December 16, 2017

Russia, China Grow Closer As The New Silk Road Unfolds



By ZeroHedge - Dec 15, 2017, 11:00 AM CST

China's Belt and Road Initiative heralds a new era with mega infrastructure projects dotting the landscape...

If you are looking for the latest breakthroughs in trans-Eurasian geo-economics, you should keep an eye on the East – the Russian Far East. One interesting project is the new state-of-the-art $1.5 billion Bystrinsky plant. Located about 400 kilometers from the Chinese border by rail and tucked inside the Trans-Baikal region of Siberian, it is now finally open for business.

This mining and processing complex, which contains up to 343 million tonnes of ore reserves, is a joint venture between Russian and Chinese companies. Norilsk Nickel, Russia’s leading mining group and one of the world’s largest producers of nickel and palladium, has teamed up with CIS Natural Resources Fund, established by President Vladimir Putin, and China’s Highland Fund.

But then, this is just the latest example of Russian and Chinese cooperation geared around the New Silk Roads or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Beijing is the world’s largest importer of copper and iron ore, and virtually the entire output from Bystrinsky will go to the world’s second largest economy.

Naturally, to cope with production, a massive new road and rail network has been rolled out, as well as substantial infrastructure, in the heart of this wilderness. Yet there is another major BRI initiative about 1,000km east of Bystrinsky. Work started on the Amur River Bridge, or Heilongjiang as the Chinese call it, in 2016 and the road and rail links should be finished in 2019.

The project is being developed by Heilongjiang Bridge Company, a Russia-China joint venture, along a crucial stretch of the Russian-Chinese border. It will also be part of a huge trade corridor, which will transport iron ore to China from the Kimkan mine, owned by Hong Kong’s IRC Ltd, in Russia.

The Amur River Bridge, linking Heihe, in Heilongjiang province, with Blagoveshchesnk in the Russian Far East, is a natural part of the New Silk Roads program. It is well connected to one of BRI six major corridors – the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor, or CMREC, via the Trans-Siberian Railway all the way to Vladivostok.

CMREC’s additional importance is that it will connect BRI with the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union, or EAEU, as well as the Mongolian Steppe Road program. CMREC has two key links. One involves China’s Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei to Hohhot before winding on to Mongolia and Russia. The other is from China’s Dalian, Shenyang, Changchun, Harbin and Manzhouli to Chita in Russia, where the Bystrinsky plant is located.

Numerous aspects of the Russian-Chinese intranet were extensively discussed at the Third Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September. CMREC involves closer cooperation, especially in energy, mineral resources, high-tech manufacturing, agriculture and forestry. Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang had already announced even closer economic cooperation with Russia, including a $10 billion China-Russia Investment Cooperation Fund in yuan for BRI and EAAU projects.

Monetary integration

Part of this will include Russian-Chineseinvestment funds, known as Dakaitaowa, or “to open a matryoshka doll”. Monetary integration and energy cooperation are all part of an ambitious Russian-Chinese package. This will allow trade to be settled in yuan, instead of U.S. dollars, in Moscow via the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Products promoted under the “Made in Russia” brand are bound to get a boost.Related: Struggling Venezuela Launches Tender To Buy U.S. Crude

According to the China General Administration of Customs, Russia continues to be the country’s leading crude oil supplier, exporting more than one million barrels per day, ahead of Saudi Arabia and Angola. Exports of Russian oil to China have more than doubled during the past six years.

Last month, the Russian parliament approved the draft of a conservative 2018-2020 Russian federal budget at $279 billion. This included increased spending in the social sector, a higher minimum wage, and increased salaries for teachers and healthcare workers.

Manufacturing in Russia has actually grown in absolute terms during the past decade along with a slight rise in GDP. Contrary to Western perceptions, energy revenue in Russia amounts to only around 30 percent of the federal budget. In absolute terms, it actually fell from 2014 to 2016, while non-oil and gas income has increased steadily since 2009.

Those were the days when Saudi Arabia and the Gulf petro-monarchies were dumping excess capacity on the oil market in a price war that was bound to ruin Russia’s finances. The draft budget assumes the price of oil will stay around at least $40.80 a barrel during the next few years. In fact, it may actually rise from its current $61.03 for the OPEC basket. Of course, that would boost Russia’s reserves.

Natural resources

As for exports, oil accounts for around 26 percent of Russia’s GDP. Oil and gas as a percentage of total exports fell during the past two years from 70 percent to 47 percent, but they are still the country’s top export money earners. When you add other commodities, such as iron, steel, aluminum and copper, revenue from natural resources come to more than 75 percent of Russia’s total exports.

But the key problem ahead for the country is the debt of provincial governments, and not defense, which is much lower than during Gorbachev’s reign in the late 1980s. Still, the integration of BRI and EAEU now offers excellent opportunities for Russia.

To put this into context, we have to go back to the 1689 Treaty of Nerchisk at a time when Manchus, an ethnic minority in China and the people from whom Manchuria derives its name, were deeply concerned about Cossack incursions into their lands.Related: Is The Oil Glut Set To Return?

Nerchisk was the first Chinese treaty with a European power, and it safeguarded borders and regulated relations between the two neighbors for nearly two centuries. For the first time, Russians could trade directly with the Middle Kingdom and negotiate as equals. No Russian or Manchu was spoken, but Latin, via two Jesuit interpreters. They were well positioned in the Qing court by supplying the Kangxi emperor with weapons, as well as advanced courses in geometry and astronomy.

Century of humiliation

Now, compare this with the “unequal treaties” of the 19th century with England, France, the United States and Germany, known as the “century of humiliation” in China. It is true that Russia gobbled up Chinese lands back then, as well as securing the Amur basin and the eastern side of the Sikhote-Alin mountains, which denied the country access to the Sea of Japan.

