of how many excess cancers would occur as a result of this contamination.
While noting that these estimates are subject to substantial uncertainty, the authors found that 1,000 cases of thyroid cancer and 4,000 cases of other cancers had already been caused by the accident. They further estimated that by 2065, 16,000 cases of thyroid cancer and 25,000 cases of other cancers could be attributed to the effects of Chernobyl radiation.
Research on the health impact of the Chernobyl disaster has mainly focused on thyroid cancer, in particular in those exposed to radioactive iodine isotopes in childhood and adolescence. Large amounts of iodine-131 were released into the atmosphere after the explosion, and children were exposed by consuming locally produced milk and vegetables.

Efforts were made to better understand the mechanisms of radiation-induced thyroid cancer and which factors could modify the radiation risk. This allowed us to identify a molecular "radiation fingerprint", which can point to changes that are specific to radiation exposure, as opposed to any other factors.
Studies were also conducted to evaluate the risk of haematological malignancies - tumours that affect the blood, bone marrow, lymph, and lymphatic system - in children and Chernobyl clean-up workers in the three most affected countries. Studies of cancer incidence and mortality, cardiovascular diseases and all-cause mortality were also conducted on clean-up workers. Although of variable quality, the list of studies done on people affected by the blast is long.
What we found
Today, there is an overall agreement among scientist that thyroid cancers increased following exposure to radiation in childhood and adolescence. Several studies have also indicated an increase in haematological malignancies and thyroid cancer in Chernobyl clean-up workers.

The Elusive Boost From Cheap Oil

from the San Francisco Fed
-- this post authored by Sylvain Leduc, Kevin Moran, and Robert J. Vigfusson
The plunge in oil prices since the middle of 2014 has not translated into a dramatic boost for consumer spending, which has continued to grow moderately. This has been particularly surprising since the sharp drop should free up income for households to use toward other purchases. Lessons from an empirical model of learning suggest that the weak response may reflect that consumers initially viewed cheaper oil as a temporary condition. If oil prices remain low, consumer perceptions could change, which would boost spending.
Oil prices have tumbled dramatically since June 2014, from over $100 per barrel to less than $40 per barrel as of April 2016. Such a large decline in the price of oil should have a substantial positive impact on the economy, as less is spent on imported oil, freeing up income to be spent on domestic goods. However, the boost to consumer spending that many anticipated would arise from such a large oil price decline, combined with continued improvements in labor market conditions, largely failed to materialize (Brainard 2015).

Why has consumption not responded more to cheap oil? Clearly, the U.S. economy was buffeted by headwinds over the past year, like weak foreign growth and the substantial appreciation of the dollar, that may have masked the positive effects of cheaper oil. Moreover, the decline in gas prices has been more muted than the drop in the price of oil. However, another possible reason is that the impact of changes in oil prices on the economy depends not only on the magnitude of the change, but also on its perceived persistence. Consumer spending is more likely to rise if people believe the decline in oil prices will last for a while; by contrast, if consumers think lower oil prices are not here to stay, they may simply decide to save what they don't spend at the pump. Of course, determining whether lower oil prices will last is difficult; still, consumers and investors must assess this persistence before making decisions about spending and investment.

This Economic Letter examines the perceived persistence of oil price movements since the early 1990s. We use market data on oil price futures to proxy for these perceptions. We show that the market learns gradually about the persistence of oil price changes over time, and this gradual process is tracked remarkably well by simple learning models. Learning models capture the fact that market participants were surprised by the persistence of oil price hikes in the early 2000s, after years of fluctuation around a stable long-run price level. It also suggests that, by the time oil prices peaked in early 2008, this learning process had evolved to the point where investors perceived further movements in oil prices to be largely permanent. Currently, market participants appear to have modified their perspective again to consider it more probable that oil price changes are temporary. Embedding these perceptions in a macro model of learning - and assuming that household perceptions reflect those of market participants - we find that the response of consumer spending to oil price decreases was attenuated by roughly 30%.

