29 November 2016

*** The Changing Civil-Military Dynamic Doesn’t Serve India’s Strategic Interests


By depriving India’s fighters of honour, respect and a pride of place in the national hierarchy, the government has shattered their élan and esprit de corps. 

File photo of naval personnel. Credit: Reuters 

Nothing exemplifies the periodic descent into the ‘theatre of the absurd’ of Indian politics better than the prolonged and inane debate that followed the army’s cross-Line of Control operations of September 20, melodramatically termed ‘surgical strikes’. 

The nation was forced to witness, with embarrassment, the spectacle of all major political parties – ably assisted by the electronic media – jumping onto the stage to indulge in a puerile competition of one-upmanship on an issue of serious national security import. Having grudgingly approved of the government’s response to the Uri terror strike, the opposition, on second thoughts, coalesced in a raucous effort to deny BJP the credit for this operation by seeking ‘proof’. 

Obviously, not many of our politicians are aware of the strong linkage that 19th century Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz had established between the statesman and military commander. Unequivocally categorising war as an “an instrument of policy” and a “branch of political activity”, he declared, “War does not have its own logic and purpose. The soldier must always be subordinate to the statesman; the conduct of war is the responsibility of the latter…” 

*** 26/11 probe panel member says terrorists may have landed earlier

November 27, 2013 

'During the course of our inquiry, we heard a rumour that the 10 terrorists had reached Mumbai days before 26/11. That the terrorists had landed at Machhimarnagar in Colaba and were staying in a hut which was being used by the underworld.'

'We heard that the kingpin of a diesel pilferage scam had provided shelter to the 10 terrorists. After taking shelter at a shanty in Machhimarnagar, the terrorists supposedly conducted reconnaissance of various targets in Mumbai before launching the attack.'

V Balachandran, the other member of the Ram Pradhan committee that probed the 26/11 terror attacks, speaks to Rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa in a startling interview.

The ten terrorists from Pakistan who attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008, were living in the city as one of us long before the terror strike. They lived in a shanty, used by an underworld figure with political links, at Colaba's Machhimarnagar area in south Mumbai, and conducted reconnaissance of various sites.

Days later, they walked into some of these sites with their guns blazing, killing 156 innocents, wounding hundreds others and wreaking havoc in Mumbai's darkest days yet.

This aspect in fact had come up before the Ram Pradhan Committee, comprising former Union home secretary Ram Pradhan and former special secretary, Research and Analysis Wing V Balachandran, which was constituted after the terror attacks by the Maharashtra government to look into the administration's woeful response to the strike.

In an exclusive and candid interview with Rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa, Balachandran says the committee had come across this aspect and had handed over the pertinent information to central intelligence agencies, which did little about it.

Even the Mumbai police's crime branch, which investigated the attacks, did not go into detail about this aspect and finally said the terrorists landed in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, and went about the attack almost immediately

** CPEC: Corridor of Discontent

By Dr. Priyanka Singh
27 Nov , 2016

The flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative – the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has been seen as a ‘game changer’ in the regional geopolitical discourse since its formal unveiling in April 2015. It has become the foremost bilateral initiative between China and Pakistan, entailing a budget above $46 billion. CPEC has captured popular imagination in Pakistan, at a time when it is struggling to get its economy back on track. Through the successful execution of the CPEC, China looks forward to adding a significant brand value to its overseas developmental initiatives enunciated as One-belt-One-Road.

With a spectacular GDP having trillions of dollars in reserve, China is seeking to invest in projects abroad that can enhance connectivity, utilise idle capital and sustain its economic growth. In this context, CPEC is conceived as a project that will give China overland access to the Arabian Sea through the Pakistani port of Gwadar, bring development and prosperity to Pakistan – a long-time friend and ally, and cement strategic ties between the two. Innocuous as it may appear, with its passage through the disputed territory of Gilgit-Baltistan and its access and control of Gwadar port – situated in close proximity to the energy-rich Western Asian region, CPEC has provoked the regional/sub-continental security debate ever since it was announced with great gusto by China and Pakistan.

Enveloped in a geopolitical chimera, the focus of the emerging discourse on CPEC is clearly tilted towards its economic and strategic imperatives. However, the flip side of the project concerning its political viability is being ignored. Considering that the CPEC is set to traverse through Xinjiang, Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan simmering with large-scale political discontent, there are lurking uncertainties facing the future prospects of the project, widely hailed as a harbinger of enhanced regional connectively and trade.