At the time, the Qing dynasty was helpless. Everything was later formalized by, well, treaties. China lost what was known as Outer Manchuria and Eastern Tartary. Today this whole region is known as Primorsky Krai, Russia’s Maritime Province. Then in 2006, President Putin solemnly announced the resolution of all border disputes with China along the Amur. Beijing de facto agreed.

With the integration of BRI and the EAEU, Russia has a great chance of fulfilling part of its Pacific Destiny, first envisaged when the Trans-Siberian rail link was finished in 1905. Today, that vision is alive with gold and timber in the mountains north of the Amur, fish in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea, and gas reserves from Sakhalin island all part of a modern export chain.

By Zerohedge

Concern Grows In Pakistan Over Cases Of Disappearance 

http://www.wbur.org/npr/564614689/concern-grows-in-pakistan-over-cases-of-disappearance

05:35

Play

December 14, 2017

Diaa Hadid

closemore

For one Pakistani mother, sunburn signals her desperation to find her son.

Zarjan Atta rode rickshaws and buses for four days on desert roads, deepening and reddening her brown skin, as she traveled from her village to Karachi, Pakistan's southern port mega-city.

That's where her son Nawaz, 23, was living with relatives and studying at Karachi University. Her relatives say armed men dragged him from their flat on Oct. 28. They were in civilian clothes.

They pushed the women and children into a room. They warned: If you speak, you'll be next.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan counted 728 alleged disappearances last year. Since 2001, the group estimates that up to 10,000 people have gone missing, with nearly 3,000 still unaccounted for. And this, says Zohra Yusuf, a commission board member, is a conservative estimate.

Other organizations present wildly different numbers. Most conservatively, the government-run commission of inquiry into missing persons says 1,498 people are unaccounted for. Activists say many families of missing persons do not approach the commission.

Some families fear coming forward, and Yusuf says she can't blame them. It is rare for the police to issue missing persons reports, she says. Usually that happens only when a rights activist or journalist is present.

A friend of Nawaz Atta waits in a police station in Karachi to report his disappearance. She covers her face to avoid being identified. (NPR)

Farhatullah Babar, a senator who advocates on behalf of the missing, says the military has continuously disappeared Pakistanis since it joined the U.S. in fighting al-Qaida after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. At first, suspected al-Qaida militants and insurgents from Balochistan – a province where the army is battling separatists — were targeted. But the targets, he says, have expanded.

Four middle-class, city-based bloggers who criticized the military vanished for several weeks last December and January. They were released weeks later. Pakistan's urban elites are rarely touched by disappearances, making these cases particularly shocking.

A fifth man, Samar Abbas, who advocated for Pakistan's Shiite minority, was also taken at the same time. He remains missing.

Pakistan's government and military denied holding the bloggers.

The most recent known case of disappearance involves Raza Khan, 40, who advocated for peace between India and Pakistan. Local media reported that a man took Khan from his home in Lahore on Dec. 2. His brother said the abduction came after Khan engaged in a heated political discussion at a public event.

It is these sorts of cases that have prompted increased worry about who is being taken, and why.

Nawaz Atta had been documenting cases of disappeared people from Balochistan, a province bordering Iran and Afghanistan and roiled by a years-long separatist insurgency, before he was picked up. Atta did that work in his capacity as the information secretary for a group called the Baloch Human Rights Organization.

His friends say he was not involved in violence and was not an insurgent.

An army spokesman did not respond to NPR's repeated requests for comment.

Retired Brig. Haris Nawaz, who often provides insight into the military's thinking for journalists, says no Pakistani should ever criticize the army, which is under pressure to end the insurgency in Balochistan.

China is building a trade corridor through the province to the Arabian Sea. The corridor could transform Pakistan – but "unless Balochistan is peaceful," the brigadier says, "our effort will never be successful."

The stakes are exceptionally high. "I would say this is very defining moment of Pakistan," he says. "We are economically weak and this is our road to economic prosperity."

Even reporting on the disappeared can carry deadly risk. In 2011, a Human Rights Commission researcher investigating disappearances in Balochistan went missing.

"His tortured body was found about seven or eight months later," the commission's Yusuf says.

For many who are freed, there is fear in speaking out.

"Because if they go missing again, they will not be able to speak – forever," says Aasim Saeed, one of the bloggers released in January.

Saeed, 36, now lives in London. Since he is outside the country, he feels able to speak about what happened.

It began with a knock at the door, he says.

Men in civilian clothes pushed him into a car. They blindfolded and shackled him. In a detention center, he was interrogated about his Facebook page that mocked the army.

They wanted to know if Pakistan's rival, India, paid him. He told them no.

Blindfolded, he was whipped "with a leather strap or something." He fell. Somebody held his neck between his legs. The whipping continued.

His ordeal ended when he wrote an apology letter. He was freed and fled to the U.K., where he has applied for asylum.

Zarjan Atta's ordeal to find her son continues with a police report.

It's been a year since she last saw Nawaz. She's an illiterate sheepherder, a widowed mother of five, and had no money to visit him in Karachi. Any money she scraped away, she sent to her son to pay for his education. She was waiting for him to finish.

"I wanted my son to help his brothers get an education," she cries, "and make my life easy."

After she arrives in Karachi, she meets Nawaz's activist friends – all women. They ask not to be identified by NPR for fear of being detained themselves.

Atta is a slight, shy woman, and they offer to help. They adjust their colorful scarves to cover their faces as they barrel down a road to a police station.

They have come prepared with a typed-out note saying what happened to Nawaz, to avoid speaking and drawing attention to themselves. 

One of the women tells me that obtaining a police report is the first step to verifying that Nawaz Atta has been taken. They can use a police report to file court cases demanding his return and to verify to human rights groups that Nawaz is missing, so the groups can advocate on his behalf.