Oil price futures in the 1990s and 2000s
To illustrate how investors viewed movements in oil prices over the years and how they changed their perceptions slowly over time, we start by examining spot and futures prices in the 1990s and 2000s. Figure 1 shows the West Texas Intermediate spot price of oil in the 1990s, as well as the path that futures prices indicated for the evolution of the spot price at different times during that period. The price of oil fluctuated a fair amount, reaching roughly $40 per barrel following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and falling as low as $10 per barrel in the late 1990s. However, the chart also shows that throughout the 1990s, market participants expected oil price movements to be temporary and revert back to an equilibrium level of about $18 per barrel fairly quickly. This can be seen from the paths suggested by futures curves (red dashed lines) at different points in time: Despite the gyration in the spot price of oil, the futures curves always revert back to a price of about $18 per barrel within two years. One interpretation is that investors perceived movements in the price of oil away from that equilibrium level as transitory.

* Trump on Foreign Policy

April 28, 2016
By George Friedman
The candidate’s recent remarks opposed not just a specific doctrine, but the idea of doctrines altogether.
Following his victories in this week’s primaries, Donald Trump provided the first systematic view of his foreign policy. Given that there is a reasonable chance that he will be the Republican nominee, and that he has been constantly underestimated, the possibility of his becoming president can’t be dismissed. It may seem unlikely, but everything about Donald Trump this far has been unlikely.
In general, I don’t pay much attention to public statements of any sort, let alone campaign speeches. Political leaders are extremely limited in the shifts they can implement. They live in a world of competing nations and interests, and in general what they would like to do has little to do with what happens. George W. Bush did not think his presidency would be defined by 9/11. Barack Obama wanted to disengage from the Middle East. It is not that presidential candidates simply lie, although that’s not unheard of. Rather, they imagine they have more power than they do. So paying attention to what they say is pointless.

However, on occasion, there are fundamental shifts that take place in foreign policy, and presidents can shepherd a nation in the direction it will go anyway, rather than fighting it. In my view, as expressed in several of my books, the U.S. must execute a major shift in its foreign policy. It cannot maintain a policy in which it is the first responder to a global crisis, but must create coalitions that bear the major burden. I am not arguing that this shift should happen. I am arguing that it will happen. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have shown that the United States’ first strategy after it became the sole global power is unsustainable. Also, as I said in a recent piece on Kim Jong Un’s sanity, it is laziness on the part of analysts to dismiss political leaders as irrational. It simplifies matters but is usually very wrong.
The current consensus is to accept the post-Cold War doctrine of the U.S. as both a member of multinational institutions and treaties defining trade, as well as the U.S. using its military power to shape unstable regions. In reading his speech, should he get the nomination, Trump will be challenging that consensus and arguing against multinational agreements that limit American freedom of action and opposing the use of force except in extreme circumstances where victory can be achieved.

Killings In Bangladesh: The Poisonous Seeds Were Sown In 1971

Jaideep Mazumdar April 29, 2016,
Islamists have unleashed mayhem in Bangladesh
Over the past few weeks, many secular and liberal bloggers have been hacked to death
How did such a situation come to be in the country?

At least a dozen secular and atheist bloggers, writers, publishers, teachers and members of religious minorities have been killed by radical Islamists over the past year and half in Bangladesh. Few arrests have been made and the government has, instead, blamed bloggers and jailed some for blasphemy. The killings are a manifestation of the deep divide between the country’s liberal secularists and the growing number of radical Islamists. The Islamists are slowly occupying the political vacuum created by the Awami League government’s harsh crackdown on the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) that has nearly obliterated political opposition.
In a way, the continuing spate of killings of secular and atheist bloggers and all those the radical Islamist groups of Bangladesh view through their narrow and intolerant prism of being ‘anti-Islam’ has its roots in the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971. That conflict resulted in the genocide of an estimated 30 lakh Bengali-speaking Muslims and Hindus by Pakistani army regulars and their accomplices, the Al-Badr, Al-Shams and the paramilitary Razakars. They brutalized the then East Pakistan and its Bengali-speaking populace from March 1971 till the country was liberated in December the same year.

Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, was bitterly divided between a large majority of the people who were secular Bengali nationalists opposed to dominance by West Pakistan and a minority who were Islamists and supporters of West Pakistan. The horrendous genocide of the Bengali nationalists and targeted rape of a few lakh women that followed left bitter scars that never healed. The assassination of Sheikh Mujib, the founder of Bangladesh, and his family members (Mujib’s daughter Sheikh Hasina, the current Prime Minister, escaped death since she was out of the country) by a group of army officers and the subsequent turmoil that gripped the country only exacerbated the divide between the liberals and the Islamists.
A few months after Mujib’sassassination, then deputy chief of army staff Major General Ziaur Rahman took control of the government, imposed martial law and became the country’s President. He undertook major reforms in administration and governance and put Bangladesh on the fast track to progress. He kept his promise of reinstating democracy in Bangladesh and formed the BNP in 1978. The party was elected to power and he became the country’s elected President. But he was assassinated on May 30, 1981, by a group of army officers.

Tata Steel succumbing to Chinese dumping in UK!

Saturday, 30 April 2016 | Makhan Saikia |
Tata Steel, Britain’s biggest steel manufacturer, is in the process of selling out its entire empire, which the Indian multinational corporation (MNC) had acquired in 2007. It is observed that the crisis in the British steel making is as old as 40 years. The simmering crisis in the industry is aptly described by Larry Elliot, who notes, “Globalisation, cheap Chinese imports, EU legislation, and a Government reluctant to help have all contributed to the plight of the industry.”
In last five years, starting from May 2011, Tata Steel has been struggling to cope with the pressure coming from both within and outside to sustain its one of the most prestigious businesses in Europe.

Let’s see how the crisis started and where it has reached now. In 2011, the company announced 1,500 job cuts at its sites in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, and in Teesside. By January and November of 2012, a total of 1,410 job losses were recorded at its plants in Thamesteel, Corby and in Port Talbot. In 2013, the company had to cut nearly 500 jobs in Cumbria, Teesside, and Scunthorpe. In the same year, Tatas recorded a loss of 1.2 billion pounds and this triggered speculation that it is looking for selling out some part or all of the UK business. But at the same time, the company, along with the Community Union of employees, requested the British Government to support the ailing industry so that further job cuts could be prevented. By July 2014, Tatas had gone ahead with cutting 400 jobs at its Port Talbot plant, sending a stern warning to the home Government that demand and prices of steel would be under pressure in the coming years. It also blamed the Government for high business rates across the country for which the company would be constantly making loss in future. In 2015, Tata Steel announced that it will mothball its mills in Scunthorpe and Scotland with 1,200 staff losing their jobs. By then, the company brought to light that the major plight of the industry is due to the oversupply of cheap Chinese steel into Europe and pressed for immediate action by the Government.
However, besides the Chinese cheap steel dumping, Tatas strongly feel the post-financial crisis construction slump and the cost of new climate change rules brought by both the European Union (EU) and the UK have severely affected the future of steel production in that country.
Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary of the UK Government, had consultations with the EU officials in Brussels for action on cheap Chinese imports and new procurement guidelines for Government departments to buy UK steel wherever possible.

Africa: Between hope and despair Optimism surrounding the continent has evaporated with the collapse in commodity prices

by: David Pilling
Financial Times (April 25 2016)
Whatever happened to “Africa Rising”? Not so long ago, when investors, shell-shocked from the 2008 financial crisis, were hunting for the next big growth story, the idea of a resurgent Africa took hold. After decades in which the perception of Sub-Saharan Africa had been that of a continent of poverty, disease, civil war and kleptocracy, from about 2009 a new, more hopeful, narrative began to gain traction.
In this version, instead of being the “hopeless continent” — the title of a notorious Economist magazine cover story in 2000 — Africa became the next great investment frontier. Most of its multilateral debt had been forgiven, growth rates had improved since the turn of the century and, for the first time, governments were tapping capital markets at low rates.
The rosy view was partly driven by demographics. Thanks to a high birth rate — in many countries 5 or 6 per woman — the population of Sub-Saharan Africa is likely to double to 2bn by 2050, according to Hans Rosling of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. By contrast, Europe and the Americas have stopped growing and Asia’s population is levelling out. African cities were thus said to be brimming with young aspirants ready to buy branded beer (rather than cheap moonshine), toothpaste, mobile phones, motorbikes and, perhaps before too long, cars and houses.