* China’s Military Reforms: An Optimistic Take – Analysis

By Michael S. Chase and Jeffrey Engstrom* 
NOVEMBER 28, 2016

China is implementing a sweeping reorganization of its military that has the potential to be the most important in the post-1949 history of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).1 Xi Jinping, who serves as China’s president, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), seeks to transform the PLA into a fully modernized and “informatized” fighting force capable of carrying out joint combat operations, conducting military operations other than war (MOOTW), and providing a powerful strategic deterrent to prevent challenges to China’s interests and constrain the decisions of potential adversaries. Scheduled for completion by 2020, the reforms aim to place the services on a more even footing in the traditionally army-dominated PLA and to enable the military to more effectively harness space, cyberspace, and electronic warfare capabilities. Simultaneously, Xi is looking to rein in PLA corruption and assert his control over the military.

Brief Overview of the Reforms

China unveiled the long-anticipated organizational reforms in a series of major announcements beginning on December 31, 2015, when it subordinated the ground force to an army service headquarters, raised the stature and role of the strategic missile force, and established a Strategic Support Force (SSF) to integrate space, cyber, and electronic warfare capabilities. On January 11, 2016, Xi announced “a dramatic breakthrough . . . in the reform of the military leadership and command system” that discarded the PLA’s four traditional general departments in favor of 15 new CMC functional departments.2 Next, the reorganization eliminated China’s seven military regions (MRs) and converted them into five theater commands. This part of the restructuring is intended to enhance the PLA’s readiness and strengthen its deterrence and warfighting capabilities. In addition, the CMC released a “guideline on deepening national defense and military reform,” which states that under the new system, the CMC is in charge of overall administration of the PLA, People’s Armed Police, militia, and reserves; the new joint war zone commands focus on combat preparedness, and the services are in charge of development (presumably of personnel and capabilities).

Likely Benefits of the Reforms

* Pakistan Has a New Army Chief. Here’s What We Know About Him

Raheel Sharif’s retirement is certainly unusual and creditable in the context of strengthening institutional conventions in Pakistan, he being only the seventh army chief out of 15 to have quit on time. 

Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. Credit: Dawn News 

The appointment of Lt. Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa as Pakistan’s 16th army chief does not come as a complete surprise. His name was being mentioned as one of four strong contenders for the post in recent Pakistani media reports. Notably however, he was the junior-most in the pecking order of the current cohort of 3 star generals of the 62nd Pakistan Military Academy long course who were eligible for selection. 

Pakistan’s president, Mamnoon Hussain, formally appoints the army chief under Article 243 of the 1973 constitution, though after the 18th amendment, the prime minister’s advice is binding on him. Nawaz Sharif may have exercised some discretion in making this choice, though it is likely that the recommendation of the current army chief, General Raheel Sharif, was given due weightage. The timing of the announcement is significant, coming as it does while Nawaz Sharif has just returned to the country from a visit to Turkmenistan. This would suggest there was no real civil-military discord over this choice. 

Bajwa’s long stint in difficult terrain, confronting India across the Kashmir front in different assignments must have weighed in his favour. Starting as colonel, he served as general service officer to earlier X Corps commanders, then as brigadier and as major general in the same sector. He was Force Commander Northern Areas, before serving as GOC, X Corps, Rawalpindi under both Raheel Sharif and his predecessor, Ashfaq Kayani, from August, 2013 to September, 2015. In between, as a brigadier, he also did a UN peace-keeping stint in Congo. He was also commandant, School of Infantry & Tactics, Quetta – always regarded as an important faculty assignment. 

From one Sharif to another

S. Akbar Zaidi

As Pakistan’s army chief retires on schedule, its Prime Minister has an opportunity to consolidate the slow process of democratisation under way in the country since 2007

Anyone familiar with Pakistan’s history knows that most of the last 70 years since Independence have been dominated by the country's military. Pakistan’s history and its politics have been more about the military than about its civilians or about society more broadly. Whether the military has governed directly under dictatorial military generals, as it has for 32 years, or whether it has ruled through other indirect, but equally intrusive, means, as it has when not directly running government, much of what Pakistan has become has been moulded by, and on account of, Pakistan’s military and its various interests and institutions. Whether it is Pakistan as a (failed) national security state, or a breeding ground for various forms of Islamic jihad, much credit goes to Pakistan's military.

Moments of change

This is not to suggest that the civilian and political actors are innocent in any way, beyond agency, accountability or reproach. But having been constrained in numerous ways by the overly-dominant and overly-invasive military, for whether Pakistan has been a failed or failing state, a rogue state involved in nuclear proliferation, or a state which allowed the world’s most wanted man to live well-protected for five years in Pakistan, responsibility on civilians and politicians, in the absence of any real power, must be rather thin. Moreover, it is well recognised that whether it is Pakistan’s nuclear policy, Afghan policy or policy towards India, whether in terms of peace or trade, real power rests not with the civilian elected political body, but with the military, particularly the army.

Pak: Don’t expect change

Bajwa has considerable experience dealing with Kashmir and will use his knowledge and expertise to advance the Pakistan Army’s interests.