"This is the evidence," the woman says. "This is the thing that maybe, maybe, maybe, can save Nawaz life."

At the Gulistan-e-Johar station, the women give a policeman their statement accusing members of a paramilitary unit of seizing Nawaz.

He stares silently at the paper.

He tells the women he can't write a report because they are in the wrong jurisdiction.

He directs them to the nearby King Faisal Street station.

When an officer there hears that Nawaz is a Baloch activist who advocates for missing Baloch people, he berates the women, asking them what they expected.

The women insist on a response. They are told to wait.

They wait for hours.

The station officer arrives. He says the area where the alleged disappearance took place could be in three different jurisdictions, and tries to send them away to another police station.

The women insist again, and finally he agrees to send an investigator to check if the incident occurred in his jurisdiction.

The investigator reaches the dusty neighborhood where Nawaz Atta lived. He asks residents if they saw anything. A shopkeeper says nothing happened here – and one of the women with Zarjan Atta, Nawaz's mother, shames him until finally he says, yes, he saw armed men take Nawaz.

The women return to the station. It's nightfall. Zarjan Atta is exhausted.

She vowed to God that she'd fast until her son returned.

Finally, another cop writes up a report. Atta inks it with her thumb.

Her son is officially missing

December 15, 2017

Is Chinese Militarization Of Pakistan Beginning?


Is Chinese Militarization Of Pakistan Beginning?

http://dailycaller.com/2017/12/15/is-chinese-militarization-of-pakistan-beginning/

LAWRENCE SELLIN

Retired Colonel, U.S. Army Reserve

9:56 PM 12/15/2017

According to a December 12, 2017 Urdu-language news site report, during a high-level meeting presumably between Chinese and Pakistani officials held on the last day of the November Chinese Economic Summit in Hong Kong, China offered to train Pakistani security forces to protect both the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in Pakistan and the Chinese nationals working on them. That follows a September 17, 2017 official CPEC announcement, whereby China would “assist” Pakistan in “capacity building” of “civil armed forces.”

At face value, the Chinese offer appears to be a predictable response to the proliferation of Islamic extremist groups, the permanent Taliban support and recruiting network, and the festering independence insurgency, all in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan, a region whose stability is critical to the success of CPEC, a $46 billion Chinese infrastructure investment in Pakistan.

What the December 12th Urdu report states that the official September 17th communique doesn’t is that Chinese training will include the “Special Security Division,” which widens the scope considerably.

The Special Security Division is a 2-star Pakistani military command of up to 15,000 personnel established in September 2016 to protect CPEC from internal and external threats. It is composed of nine Pakistan Army infantry battalions, six “Civil Armed Forces” elements of Army Ranger and Frontier Corps units, and a maritime security command led by the Pakistani Navy, which includes the Maritime Security Agency and the Pakistani Marines.

The number of Chinese military and security trainers to be stationed in Pakistan is undisclosed, but based on the size of the Special Security Division alone, the total complement of Chinese needed to fulfill all the CPEC security requirements is expected to be sizable.

Also in the past week, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, Chief of the Air Staff of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), announced a joint China-Pakistan space program that will begin by sending a satellite into orbit within the next two years. In that regard, there have been on-the-ground reports in the past few months of high-level Chinese delegations visiting Sonmiani, Balochistan, the location of Pakistan’s space port. Those reports have also included rumors of Chinese purchases of large blocks of land in the Sonmiani region.

In April 2017, an agreement was signed whereby a state-run Chinese company, the China Overseas Port Holding Company will handle the operations of Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar port for a period of 40 years.

Pakistan is not shy about stating its interest in joint naval operations with China from Gwadar:

“China and Pakistan have found common ground in terms of maritime interest in the region. Gwadar port can be used for joint naval patrols in the Indian Ocean, further increasing the naval outreach of China and Pakistan in the region. Gwadar port will increase the countries’ naval movements and further expand defense cooperation, especially in the naval field.”


In addition, there has been a general shift in Chinese military personnel in favor of naval and marine corps forces at the expense of land forces. According to reports, some of those forces are destined for Djibouti and Gwadar, the strategybeing:

“The Chinese have been attracted to Gwadar primarily because of its proximity to the Straits of Hormuz, through which most of their energy flows. Gwadar provides a base from where they can exercise firm control over this energy flow, both in terms of monitoring and protection when the situation demands such effort. With the establishment of a Chinese military base at Djibouti and the continuing anti-piracy effort, naval operations based out of Gwadar will provide the Chinese with a near-continuous naval presence from the Makran coast [southern Pakistan on the Arabian Sea] to the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb [entrance to the Red Sea and gateway to the Suez Canal].”


The Chinese are also expanding the Gwadar International Airport to handle “heavies.” That will provide an airlift capability linking Gwadar at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and the Chinese base in Djibouti at the entrance of the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

Also in the past week — similar to the Chinese “management” of Gwadar — Sri Lanka relinquished authority over its southern port of Hambantota to the Chinese, having signed a 99-year lease with the state-controlled China Merchants Port Holdings.

The Chinese presence in Hambantota outflanks both India and the U.S. naval base in Diego Garcia and provides an additional strategic choke point, a potential for regional hegemony and, in combination with the other developments, largely renders current U.S. policy in Afghanistan obsolete.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired US Army Reserve colonel, an IT command and control subject matter expert, trained in Arabic and Kurdish, and a veteran of Afghanistan, northern Iraq and a humanitarian mission to West Africa. He receives email at lawrence.sellin@gmail.com.