China’s voracious appetite for African oil, copper, iron ore, bauxite and sundry other commodities pushed up the earning power of countries from Angola to Zambia. Similarly, its no-strings approach to investment and construction had pushed down the price of roads, ports and power stations plus the odd presidential palace.
Africa, according to this more hopeful narrative, was less convulsed by violence and run by more sensible leaders who held regular elections and implemented rational economic policies. All of this opened up the possibility that it could leapfrog a stage of development by jumping straight from a pre-industrial state to a shiny new digital world.
“The idea gradually built that Africa was about to become the new Asia,” says Richard Dowden, executive director of the Royal African Society in London, and author of The Economist’s “hopeless continent” article. It was, he says, “absolutely ridiculous”.

Mood swing
That exuberance has evaporated. Nigeria and South Africa, which together make up more than half of sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product, are in deep trouble. Nigeria’s petroleum-dependent economy will be lucky to notch up GDP growth of 3 per cent this year, barely enough to keep up with population expansion. The naira is under pressure, foreign exchange is rationed, the budget is strained and a balance of payments crisis is looming.
South Africa is in even worse shape, convulsed politically, battered by deep job losses in its struggling mines and facing the real possibility of a downgrade of its sovereign debt to junk.

* China’s Maritime Choke Points


April 26, 2016 There is widespread interest in the rising tensions over the waters east of China. China has become increasingly assertive in the region, and regional powers from Japan to Singapore have become alarmed at China’s behavior. The Chinese recently built an island in the South China Sea, apparently as a potential airbase. The United States sent a carrier battle group there as well. For all the activity and discussion, it is not clear that people really understand what all this is about. This week’s map will help clarify the situation.
There are two seas to the east of China – the East China Sea to the north and the South China Sea to the south, with Taiwan positioned in between. Air and naval forces based in Taiwan are, at least in theory, able to prevent movement between the two seas. The Taiwan Strait is fairly narrow and movement by the Chinese to Taiwan’s east forces China to pass near the Philippines to the south, or through the Ryukyu Islands to the north. Passage through the Ryukyu Islands could be blocked by hostile naval forces or by land-based aircraft and missiles.

Therefore, China has a naval problem. It must assume that in war, it will have two different maritime theaters of operation, the East and South China seas, and will have difficulty moving forces from one to the other. Consequently, it needs a strong navy.
There is an identical problem in both seas. They are surrounded by archipelagos of islands that isolate the seas from the Pacific and, therefore, from the rest of the world. The islands of the Philippines and Indonesia create narrow passages into the Pacific and Indian oceans. Java, Borneo and Mindanao are the frame of this system of islands, while the space between them is filled with randomly distributed smaller islands. Compounding China’s problem, the interior of the South China Sea is also filled with small islands.
Any of these islands can house hostile air and missile forces, while the narrow spaces in between can be blocked by naval forces. China doesn’t have guaranteed access to the islands on the periphery of this system. To gain access, it must control a wide passage through the South China Sea, and having done that, force its way through the narrow straits surrounding it. Assuming that the United States would position its carrier battle groups in the east and south of the outer frame, the Chinese would first have to clear the interior of the South China Sea and then fight their way through narrow choke points that the U.S. could make impassable.

Chinese Scarborough Shoal Base Would Threaten Manila

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. on April 28, 2016

WASHINGTON: If China builds an artificial island on the disputed Scarborough Shoal, Sen. Dan Sullivan warned today, it will complete a “strategic triangle” of bases that can dominate the South China Sea. At this morning’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sullivan displayed a map (above) of the region overlaid with the ranges of Chinese fighters striking from a triangle of bases on (1) the Chinese island of Hainan, (2) the disputed Spratly Islands, and (3) Scarborough Shoal (as yet unbuilt). The overlapping rings would cover not only almost all the South China Sea, but much of the Philippines and Vietnam.
“Your map’s absolutely accurate,” responded Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. China’s actions are “deeply disturbing to countries in region, which has them all coming to us….We are being increasingly invited to work with countries,” from old allies like Australia, Japan, and the Philippines to new partners like India and Vietnam.