Lt. Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa has been appointed the new chief of the Pakistan Army, and will take over on Tuesday from Gen. Raheel Sharif, who turned out to be scrupulous on not playing politics to gain an extension, that is pretty much the norm in Pakistan, where the military calls all the shots. Like his predecessors, we may be fairly certain that the new chief will be a professional soldier who won’t unleash kinky ideological-political policies to promote jihadism in his country, as had been done by Gen. Zia-ul Huq. That won’t go down well internationally in the current climate.

But in relation to India we may be just as certain that the new chief won’t give up on the use of militant proxies, no matter how democracy-minded and of moderate disposition Gen. Bajwa shows himself to be. This is a low-cost option short of war with deniability written all over it. China, Pakistan’s best friend, is likely to approve. The United States, best friend at crucial junctures, fretted and made the right noises, but went along all this time.


PK Ghosh 
The role that the aircraft is supposed to play is in areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. But mostly they may be used in some places in the island territories of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and in Lakshadweep, where no regular landing strips exist currently

It is well known that most big ticket purchases of defence equipment have strategic compulsions and interests behind them — rather than mere technical feasibility. The jury is still out on the likely purchase of the much talked of ShinMaywa US 2i — the Japanese amphibious airplane by India.

It has often been stated that one of the primary reasons for showing interest in its purchase, has been the rising trajectory of bilateral relations between New Delhi and Tokyo. And, the other strategic reason has been to offset the Chinese announcement of having built the world’s largest flying boat, known as AG-600 by the State owned-the Aviation Industry Corporation of China.

The question, of course, that begs an answer is: Do these very expensive, sophisticated aircraft really suit our requirements, and hence, do they possess a high utility factor or are they mere ‘trophy’ defence platforms nice to have but, not a real necessity?


Sudhansu R Das

Government must ensure that indigenous talent and resources are given due attention, so that it can help augment the economy while benefitting remote areas

Terrorism in any form adversely affects the social, cultural and economic fabric of a nation. According to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index, the cost of terrorism to the world was $ 52.5 billion in 2014, the highest since 2001. As per the South Asia Terrorism Portal, between 1992 and 2016, the terrorist violence in North-East has taken 21,422 lives, which include 10,244 civilians, 2,727 security personnel and 8,451 terrorists.

The cost due to loss of life among security personnel, death of single bread-earner of the families, loss of livelihood, loss of productivity hours, loss of priceless handicraft traditions in Maoist infested areas, loss to tourism sector, loss of forest wealth, loss of school time due to bandh, loss of mutual trust among communities, huge expenditure on surveillance gazettes, on purchase of sophisticated weapons, on security check, on barbed wire fence and on transport etc has not been assessed across the country.

The North-East has a vibrant horticulture, tourism, adventure tourism, pilgrim tourism, handicrafts, mining, handloom sector, and has the largest crop diversity in India, which can create jobs for the people. People of these regions have traditional skills to make hundreds of handmade utility and decorative items to meet the growing global demand for eco-friendly items.

India: Curb Currency Circulation To Ensure Success Of Demonitization – OpEd

NOVEMBER 28, 2016

The Modi government has been receiving bouquets and brickbats ever since it announced demonetization of high value currency on November 8, 2016.

Doomsayers seem to be of the view that demonetization will result in fall in GDP growth and cause stress and anxiety for people due to cash shortage for atleast next one year. However, those supporting demonetization stress that this move is necessary and inevitable to restore the social and economic strength of India and defeat corrupt forces at all level.

The opposition political parties are caught unaware and are highly disturbed after hearing the announcement on demonetization, for whatever reasons . They paralysed the functioning of the parliament for several days and have gone to the extent of announcing national strike on 28th November as a mark of protest.

While the black money holders and those used to corrupt practices are pleased about the critical stand of the opposition parties, there appear to be overwhelming view amongst the common man that demonetization should succeed, so that their present sufferings due to widespread corrupt practices in government departments and other agencies like educational institutions, hospitals , real estate agencies etc. will stop.

Obviously, Modi government believes that India should rapidly move towards a cash less economy , which would be the only way to ultimately wipe out corrupt practices in the country.

Does India Have A Foreign Policy? – OpEd

NOVEMBER 28, 2016

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hard-line approach to project India as a superpower and as an upcoming power on global platform has received mixed reactions. The primary goal of any Indian establishment has been to maintain friendly relations with all the nations, cooperation on all grounds and even remaining non aligned with extreme ideology backed states.

Prime Minister Modi has been visiting nations across the globe to strengthen ties on all fronts including military partnerships. His “Make in India” programs to boost defence manufacturing in India and job creation was more than just a slogan or so believe many analysts. Indias first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his policies were directed towards projecting India as strong state post independence and till date the Congress Party holds on to ancient policies paying little heed to the changing dynamics of Indian Foreign Policy.