Diplomacy in the Age of Trump – Part 1

 Laurence Pope  08 Dec, 2017  

    

When the conference organizers asked for a quick title for this talk, I came up with “Diplomacy in the Age of Trump”. But no matter how you measure it, an age is longer than this administration is likely to last, and a thorough discussion of the follies of the current chief magistrate of our venerable Republic would take up all the time we have tonight and more. In the end we might be angrier, but little the wiser.

Criticism of Trump’s foreign policy isn’t a matter of party politics. Republican leaders from John McCain to George W. Bush have spoken about his betrayal of American ideals and values — former President Bush’s October 19 speech was particularly eloquent. His bombastic “America First” policies have succeeded in doing something I never thought possible, uniting the normally fractious foreign policy commentariat in opposition across the political spectrum, from David Brooks to Rosa Brooks, Eliot Cohen to Richard Cohen.

Fortunately for the Republic, President Trump is not the only one who matters — even if he does have his finger on the nuclear trigger. Our foreign affairs are being managed today not so much by the former reality TV star who is glued to Fox and Friends on the big screens which have been installed in the private quarters of the White House, but by a triumvirate of experienced generals, and especially Jim Mattis at the Defense Department. This is problematic from the point of view of civil-military authorities, but it beats the alternative.

My perspective on these political generals was informed in the decade after I left the State Department when I made a living as a consultant to the Defense Department — as Willie Sutton said when he was asked why he robbed banks, because that’s where the money is. So it was that not too long ago I was sitting around a table in Washington with General Mattis at its head, and heard Newt Gingrich, who passes for an intellectual in the beltway, declare that because of the Obama administration’s inability to concoct a political strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan the military would have to come up with one itself. Jim Mattis was unpersuaded.  In his confirmation hearing, he said: ‘we should use military force only when it is in the vital interest of the United States, when other elements of national power have been insufficient in protecting our national interests, and generally as a last resort.’ His departure would produce a crisis in Washington as considerable as the dismissal of Bob Mueller.

So instead of starting with the infuriating scene in the beltway — we will get there, I promise you — let me try to lower everybody’s blood pressure by putting it in some perspective, and talking about our foreign policy institutions.

Americans have always been uncomfortable with diplomacy.  It comports uneasily with our cherished notion that we are an exception among nations — 192 of them at last count, all juridically equal in theory, and none more exceptional than any other in terms of international law. Despite its air of antiquity, the term was not invented until about 1800, when it came into currency first in French and then in other European languages. The Enlightenment used “negotiation”, a term with the virtue of clarity. Everybody knows that it requires give and take and compromise, while diplomacy conjures up rituals performed by old white guys in striped pants and top hats. But for better or worse, after some 200 years of diplomacy and diplomats we are stuck with it, and them. 

From the beginning a whiff of sulphur was attached to the term diplomacy for Americans. In 1812, as war loomed with England, it was associated with the wiles of perfidious Albion. The town fathers of Burlington, Vermont, denounced the ‘injustice and chicanery of British diplomacy’, and their counterparts in Milton, Massachusetts, worried that ‘the rights of our present & future generations’ might disappear ‘before the diplomacy of Courts’ — forgetting that only a generation earlier Benjamin Franklin at the Court of Versailles had been instrumental in securing their independence, and that at the Court of St James stout John Adams had negotiated to consolidate it.

During the long peace of the Cold War, when our minds were concentrated by the threat of nuclear annihilation and the zero sum game we played around the world with the Soviet Union, we set aside our hesitations about diplomacy. In the immediate postwar period, under George Marshall and Dean Acheson, the State Department ruled the Washington roost, and Foreign Service Officers like George Kennan helped set our grand strategy of containment of the Soviet Union. When at the White House Henry Kissinger expanded a small staff from a few dozen to forty or so — the number today is about ten times that high — Acheson denounced him as a “court favorite advising the monarch in his antechamber”, and declared that he would not have wanted to be Secretary of State in such circumstances. But when Kissinger took over the State Department from the hapless William Rogers, he used the Foreign Service like the sharp instrument it was. His opening to China was managed almost entirely by Foreign Service Officers. Kissinger’s book Diplomacy is dedicated to ‘the men and women of the Foreign Service of the United States, whose dedication and professionalism sustain American diplomacy’.

The sudden collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991 ushered in an era in which it appeared for a brief moment that liberal democratic values would be ascendant everywhere, in a triumphant neo-Hegelian end of history. In such a world diplomacy and diplomats appeared to be anachronisms, and a brilliant young French diplomat named Jean-Marie Guehenno predicted the demise of the nation-state, destined to be swept away by the forces of globalization. In Silicon Valley the information age had dawned, and with it the conviction in advanced circles that states were the wave of the past. Tom Friedman announced that the world was flat. Digital networks operating ‘above and below the state’ would replace the antiquated paper hierarchies of governments, declared Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Princeton professor who became Hillary Clinton’s director of policy planning at the State Department.

Side by side with these millennial notions, after 9/11 an endless War on Terror had replaced the Cold War as the frame for our foreign policy and the center of gravity in national security policy moved away from the State Department. The Defense Department’s budget doubled, as did that of the intelligence agencies, while the State Department’s remained a favorite target for budget cuts. Our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cast some 2000 Foreign Service officers as handmaidens to the military in futile nation-building tasks, and a greatly expanded White House staff took over many of the State Department’s policy functions — referred to by lazy journalists as the ‘national security council’ although it is only the staff of the national security adviser.