Vietnam has agreed to allow the US Army to preposition equipment for humanitarian responses, in itself a major shift by Hanoi, which has fought multiple wars and skirmishes with its giant neighbor, China. As Sullivan’s diagram shows, almost all of Vietnam is in range of existing Chinese bases.
The US has also expanded its long-standing but often-strained relationship with the Philippines. Under a new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the two countries announced in March that US forces would have access to five military bases across the country. But as Sullivan’s map makes clear, two of those five bases would be in range of Scarborough-based Chinese fighter-bombers, as would the capital city of Manila.
“Senator Sullivan is right,” said Greg Poling, director of the much-cited Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “If China built an artificial island and military base at Scarborough, as it has in the Spratlys and Paracels, it would bring the entire South China Sea within Chinese radar, air, and eventually missile coverage. It would also bing much of the Philippines, including Manila, Clark (air base), Subic (Bay), and at least two of the bases the US is getting access to under EDCA within that Chinese umbrella.”

* China Admits Its Statistics Are Wrong

Reality Check
A daily explanation of what matters and what doesn't in the world of geopolitics.
April 29, 2016
By Jacob L. Shapiro
The national anti-corruption agency has reported that hundreds of statistics bureau employees provided preferential data for a fee.
When Wang Baoan, former director of China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) – and vice minister of finance for two years before that – was detained in an anti-corruption investigation in China in January, we nodded our heads. We have made a point of explaining to our readers how unreliable statistics coming out of China can be. But when China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) revealed on its website Wednesday that it had found more than 300 NBS employees guilty of providing data for financial gain and demanded the return of some 3.23 million yuan (roughly $500,000), we could not help but be slightly amused. It’s one thing for Chinese President Xi Jinping to target the head of a national bureau – he has replaced many high-level officials since becoming president. It’s another for that bureau to be so filled with corruption and inaccuracy that the CCDI has to admit it.

One week before Wang was arrested, he spoke at a press conference in Beijing to announce that China’s GDP had grown by 6.9 percent in 2015 – an impressive figure for most nations’ economies, but bad enough to be China’s worst showing in 25 years. At the time, we pointed out that we were suspicious even of the 6.9 percent figure. Though we could not prove it, we believed the numbers to be much lower. Ironically, two weeks before the CCDI’s revelation, the NBS released data that purported to show that Chinese exports had increased year-on-year by a rate of 11.5 percent, which sent global markets into a tizzy.
The CCDI didn’t just announce that hundreds of NBS staff had taken money in return for providing official statistics. The investigation has also discovered that NBS funds were used not for data collection, but rather to rent fancy office rooms or vehicles, and that at least 19 people were given promotions within the bureau that were not deserved. This last point is in some ways the most telling about the problems inherent in “official” Chinese statistics.

ISIS and the ‘Loser Effect’

April 28, 2016 By Dominic Tierney The Atlantic
Could the Islamic State's recent failures foreshadow its demise?
In 2014, ISIS racked up a series of stunning successes as it pushed through Iraq and Syria, gaining momentum and new recruits with each victory. But in recent weeks, Syrian government forces liberated the city of Palmyra from ISIS, signifying a broader retreat for the extremist group over the past year. Can ISIS survive the label of loser?
Who could have foreseen that within a decade, between 2004 and 2014, the terrorist group al-Qaeda in Iraq would transform into ISIS, outline an apocalyptic vision of the End Times, reintroduce slavery, embrace war without limits, take on the world’s greatest powers, and conquer a mini-empire spanning swaths of Syria and Iraq—with spin-off affiliates infiltrating Libya, Nigeria, and elsewhere?

ISIS’s lightning advance may be partly explained by what psychologists call the “winner effect,” whereby the experience of victory raises the odds of further triumphs. In a wide variety of settings, success can have a catalyzing effect on champions. In mammals, winning actually affects the brain, boosting confidence and aggression, and potentially spurring more gains. Experiments have shown that when mice win a few fights against weaker opponents, their testosterone levels increase, and they become more likely to defeat stronger rodent adversaries. Similarly, with humans, winning can trigger a spike in testosterone for tennis players, wrestlers, and chess players alike, which can contribute to additional wins. Furthermore, success also has a positive impact on outside audiences. The “halo effect” refers to how people often view winning individuals or sports teams as bathed in an aura of virtue. People want to associate with a successful brand—for example, donors give overwhelmingly more money to elite universities than to other schools.