The concept of power plays a major role in the theoretical understanding of International Relations. It essentially means self reliance and freedom in deciding local and international matters or sovereignty so to speak. But India as a country is obsessed with hero worship. The Prime minister is not just an elected representative but the face of India hence sometimes policies dividing the nation go unnoticed as it happened in the recent demonetisation case.

India does not seem to have a blueprint of its foreign policy it seems. It focuses too much on the currents and undercurrents of politics and all stands maintained by the elites are directed towards immediate gains. The vision is lacking. The new buzz word is nuclear. In 1998 when India conducted nuclear tests it wanted to tell the world it’s no longer a weak state. Despite all efforts of Prime Minister Modi’s Indias ambition to become a superpower remains largely unrealised.

Restraint To Retribution: Modi’s New Normal And Nawaz Sharif’s Challenge – Analysis

By Lt Gen Arvinder Singh Lamba*
NOVEMBER 27, 2016

India’s response by a surgical counter-strike by Special Forces on launch pads against terrorists near the Line of Control (LoC) to infiltrate inside Indian Territory was the beginning of a natural but formidable exhibition of the changing political will and military precision assaults. The resonance of near global synergy and opinion against both – terror and a terror sponsor state – that uses its military machine to endanger peace and stability, should have warned Pakistan of possible responses.

India’s strong responses with complete ownership at the highest level signal the first ever reflection of rare strategic convergence between political leadership, the home ministry, the National Security Advisor, and the military.

For Pakistan, the message was one of India’s zero tolerance towards terror emanating from home grown groups in Pakistan, as well as terror groups or elements sponsored by Pakistan and operating within India.

In keeping with its strategy of denial and disowning terrorist actions from Mumbai to Uri, Pakistan’s military has dismissed the strike as a usual cease fire violation. The chorus of denial this time came from the highest diplomatic levels as office of the high commissioner of Pakistan in India to the political and the military hierarchy in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s response is unmistakeable despite this denial. Visits of journalists to forward locations to negate the truth of Indian surgical strike have been followed up by intensified firing on border villages inflicting heavier casualties in the rice belt of RS Pura, sensitive Macchal and Gurez sectors, terror strikes in Afghanistan and Balochistan, and mutilations of Indian soldiers. Recent media reports of four posts in Keran sector routed by India’s fire assaults and increased casualties of Pakistan’s soldiers reflect the hardening responses.

It is Time Nepal Army Tookover!

By RSN Singh
27 Nov , 2016

The tragedy of Nepal’s second Constituent Assembly elected in end 2013 is signified by the outrageous proposition that the Maoists, who were comprehensively rejected by the people and managed to merely survive as third poor political force after the elections are ruling the country. The political situation therefore is even worse than the first Constituent Assembly, which was killed by none other than the Maoists after four years in 2012. Nepal, since the demise of monarchy is gasping for stability. If the country is still managing to plod on, it is because of the residue of structures evolved under the monarchy for over two centuries.

The Maoists, all over the world believe in a single party rule and are therefore congenitally unfit for parliamentary democracy.

This is not unexpected. What is reprehensible is the shallow but conceited political, strategic and military understanding displayed by the policy makers in the last Indian dispensation in dealing with the perpetrators of Left-wing extremism in Nepal. The legitimacy invested by India on Prachanda, is costing both India and Nepal dearly. But such is the seductive power of puerile leftist intellectualism of a segment of Indian policy makers that they could hardly foresee the consequences of bringing the Maoists in Nepal at once at the helm. The basic imperative that they should have not ignored is that in a democracy, all contending political forces must be prepared to sit in the opposition if the verdict says so.

Japan and India: A Special Relationship?

November 24, 2016 

Tokyo and New Delhi may have to deal with China's bellicosity without the United States.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent three-day visit to Japan is a sign that the bilateral relationship between India and Japan is headed for newer heights. More importantly, there seems to be a palpable method to this resurgent Asian connection that does not just attempt to restore the balance of power in Asia. The two sides are astutely restructuring regional formulations in the Asian geopolitical theatre through a mix of economic, political and strategic accomplishments. India was able to draw Japan’s support for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), negotiate small but significant progress in the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train timeline, ease Indian student visas and facilitate the training of 30 thousand Indians in Japanese manufacturing practices.

Two other developments that took place during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Japan could turn the India-Japan relationship into an unwavering geostrategic alliance in Asia. One is the decision by both the countries to merge their contiguous maritime corridors to create a single geostrategic maritime expanse running from the Far East up to the western Indian Ocean. Modi’s Japan visit drew assurances for merging India’s “Act East Policy” with Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.” The second is the significant progress made in negotiations for the sale of Shinmaywa US-2i search and rescue aircraft from Japan to India. Both of these developments could recalibrate the Asian power balance by resetting the maritime heft in Asian waters, which has increasingly tilted in China’s favor since the beginning of this decade.