The Foreign Service of the United States, to give its full title, occupies the uncomfortable place in the national security system where the politics of the beltway meet the realities of the outside world. Its comparative advantage derives from this unique and sometimes precarious situation. By beltway standards it is a small bureaucracy of some 8,000 people — by way of comparison, there are 30,000 people in the U.S. Forest Service, and 14,000 special agents in the FBI — but it has a large job. Foreign Service officers run our embassies and consulates overseas, 270 of them at last count, as well as staffing key positions in the State Department. Most of our ambassadors come from the Foreign Service — 65% in recent years though that number is not set in stone, and if this administration lasts long enough, it is likely to be lower than that. Just as important, all of the deputies of our ambassadors, who act with the full authority of chiefs of mission in their absence, come from the Foreign Service — a red line that may not hold much longer if a diminished Foreign Service is unable to field credible candidates. When I went to Libya in 2012 as a retired officer, the assistant secretaries for the Near East and diplomatic security were both retired too. Would the Navy recall retired flag officers to duty because nobody on active duty could be found to command destroyers or carrier battle groups?

Foreign Service officers are a small minority of the personnel at our embassies overseas, which we have taken to thinking of as foreign bases rather than as missions to other governments. Our embassies are treated as platforms by a long list of government agencies, not just the CIA and the Defense Department, but the Agriculture Department, the Commerce Department, the FBI, and our Orwellian Department of Homeland Security, and it is the job of ambassadors and their Foreign Service deputies to manage this collection of people with a wide variety of Washington masters and often conflicting mandates. Without a firm baton the result is cacophony or worse, with the horn section trying to drown out the strings, and some musicians playing a different tune altogether. In Libya where I served for a few months in late 2012, I do not recall receiving an instruction from the State Department — at least not one that I carried out — but I dealt on a daily basis with the FBI, the CIA, and the four star general responsible for Africa

Diplomacy in the Age of Trump

Diplomacy in the Age of Trump – Part 2

 Laurence Pope  08 Dec, 2017  

    

Continued from Diplomacy in the Age of Trump – Part 1

Today, the neglect of the Foreign Service which has characterized our national security bureaucracy since the end of the Cold War has been replaced by an active attempt to destroy it. Other institutions of the deep state like the FBI, the CIA, and especially the military, have powerful defenders; the State Department and the Foreign Service make easier targets. How else to account for the draconian cuts which have been proposed for the State Department budget, for the hiring freeze managed from the White House designed to shrink it in size, and especially for the failure to make any appointments at all to key positions at our foreign ministry?

Almost a year into the Administration there is still no assistant secretary for the Near East at all. Of six undersecretary positions at the State Department, five are vacant. Of the six regional bureaus which connect the State Department to our embassies around the world, five have acting assistant secretaries. There is no assistant secretary for International organizations, including the UN and its many appendages, and no assistant secretary for population, refugees and migration, a bureau which had a budget of $3.4 billion in 2016. Nobody is in charge of Congressional relations.

The post of Director General of the Foreign Service used to be a senior Ambassador.  The administration’s nominee for the post is a young man who left the Foreign Service with the equivalent military rank of Major, who worked until last year for Governor Mike Pence in Indiana. The Counselor of the State Department is a woman from the financial sector with no international experience of any kind, whose career has been spent managing 401ks.

It gets worse. At a time of nuclear confrontation with North Korea we have no Ambassador to South Korea, although one has recently been named, and we have chosen this moment of peril to pick a fight with our South Korea allies over trade. We have no ambassador to Afghanistan, where there are more than 11,000 American troops in harm’s way. No one represents us in France, with its dynamic young President — or in Saudi Arabia, where instead of tempering the behavior of its unguided missile of a crown prince, we have endorsed his internal coup d’├ętat by Presidential tweet, reflecting the influence of our very own Crown Prince, the President’s son-in-law and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, pictured recently by the New York Times at the head of a table in the White House, with the President sitting to his right, where he was said to be developing a plan for Middle East Peace — without the slightest involvement of the Secretary of State. We have no ambassador in Niger, where four American soldiers operating under the authority of the Embassy in Niamey were killed in an ambush last month.

It does not help that Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon, is badly miscast in the role of our foreign minister. For Exxon, governments are simply an impediment to the business of extracting oil and energy, and Tillerson appears to have only contempt for the mission of the agency he heads, and in an extraordinary reversal of the usual Washington dance, instead of lobbying for more money he is refusing to spend funds which have been appropriated. Early on, Secretary Tillerson announced that his legacy would be to introduce sound business practices to the State Department and to streamline its operations, but he has been remarkably indecisive in pursuit of these goals, and almost year into his tenure, there is still no clarity about his intentions.

There is plenty of scope for reform, needless to say. The State Department’s organization chart is a management consultant’s nightmare, with lines of authority trailing off into the ether, and dozens of special envoys reporting to nobody, often ones catering to a particular constituency — youth, or women, or religious freedom — with responsibilities that are everywhere in theory, but nowhere in the real world of nations. Many of these positions should remain unfilled —and in that regard, it is not necessarily reassuring that one of the few appointments the Trump administration has made is that of Sam Brownback, the right wing governor who was in need of a job, having been rejected by the voters of his state after he bankrupted Kansas with his tax cuts, as ‘Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom’.

There is also duplication and overlap between the State Department’s ‘functional’ bureaus — international organizations, human rights, that sort of thing — and its regional bureaus which are responsible for a particular part of the world. A case could be made for consolidation. The resulting carnage would be considerable, but this would at least give a conceptual framework to the draconian cuts off 30% or more the Trump administration wants to make to the State Department’s budget. Still another possibility might be to learn from the operations of other foreign ministries, from the British or the French, who have been doing this for a while, and who have highly professional diplomatic services, or the Japanese, whose diplomats are mostly graduates of the top universities, or the Germans, whose diplomats all have a law degree.