And so the secret of ISIS’s success is in large part winning itself. The extremists got on a roll, as victories drew recruits, demoralized opponents, and produced new triumphs. ISIS is, at its heart, a story, about a vessel of divine wrath cleansing a fallen world, propagated through the slickly produced magazine Dabiq, thousands of Twitter accounts, and the brutal propaganda of the deed. The group’s battlefield successes seemingly confirmed the narrative that the rise of ISIS was written in the stars by the hand of God. Winning made the incredible credible. For foreign fighters, the ISIS brand of faith, glory, fellowship, sex, murder, and torture, is far more compelling when glued together by victory. And as ISIS swept through northern Iraq, local fence-sitters prioritized their own survival and decided to back the winning team.

Metrics of the US Air War in Iraq and Syria

Attrition: The Air War Against ISIL
strategypage.com, April 29, 2016

From August 2014 through early April 2016 American warplanes haves launched over 11,400 sorties against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). So far 67 percent of those sorties have been against targets in Iraq with the other third against Syrian targets. Each sortie has cost nearly $600,000. Most of the targets were over 5,000 buildings and fortifications used by ISIL. Nearly 3,000 vehicles were destroyed and more than 500 industrial (mainly oil production) facilities were hit. Increasingly these attacks are in direct support of Iraqi troops fighting ISIL and Kurdish troops doing the same in Syria. Until late 2015, when more Iraqi units were provided with ground controllers to call in attacks, warplanes hit targets found via satellite, aerial surveillance or reports from people on the ground. The availability of more ground controllers makes it possible to hit more enemy fighters in contact with friendly troops.

Unless you were using ground controllers the biggest problem was not finding targets, but finding the right targets and hitting them when it would do the most damage to ISIL and several other Islamic terror groups involved. Hitting buildings or fighting positions after the enemy had departed (or before they arrived) looked the same from an aircraft (or spy satellite) but was quite different for the enemy and those they were fighting. Thus having air controllers with the friendly troops on the ground was important. Unfortunately it was not possible to do that with most of the friendlies until late 2015. Before then most Iraqi Army units were not reliable or competent enough to assign Western air controllers. The Kurds and a few Iraqi Special Operations units could be relied on to protect and effectively use air controllers but the Kurds would not operate outside their traditional homelands in northern Iraq and northeast Syria. There were very few special operations units. Iran supported Shia militias and the Shia brigade from Lebanon refuses to work with Western troops or air power. Now there are more special operations troops and ground controllers and more Iraqi units competent enough to use close air support.

Over 50,000 sorties have been flown so far and most are support (reconnaissance, surveillance, control/AWACS and aerial refueling). Extreme measures are taken to avoid civilian casualties, which means a lot of military targets have to be left alone because ISIL uses civilians as human shields a lot. For this reason it’s important to have friendly, and competent, troops on the ground to positively identify enemy targets that have a very low probability of causing civilian casualties if hit. For that reason more and more armed UAVs are being used as these involve less risk of civilian casualties. Since late 2014 the air campaign has killed over 10,000 Islamic terrorists (mainly ISIL) and caused major morale problems for all Islamic terrorists in the area.

Closed borders will make Europe collapse

April 29, 2016

Migration, inequality, middle class decline, the euro crisis, mistrust of the establishment—there is no shortage of explanations for the angry message voters in European countries are delivering with their ballots. However, most of the time, we dismiss the message as a temporary burst of irascibility that will eventually self-modulate. For at least 20 years, we have deemed public irritation as a negligible price for democracy.
In reality, support for radical parties has only grown. Traditional parties favoring European integration—Christian democrat and social democrat—are threatened all across the Continent. New radical parties, particularly on the far right, are popping up everywhere. They represent a powerful and minatory force with time on its side. Every four years, the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) loses one million voters for purely demographic reasons. The same applies to the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Victims of the area’s high youth unemployment, young voters in Germany, Italy, Austria, Spain, and elsewhere often vote differently and unpredictably.
Those who claim that a new era is about to dawn have never understood the era in which they live. It is past time to consider these developments for what they are—a permanent change in the European political landscape. Last Sunday, Austrian presidential elections once again demonstrated that the traditional parties, elbowed aside by a xenophobic nationalist formation such as the Austrian Free Party, attract a negligible share of voters.
Europeans societies are on a slippery slope

Two years into new regime, grim realities persist in Ukraine

April 24, 2016
Ukraine has faced many challenges in the two years since violent protests drove the country’s president from office. The Russian occupation of the Crimean Peninsula in particular sparked a military conflict between pro-Russian secessionists and Ukraine’s government. Correspondent Kira Kay and Producer Jason Maloney from the Bureau for International Reporting take us inside Ukraine to asses the country’s struggle for political change and stability.