26/11 response: NSA Menon wanted LeT HQ in Muridke targeted, but...

November 27, 2016

India would have responded differently to "Pakistan-sponsored" Mumbai terror attacks had there been a different "mix of people" at the helm, according to former foreign secretary and national security advisor Shivshankar Menon.

In his latest book titled Choices: Inside the Making of India's Foreign Policy, Menon says that as foreign secretary he had "urged" former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee that India should retaliate militarily as he felt Pakistan had "crossed the line" and the action demanded more than a "standard response".

"My preference was for overt action against LeT headquarters in Muridke or the LeT camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and covert action against their sponsors, the ISI. Mukherjee seemed to agree with me and spoke publicly of all our options being open," he writes.

"Personalities matter. With a different mix of people at the helm, it is quite possible that India would have chosen differently. In fact, if India is forced to make a similar choice in the future, I am sure it will respond differently," he says.

Menon believes that an immediate visible retaliation would have been emotionally satisfying and gone some way towards erasing the "shame of incompetence" that India's police and security agencies displayed in the glare of world's television lights for three full days.

Published by Penguin, the book is an insider's account of five major Indian foreign policy decisions in which Menon either participated directly or was associated with.

These "choices" include the India-US nuclear agreement, the first-ever boundary agreement between India and China, India's decision not to use overt force against Pakistan after 26/11, the 2009 defeat of LTTE in Sri Lanka and India's disavowal of the first-use of nuclear weapons.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: Corridor Of Discontent – Analysis

By Priyanka Singh
NOVEMBER 28, 2016

The flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative – the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has been seen as a ‘game changer’ in the regional geopolitical discourse since its formal unveiling in April 2015. It has become the foremost bilateral initiative between China and Pakistan, entailing a budget above $46 billion. CPEC has captured popular imagination in Pakistan, at a time when it is struggling to get its economy back on track. Through the successful execution of the CPEC, China looks forward to adding a significant brand value to its overseas developmental initiatives enunciated as One-belt-One-Road.

With a spectacular GDP having trillions of dollars in reserve, China is seeking to invest in projects abroad that can enhance connectivity, utilise idle capital and sustain its economic growth. In this context, CPEC is conceived as a project that will give China overland access to the Arabian Sea through the Pakistani port of Gwadar, bring development and prosperity to Pakistan – a long-time friend and ally, and cement strategic ties between the two. Innocuous as it may appear, with its passage through the disputed territory of Gilgit-Baltistan and its access and control of Gwadar port – situated in close proximity to the energy-rich Western Asian region, CPEC has provoked the regional/sub-continental security debate ever since it was announced with great gusto by China and Pakistan.

Enveloped in a geopolitical chimera, the focus of the emerging discourse on CPEC is clearly tilted towards its economic and strategic imperatives. However, the flip side of the project concerning its political viability is being ignored. Considering that the CPEC is set to traverse through Xinjiang, Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan simmering with large-scale political discontent, there are lurking uncertainties facing the future prospects of the project, widely hailed as a harbinger of enhanced regional connectively and trade.

The staple factors put forth to justify the CPEC include China’s geographical constraints vis-à-vis southern waters in the Indian Ocean as well as Pakistan’s ever intensifying energy crisis. The idea of connecting China to the strategically important waters of the Arabian Sea though has evolved over a period of time, way back to when the Karakoram Highway was constructed during the 1960’s and 1970’s. The strategic highway built through the only land link between China and Pakistan (read Gilgit Baltistan) in many ways blueprinted the idea of an intensive connectivity network of what is today envisaged as the grand CPEC project.

Pakistan’s New Army Chief – Analysis

NOVEMBER 28, 2016

For once, there seems to be a peaceful transition in the Pakistan Army with General Raheel Sharif relinquishing command on 29th November. (The issue of transition was written in an earlier analysis, hereand here).

Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa is slated to take over; obviously the media is rife with stories and conjectures as to what propelled the General’s appointment superceding three senior officers. That it is Pakistan we speak of, gives added curry flavor; Pakistan has had a long history of military dictatorships and it is a well known fact that the Chief of Army is potentially more powerful than any civilian government occasionally in power. With the world’s sixth largest standing army in troop strength, Pakistan has been the media’s favorite child, what with impediments to civilian and democratic supremacy, nuclear proliferation, its connivance in Afghanistan and the spread of global terrorism, and its entire history of sucking American funds to use them against its bete-noire, India, making it a widely covered ‘banana republic’.

The facts and what we can make out of them: What do we know of General Bajwa?

The General officer is from the 1980 batch of the Pakistan Military Academy, commissioned in to the Baloch Regiment, which has produced three former Chiefs. His predecessors have been Generals Yahya Khan (Chief, Martial Law Administrator and President), Aslam Beg and Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Though in itself it may mean little, but the fact of having a Baloch connect may mean something given the problems which have resurfaced in that frontier province of late.