The fact is that Tillerson’s so-called management reform efforts are simply a cover for what the New York Timeshas called a war on diplomacy. The opacity of his management is exacerbated by his Cerberus of an office director, who styles herself ‘Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State’. State Department employees who come across him in the corridors are discouraged from making eye contact with the boss — an injunction which is mostly unnecessary since few have ever seen him. Hundreds of people have been removed from their jobs and sent off to work on the backlog of Freedom of Information requests, a transparent attempt to find the dirt in Hillary Clinton’s e-mails that three years of Congressional investigations failed to turn up. Tillerson and his staff grade State Department offices on spelling and concentrate on correcting the national day messages to foreign leaders which in a properly run organization would be the sole business of desk officers. A power point briefing last week to the Senate Foreign Relations was a vacuous assemblage of management buzzwords which Foreign Service officers at the State Department learned about only after it leaked to the press. Here is an excerpt from one of the slides: ‘Identify priority opportunities to improve customer-facing service, with an eye to innovation, cost-reduction, and efficiency, improvement of quality of services (including shared services)’.

Meanwhile, despite a Congressional injunction that hiring should continue on a pace with previous years, in 2018 the State Department will take in only a handful new Foreign Service officers through the examination process which attracted some 17,000 applicants in 2015 — a death sentence for a career service. If this were the result of genuine budget constraints as has sometimes been the case in the past, that would be one thing. This is entirely gratuitous, a deliberate attempt to destroy a capability which is as important to our security as a Marine Corps division, the 82nd Airborne, or a Carrier Battle Group, and a lot less expensive.

Insiders think Tillerson will probably stick it out until February when he will have been in the job for a year, and when for financial reasons having to do with his recusal and sale of Exxon stock he will be able to resign without taking a financial hit. When he does, the ambitious Nikki Haley, ambassador to the UN, will be waiting in the wings. Tillerson’s titular subordinate, is conducting her own foreign policy without the slightest regard for instructions sent to her in Tillerson’s name. Another candidate is apparently Mike Pompeo, the CIA director who is a former Tea Party member of Congress.

This shipwreck of a Presidency will end one way or another, and when it does the time will come to pick up the pieces of our shattered diplomatic institutions. There is a growing and bipartisan opposition to the Trump Administration’s attempts to destroy what is left of our diplomatic capability — in the vernacular, the Foreign Service is having a moment.

Let’s hope the New York Times and Rachel Maddow will still be interested in the Foreign Service when that time comes. We will need strong diplomatic institutions if American leadership is to be effective in the turbulent 21st century that lies ahead.

Let me close with a story that was a favorite of the subject of a book I wrote some years ago, a French envoy named Francois de Callieres. The Duke of Mantua and a visiting Venetian were talking, and the Duke complained about the Venetian Ambassador. He’s an idiot, said the Duke, and I can’t have a decent conversation with him. That’s a shame, said the Venetian — unfortunately we have many fools in Venice. So do we in Mantua, said the Duke — but we don’t send them abroad to represent us.  

 

Laurence Pope is a former US Ambassador and Political Advisor to C-in-C Central Command. 

This text was delivered by the author as a Camden Conference event on 21 November, 2017. It is reprinted here as a blog posting, in two parts, with the permission of the author

CONSTRUCTING REVOLUTION: SOVIET PROPAGANDA POSTERS FROM BETWEEN THE WORLD WARS

CONSTRUCTING REVOLUTION: SOVIET PROPAGANDA POSTERS FROM BETWEEN THE WORLD WARS

Constructing Revolution explores the remarkable and wide-ranging body of propaganda posters as an artistic consequence of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Marking its centennial, this exhibition delves into a relatively short-lived era of unprecedented experimentation and utopian idealism, which produced some of the most iconic images in the history of graphic design.

The eruption of the First World War, the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917, and the subsequent civil war broke down established political and social structures and brought an end to the Tsarist Empire. Russia was split into antagonistic worlds: the Bolsheviks and the enemy, the proletariat and the exploiters, the collective and the private, the future and the past. The deft manipulation of public opinion was integral to the violent class struggle. Having seized power in 1917, the Bolsheviks immediately recognized posters as a critical means to tout the Revolution’s triumph and ensure its spread. Posters supplied the new iconography, converting Communist aspirations into readily accessible, urgent, public art.

This exhibition surveys genres and methods of early Soviet poster design and introduces the most prominent artists of the movement. Reflecting the turbulent and ultimately tragic history of Russia in the 1920s and 1930s, it charts the formative decades of the USSR and demonstrates the tight bond between Soviet art and ideology.

All works in this exhibition are generously lent by Svetlana and Eric Silverman ’85, P’19.

This exhibition is on view at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art from September 23, 2017 to February 11, 2018.

Remember Subramanian Swamy with Reverence for Saving the Ram Setu

https://rightlog.in/2017/12/ram-setu-subramanian-swamy-01/

By

 Apurv Agrawal

 -

 December 15, 2017

jāko rākhe sāiyām̐ māra sake na koya
bāla bāṃkā kara sake jo jāga bairī hoya

 One protected by Ram can’t be destroyed by anyone, even someone one opposed to entire world like Ravan will fail to affect even a hair strand of such a surrendered soul.

Majority of the people are still unaware in our country about the unprecedented contribution of Dr. Subramanian Swamy in protecting Shri Ram Setu which the then UPA government was hell bent on demolishing. The VHP President Shri Ashok Singhal had requested Dr. Subramanian Swamy to continue the fight for Ram Setu when the latter was heading the Janta Party.

History of Setu Samudram Canal Project:

The Setu Samudram Canal Project (SSCP) recommends cutting a shipping channel across the narrow strip of land to connect the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Bay with the object of providing a short-cut for ocean-going ships plying between the West Coast of India and the East Coast. 

The Government of India constituted nine committees before independence, and five committees since then, to suggest alignments for a SSCP. Most of them suggested land-based passages across Rameshwaram island, and none recommended alignment across Rama’s Bridge. The Setu samudram project committee in 1956 also strongly recommended to the Union government to use land passages instead of cutting Rama’s Bridge because of the several advantages of land passage.