Read the full transcript below:
Kira Kay: In the past two years, a new political movement has emerged in Ukraine. A coalition of former activists, analysts and journalists that now hold 27 seats in the nation’s 450 seat parliament – an institution notorious for the influence of the country’s mega-rich businessmen, known as “The Oligarchs.”
One of these new arrivals is Svitlana Zalishchuk.
Svitlana Zalishchuk: We would like to join European community, not just with the declarations but with the real reforms inside of the country.
Kira Kay: Zalishchuck works closely with her longtime friends, Sergii Leshchenko and Mustafa Nayyem. They were all elected in 2014, eight months after leading protests now known as the Euro-Maidan Revolution for Kiev’s main square, the Maidan. Demonstrators favored closer ties with Western Europe and less alignment with Russia.
Today, these reformers call themselves the “Euro-Optimists.”
Sergii Leshchenko: To be an optimist in Ukraine, it’s a big challenge. Because too many years we’ve spent in this process of transformation. And I still believe the work is not finished.

Mustafa Nayyem: This is a very hostile environment. When you feel that the corruption and the old style politicians and the old style of making policy, is very close to you. This is big compromises for us. It was very easy to be heroes on the Maidan and it is much more difficult to be heroes here in the Parliament.
Kira Kay: Nayyem sparked the Euro-Maidan protests in November 2013 with a Facebook post, asking people to come out against then-president Viktor Yanukovych.
Yanukovych had just scuttled a free trade and cooperation agreement with the European Union under pressure from his ally, Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Protesters also demanded an end to the country’s endemic corruption. They occupied the Maidan for three months. Police beat protesters on the streets and fired into the crowds.

Breedlove: EUCOM must get back to war planning

By John Vandiver, Stars and Stripes Published: April 28, 2016
The U.S. Army will begin rotational deployments of an armored brigade combat team in Europe starting next February, the military announced Wednesday, in a move that will raise the number of American troops on the Continent in response to a more assertive Russia.

STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. European Command’s Gen. Philip Breedlove says the military here needs to get back to the business of war planning, a skill lost during the post-Cold War era and one needed again in the face of a resurgent Russia.
“I am very sure about how EUCOM needs to change,” Breedlove said during a recent exit interview with Stars and Stripes. “This headquarters shrank and changed from a war-fighting headquarters to a building-partnership-capacity, engagement kind of headquarters.”
“This headquarters needs to be a warfighting headquarters,” he said.
On Tuesday, Breedlove will walk a final time across the parade ground at EUCOM headquarters, handing off leadership of more than 60,000 troops to Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti.
Unlike when Breedlove assumed command in 2013, Scaparrotti arrives at a time of upheaval as the continent contends with Cold War-like tensions with Russia, a refugee crisis tearing at Europe’s social fabric, and increased fears about terrorism because of war along NATO’s southern flank.
Scaparrotti will lead a EUCOM headquarters that over the years has shrunk in size — it is the second-smallest of all combatant commands — even as the Pentagon attempts to boost its presence along NATO’s eastern edge.
Breedlove said more work needs to be done to lift EUCOM out of its post-Cold War mindset, which resulted in “building partner capacity,” military parlance for training missions. EUCOM is a “mere fraction” of what it was a generation ago, a downsizing that occurred when the U.S. was trying to make a partner out of Russia.

“We changed EUCOM based on that paradigm,” Breedlove said.
Reorienting EUCOM into a warfighting headquarters likely would demand more resources, more troops and new contingency plans to conduct combat operations within Europe.
Breedlove, who also serves as NATO’s supreme allied commander, stopped short of spelling out how the headquarters needs to be rebuilt. “We don’t talk about our plans, but I think you know military men and women have to be ready. That is what we have to do,” he said.
A glaring capability gap for EUCOM, and an area where the command could look to beef up, involves command and control in a crisis, said John R. Deni, a professor at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.