For people familiar with the nuances of ‘qaumi’ (or sectarian, race or culture based) units in the sub-continental armies, it should be self explanatory. For those not familiar with the term, ‘qaumi’ units comprise of troops from a particular sect or clan, usually considered martial in nature. The term can be attributed to the way the British recruited for their armies, and these considerations worked in their favor in order to control clan based ambitions and/or rebellious traits. The system of recruitment continues to flourish even today, and an officer from a ‘qaumi’ unit would have immense say over the opinions of the elders (who would also have served under him) and therefore over the broad view in the community. Whether that is a reason for the rise of General Bajwa is debatable, but quite possibly a substantial reason behind the decision.

The Personal Feud That's Strangling Afghanistan's Precious Mineral Trade

November 26, 2016 

Complicated power struggles are paralyzing the country’s development.

The settlement in the shadows of the mighty peaks and cliffs of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Badakhshan is mostly deserted. The small stone huts are crumbling, and the plastic fabrics of makeshift awnings are torn to rags. But, belying the desolate appearance of the settlement, the rocky slopes just above the encampment hold one of Afghanistan’s treasures—the world-famous mines of lapis lazuli, a semiprecious stone, that has been extracted for millennia for its mesmerizing deep blue color.

These mines, among others of Afghanistan’s natural resources, are often deemed to be the country’s way out of dependence on international aid. However, the reality at the mines shows that Afghanistan’s lapis lazuli wealth is trapped in a deadlock of political intrigues, rather than the harbinger of a brighter future—and this is only one example of the general problem of complicated political power struggles paralyzing Afghanistan’s development.

The latest and current troubles surrounding the lapis lazuli started in January 2014, when an irregular armed group—neither being with the Taliban nor the government—took over the mines in the district of Kuran Wa Munjan from some kind of semi-official government control. In reaction, the Afghan government has incrementally clamped down on what it sees as illegal mining and trade in the blue treasure, interdicting its transport on the routes outside Kuran Wa Munjan (though there is a nominal police station there, the government has no effective presence in the district, which is controlled by the Taliban). While small amounts of lapis lazuli are still mined and smuggled through the blockade, mining and trading came to a virtual standstill sometime in the first half of 2016, according to the few miners and merchants that were left there in October 2016. Since then, seemingly no one has profited from the stones. And, more worrisome, there appears to be no solution in sight.

Chinese naval ships in Pakistan's Gwadar port call for a rethink of India's regional policy

Regional alignments are shifting with China, Pakistan, Russia and Iran coming together.

The transformation of Gwadar port on the Pakistan coast as a base for Chinese Navy ships was long expected, but when media reports actually appeared on Friday to that effect, it was startling news. The reports quoted Pakistani officials saying that China proposes to deploy its naval ships in coordination with the Pakistan Navy to safeguard Gwadar port, which is the gateway to the $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

India would have had some intelligence tip-off, which probably explains the mysterious episode on November 14 of an Indian submarine lurking in the vicinity of Pakistani territorial waters. It was brusquely shooed away by the Pakistani Navy. Of course, the corridor was operationalised a fortnight ago with Chinese ships docking at Gwadar to carry the first containers brought by a Chinese trade convoy from Xinjiang for despatch to the world market.

Viewed from many perspectives, the month of November becomes a defining moment in the geopolitics of our region. But the strangest bit of news would be that earlier this month, Gwadar also received Russia’s Federal Security Services chief Alexander Bogdanov. It was a hush-hush inspection tour aimed at assessing the efficacy of Russian ships using the port during their long voyages, to assert Moscow’s return to the global stage.

The New Trade Future In Asia Pacific – Analysis

NOVEMBER 28, 2016

Right after the Asian-Pacific nations embraced the dream of free trade in the regional Peru Summit, President-elect Trump buried it.

Last weekend, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit made it clear that it would move forward with trade pacts; with or without the US.

Right after the Lima summit, President-elect Donald Trump unveiled his plans for the first 100 days in office, which focus on campaign promises that will not require congressional approval. Among his first actions, Trump said he would “issue our notification of intent to withdraw from the Transpacific Partnership” and replace it with negotiating “fair bilateral trade deals.”

Trump campaigned on a promise to halt the progress of the TPP trade deal. The world is different after his triumph – including world trade.
From Berlin Wall to Trump Wall

In the late 1980s, as the Cold War eclipsed in Europe and regional trade blocks surfaced around the world, Australia called for more effective economic cooperation across Asia Pacific, which led to the first APEC talks.

In Washington, neither Asia nor APEC was yet a priority. Rather, the focus was on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which would tie together the economies of the US, Canada and Mexico. “We have got to stop sending jobs overseas,” warned presidential candidate H. Ross Perot in 1992. “There will be a giant sucking sound going south.” But unlike Trump, he appealed to only one tenth of Americans.