Congress and DMK – The unholy nexus

In 2005, the Government of India led by UPA approved a multi-million dollar SSCP that aims to create a ship channel across the Palk Strait by dredging the shallow ocean floor near Dhanushkodi.

The Setu or bridge, which is believed to be built by Nala in Lord Ram’s army to reach Lanka, is a matter of strong religious faith and the government decided to ignore the sentiments of Hindus and decided to move ahead with the project, which could have been one of the most severe setback to the faith of one-sixth of the world’s population.

Despite of National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) studies published in a book which claimed that the Setu could be man-made, Ambika Soni, the then Minister of Culture replied to a question in Rajya Sabha (August 14, 2007) and made false claims that no archaeological studies had been made with respect to Ram Setu.

Karunanidhi went a step ahead with appeasement politics and quoted former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru by saying Ramayana was a story based on the fight between Aryan and Dravidian races.

 “Lord Ram is an imaginary character and Ram Setu is not a man-made bridge. The Centre should not do anything to disturb the Setu samudram project,” Karunanidhi said.

On 16th September, 2007, Karunanidhi added, “Some say there was a person over 17 lakh years ago. His name was Ram. Do not touch the bridge (Ram Setu) constructed by him. Who is this Ram? From which engineering college did he graduate? Is there any proof for this.”

Self-proclaimed scholars Wendy Doniger’s and Devdutt Pattanaik’s claims on Ram Setu:

American Indologist Wendy Doniger, who had been heavily criticized for misquoting Valmiki Ramayan, also touched upon the topic of Ram Setu in her book ‘The Hindus, an Alternative History’. She cites an archaeological report that the Congress government produced in court, claiming that the bridge did not exist and was mythical. Then she cites the Marxist historian Romila Thapar’s statement that in the centuries BC, it was technical infeasible to construct the bridge. The entire section of Doniger’s book is a continuation of her thesis that since the Ramayana is fiction, the bridge must also be mythical.

Doniger of course quotes her sources selectively. First, she does not point out that the Congress party was dependent upon the support of the Shri Ram-hating Karunanidhi’s DMK party who sometimes threatened to withdraw their support to the government if the dredging through the bridge was stopped.

In a write-up for DailyO on Science Channel’s video showing Ram setu as man-made by Devdautt Pattanaik (who is also close to Wendy), he said, “Based on astronomical information, such as the position of constellations and the time of eclipses available in scriptures, they (experts) have concluded that events in the Ramayana took place 7,000 years ago”.

Meanwhile he cleverly tried to hide the legend of Shri Ram from Treta Yuga and the fact that same configuration of constellations repeat every 7122 years.

Subramanian Swamy ’s entry in the case:

The following series of event will make it clear that it was Shri Rama’s will alone that made Dr. Subramanian Swamy take up the case a day before Ram setu was all set to be broken under SSCP.

RDX explosive was ready to burst a portion of Ram setu the very next day. With only a day left, Dr. Swamy’s petition came up for hearing against SSCP. KG Balakrishnan was Chief Justice in office. On the day of hearing, he had to leave urgently for a foreign trip. With CJI bench not working, petition would have become infructuous as Dr. Swamy’s prayer was to put a stay on demolition of Setu and the government should consider other routes instead of straight away demolishing the legendary structure.

At this crucial moment & with clock ticking, Dr. Swamy approached Justice B.N. Agarwal who upon seeing Dr. Swamy asked why he had come to the court with no petition pending. Smart as always, Dr. Swamy said Supreme Court of India doesn’t have Chief Justice present and he had a prayer listed before CJI. If it’s not heard, petition would become infructuous.

Justice Agarwal said that in the absence of Chief Justice, next senior most judge will hear the prayer and Swamy should know it’s him. Dr. Swamy immediately prayed that matter should be heard on that day itself as any further delay doesn’t serve the purpose. 

Justice Agarwal fixed the hearing at 2 PM and the then Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanian rushed towards the court hearing that Dr. Swamy was pressing for stay and court had given immediate hearing.

When the hearing started, Dr. Swamy argued that government of India hasn’t considered other routes and also faith of millions of Hindus was involved in the matter. Justice Agarwal’s question was whether government has plan to demolish without considering other routes. Gopal Subramanian was going round about answering that while government will be mindful of faith and at the same will take precautions to ensure that demolition doesn’t take place.

Upon being convinced about this ill thought out plan, Justice Agarwal granted immediate stay against demolition of Ram Setu. Dr. Swamy emerged victorious among those crucial moments & thus demolition was stayed.

 

Second order after arguments, when government withdrew its affidavit stating Lord Ram as mythological, stated “We had passed an interim order dated 31.08.2007 directing that the dredging activity may be carried out but the alleged Adam’s bridge/Rama Setu shall not be damaged in any manner. The said interim order shall continue to operate.” Hence, Dr.Subramanian Swamy removed danger of Ram setu’s demolition by getting a permanent stay.

 

When Dr. Subramanian Swamy went to Supreme Court against Setu Samudram project, Karunanidhi personally called him and asked if Lord Ram had studied engineering to build Ram Setu.

The very next day, Karunanidhi was admitted to Ramchandra Hospital on accounts of ill health. Swamy, with his quick wit, took a hilarious take on the situation and called Karunanidhi asking whether Lord Ram studied MBBS.

BJP’s Government’s stand on Shri Ram Setu

In 2014, Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari had categorically stated that the “sacred structure associated with Lord Ram” won’t be damaged under any circumstances.

On 22nd November, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, called a meeting of few cabinet ministers and came to a conclusion that no project affecting to integrity of Ram setu will be approved.