Sure, there was free-trade skeptics among Republicans and Democrats, but the bipartisan majority still believed in free trade. While negotiated and signed by President George H.W. Bush, NAFTA became effective under President Bill Clinton in 1994.

The Chinese Tourists Arrive on the Indian Border

By Claude Arpi
27 Nov , 2016

While Delhi remains stuck with its ‘colonial’ system of Inner Line/Protected Area Permit system, China has opened its side of the frontier to hordes of tourists coming to the Mainland.

Yesterday, China Tibet News reported that “Legbo Valley creates ‘natural oxygen bar’ tourism brand.”

The catchy title is not very clear, but the location of the ‘Legbo Valley’ is speaking. ‘Legbo’ or ‘Le’ (or Lepo’) village is located just a few kilometers north of the McMahon Line (LAC) in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh.

One still remember the Thagla ridge, the site of the Namkha chu battle during the 1962 conflict with China.

Le village is situated on the Tibetan side of the ridge, not far from Khinzemane, the last Indian post on the Namjiang chu (river).

Today, Le village comes under the administration of Tsona County/Dzong of Lhoka City, Southern Tibet.

China Tibet News says that the area is not only renowned “as natural oxygen bar; but it is also the settlement of Monpa people with simple and unique ethnic customs.”

‘Natural oxygen bar’ is just a gimmick to attract tourism, as the altitude is not so high (Zemithang, the last big village on the Indian side is at 2,100 meter asl) and the area is afforested, with plenty of oxygen.

The Strange Story of Russia and China's Cold War Nuclear Weapons Break-Up

November 27, 2016 

Late last year, the CIA declassified a treasure trove of information — the daily briefs it wrote for U.S. presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson from 1961 to 1969. The agency’s memos cover one of the most fascinating and frightening periods of American history.

During the 1960s, communist ideologies ruled in both the Soviet Union and China. At the time, propaganda often depicted the two countries marching in lockstep to plant the red flag across the globe.

The truth, however, was far more complicated. At some points, just based on the CIA’s briefings with no outside historical knowledge, it seemed as if Beijing outright hated Moscow … especially Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

The agency seemed to take glee in reporting the ins and outs of the Sino-Soviet split. Sometimes that joy got weird.

Relations were not always frosty between the two communist powers. Throughout the ’40s and ’50s the two maintained a cordial, even helpful relationship. But the commie buddy routine didn’t last, and by 1961 China’s leadership had formally denounced the Soviets as “revisionist traitors.”

The reasons why are complicated and varied, but one of the points of contention between the two powers was nuclear weapons. Moscow detonated its first nuclear warhead in 1949. By the middle of the 1950s, Mao Zedong decided China needed nukes too, and he looked to his Soviet friends for help.

Will the Kurds Spark Another Middle Eastern Proxy War?

November 27, 2016

Many things have changed since the day in November 2013 when Reçep Tayyip Erdoğan and Masoud Barzani addressed a massive crowd in Diyarbakır, Turkey’s largest Kurdish city, celebrating the eternal friendship between the Turkish and the Kurdish peoples. In the following three years, Turkey abandoned its Kurdish Opening policy and is now once again at war with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The center of Diyarbakır has been the theatre of a months’ long siege and Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party is regularly threatened to be shut down. The Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq (KRG) led by President Barzani has been fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the greatest threat faced by the Kurdish region since the early 1990s, and its leadership is struggling with a financial crisis and emboldened political rivals. But one of the few things that has not changed is the close partnership between the two leaders and this relationship is going to be crucial to the aftermath of the liberation of Mosul.

The Mosul operation against ISIL – launched to restore Iraq’s sovereignty over its second largest city – is unraveling the ambitions of regional players over the spoils of war. Among them, the KRG is the actor that has most to win and most to lose. President Masoud Barzani has promised his people a referendum on independence in the aftermath of the war, which will be held in the Kurdish region as well as in the disputed areas that the Peshmerga forces have liberated from ISIL. Independence is the dream of a vast majority of the Kurdish population, but the road to the referendum seems to be filled with formidable obstacles.

Preventing Mosul from Becoming Fallujah on a Grand Scale

November 26, 2016

Preventing Mosul from Becoming Fallujah on a Grand Scale

Iraqi forces have stalled in their attempt to retake Mosul, the nation’s second largest city. They are facing the nightmare scenario envisioned by US Marine Corps planners in the 1990s when we undertook a series of experiments designed to improve our urban combat capabilities.

Fighting among a population ties the hands of the attacking force unless it decides to rubble buildings and accepts the awful civilian casualties that would result. It is a testament to the Iraqis that they have rejected that option. However, this means that Iraqi forces are not able to use artillery and airpower to their full capabilities. The Iraqi government to date has warned the population to shelter in place rather than evacuate, but Iraq’s generals are now reconsidering that approach.

When we faced similar problems in our urban experimentation, many of us advocated developing directed energy non-lethal weapons that would temporarily incapacitate enemy fighters and any civilians in the buildings allowing for a less deadly approach to urban combat. For a number of reasons, policy makers decided not to pursue the non-lethal option. That left many of us with the opinion that draining the city of the civilian population before attacking it was a preferable option to fighting among the population. During the fighting in Fallujah earlier this year, much of the population self-evacuated; however, that caused a different set of problems because the civilians ended up stuck in the open desert lacking food, water, or basic shelter.

Five Stages Of Climate Grief – OpEd

NOVEMBER 28, 2016

Ever since the elections, our media, schools, workplaces and houses of worship have presented stories showcasing the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Liberal-progressive snowflakes are wallowing in denial, anger and depression. They cannot work, attend class or take exams. They need safe “healing” spaces, Play-Doh, comfort critters and counseling. Too many throw tirades equating Donald Trump with Adolph Hitler, while too few are actually moving to Canada, New Zeeland or Jupiter, after solemnly promising they would.

Nouveau grief is also characterized by the elimination of bargaining and acceptance – and their replacement by two new stages: intolerance for other views and defiance or even riots. Sadly, it appears these new stages have become a dominant, permanent, shameful feature of liberal policies and politics.

The Left has long been intolerant of alternative viewpoints. Refusing to engage or debate, banning or forcibly removing books and posters, threatening and silencing contrarians, disinviting or shouting down conservative speakers, denying tax exempt status to opposing political groups, even criminalizing and prosecuting climate change “deniers” – have all become trademark tactics. Defiance and riots were rare during the Obama years, simply because his government enforced lib-prog ideologies and policies.

Liberals view government as their domain, their reason for being, far too important to be left to “poorly educated” rural and small-town voters, blue-collar workers or other “deplorable” elements. Liberals may not care what we do in our bedrooms, but they intend to control everything outside those four walls.

Trump’s Economic Plan: This Isn’t Going To Work – OpEd

NOVEMBER 28, 2016

Will Donald Trump be good for the US economy?

The American people seem to think so. According to a recent survey taken by Gallup “Americans have relatively high expectations (of) the president-elect… Substantial majorities (upward of 60%) believe the Trump administration will improve the economy and create jobs. A slim majority (52%) say he’ll improve the healthcare system.”

Even more impressive, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index spiked to a 93.8 -high in November, signaling a significant improvement in overall consumer attitudes about the economy.

Analysts attribute this change in outlook to the recent presidential election which showed a marked-uptick in optimism “across all income and age subgroups across the country.”

“The initial reaction of consumers to Trump’s victory was to express greater optimism about their personal finances as well as improved prospects for the national economy,” said Richard Curtin, the survey’s chief economist.

So, people are not just giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, they genuinely think their economic situation is going to get better under the new president.

The results are particularly significant when we realize that the economy not only topped the list of important issues going into the November elections, but that also (according to a survey conducted by Edison Research) “Three in five voters said the country was seriously on the wrong track and about the same number said the economy was either not good or poor. Two-thirds said their personal financial situation was either worse or the same as it was four years ago. About one in three voters said they expected life to be worse for the next generation.”

Donald Trump Should Embrace a Realist Foreign Policy

November 27, 2016

There are many reasons to be deeply worried about a Donald Trump presidency. But if he makes the right choices, he could fundamentally alter U.S. foreign policy for the better.

Trump campaigned against America’s powerful foreign policy community—what one of President Obama’s advisors derisively labeled “the Blob.” Its members include prominent Democrats and Republicans with similar views on foreign policy. He accused them of producing “one foreign policy disaster after another,” and promised to “develop a new foreign policy direction for our country.” This was precisely the message many voters wanted to hear, and the president-elect now has the opportunity to change how the United States deploys its power around the world.

Over the past twenty-five years, American leaders have pursued a policy of liberal hegemony, which calls for the United States to dominate the entire globe. This strategy assumes every region of the world matters greatly for American security, and it calls for extending the U.S. security umbrella to nearly any country that wants protection as well as trying to spread democracy far and wide. In practice, this objective means toppling regimes and then doing nation building. Small wonder the United States has been at war for two out of every three years since the Cold War ended.

Liberal hegemony is a bankrupt strategy. The United States has worked to topple regimes and promote democracy in six countries in the greater Middle East: Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Each attempt has been an abject failure: wars are raging in every one of those countries except Egypt, which is once again a military dictatorship. This campaign has also made America’s terrorism problem worse: Al Qaeda has morphed and multiplied, and we are now at war with ISIS, which is largely a consequence of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.