Dr. Subramanian Swamy, the only petitioner in 2007 who appeared in court for protecting Ram Setu thanked Narendra Modi government with a special mention of Nitin Gadkari.

National Heritage
Recently, on 11th December, Science Channel released a video stating that Ram Setu is man-made, the stones to build it have been brought from far and the bridge stands on sand. There is a massive outburst in Hindus as well as a pressure on current government to declare Shri Ram Setu as a National Heritage. Hope this happens soon!

References:

https://web.archive.org/web/20071014012322/http://sethusamudram.gov.in/History.asp

Ram Setu: Symbol of National Unity – by Subramanian Swamy

http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/sep/15setu.htm

http://ia.rediff.com/news/2007/sep/17sethu2.htm

http://hindureview.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/thaah-wd-review-va-24.pdf

https://www.dailyo.in/variety/ramsetu-is-real-us-science-proof-channel-bjp-hindutva-congress/story/1/21120.html

http://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/ramsethu-adams-bridge-lord-ram-narendra-modi-nitin-gadkari-supreme-court-sri-lanka-india-sethusamudram-shipping-canal-project/131348

https://twitter.com/Ish_Bhandari/status/940830529259175936

U.S. Military Capabilities and Forces for a Dangerous World

https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1782.html



Rethinking the U.S. Approach to Force Planning

by David OchmanekPeter A. WilsonBrenna AllenJohn Speed MeyersCarter C. Price

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Technical Details »

Research Questions

What capability areas merit highest priority for modernizing U.S. forces to meet emerging challenges?How much would it cost to develop and deploy capabilities and posture enhancements called for by the emerging security environment?

This report evaluates the capabilities of current and programmed U.S. forces to meet the demands of conflicts that could arise involving any of five potential adversaries: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Salafist-jihadi groups worldwide. The report finds that U.S. forces today are larger than necessary to fight a single major war, are failing to keep pace with the modernizing forces of great power adversaries, are poorly postured to meet key challenges in Europe and East Asia, and are insufficiently trained and ready to get the most operational utility from many of its active component units. The report recommends a host of enhancements to the capabilities and posture of U.S. forces and offers three alternative force planning constructs to help ensure that defense resources are, in the future, applied to the highest-priority needs.

Key Findings

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) continues to use a Two Regional Wars standard for force planning, although this standard now bears little relationship to what the administration and the nation expect U.S. armed forces to be prepared to do.Important national interests today are being challenged by two major powers — Russia and China — that pose operational and strategic challenges that far outstrip those posed by the regional adversaries that animate DoD's current force planning construct (FPC).With its growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, North Korea today presents threats for which U.S. and allied forces lack satisfactory answers.Although the United States and its allies and partners have made considerable headway in blunting the threat posed by al Qa'ida and its affiliates, U.S. forces must expect to be engaged in the struggle with Salafist-jihadi groups, such as ISIS, for many years to come.Addressing the challenges posed by the most-capable adversaries generally calls not for a larger U.S. force but rather for a force equipped with appropriate modern weapons and support assets that is also postured for responsive and resilient operations in theaters of potential conflict.

Recommendations

Force planning in DoD today should place greater priority on modernizing the capabilities and posture of U.S. forces in order to better enable them to deter and defeat aggression by China, Russia, and North Korea.

At the same time, force planners should provide for the continued, gradual expansion of special operations forces, modernize U.S. nuclear forces, and raise readiness levels of active component forces

Key investment priorities should include:

Systems and concepts to permit U.S. forces to detect, locate, and damage or destroy mobile military forces (e.g., naval vessels, mechanized ground forces) in areas protected by advanced air defenses.Systems and concepts to permit the rapid suppression/neutralization of advanced air defense arrays.New approaches to increase the resiliency of forward land and sea bases so that they can sustain operations in the face of repeated attacks by precision cruise and ballistic missiles.Systems and concepts to increase the resiliency of key capabilities based in space, including positioning, timing, and navigation (PNT); reconnaissance; and communications.Prepositioning and forward stationing of assets in theaters to offset existing imbalances and to support more rapid, large-scale operations.

Implementing these recommendations at today's level of defense spending would necessitate substantial reductions in force structure. The nation could avoid major force cuts and achieve the objectives outlined above by increasing defense spending by $20 billion to $40 billion per year on a sustained basis.

Table of Contents

Chapter One

The Need for a New Approach to Force Planning

Chapter Two

China: Ensuring Access to the Air and Sea Commons and Sustaining Capabilities for Effective Power Projection Operations

Chapter Three

Responding to Russia's Remilitarization of Geopolitics in Europe

Chapter Four

Countering a Nuclear-Armed North Korea

Chapter Five

Countering Iranian Aggressiveness and Maintaining Balance in the Persian Gulf Region

Chapter Six

Combating Salafist-Jihadi Groups: The Roles Played by U.S. SOF

Chapter Seven

Alternative Force Planning Constructs and Associated Forces

Appendix A

The Third Offset and the Future of DoD's R&D Investment Portfolio

Appendix B

On the Future of the U.S. Nuclear Posture

Appendix C

Estimating the Costs of Alternative Future Forces: Assumptions and Approach

Appendix D

Sizing Force Elements for Alternative Force Planning Constructs

Indian Ocean politics of the 21st Century 

http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=176608


– A view from Sri Lanka

December 14, 2017, 9:47 pm 

(This is an edited version of a presentation made by Tissa Jayatilaka on Tuesday, 31 October, 2017 at the ‘Roundtable Discussion’ jointly organised by the Mario Einaudi Centre for International Studies and the South Asia Programme of Cornell University, Ithaca, New York)

Continued from yesterday

The creation of wealth and enhanced economic activity in the IOR will not only bring benefits but also pose enormous security challenges to us all. Most of the world’s armed conflicts are presently located in the IOR. Besides the waters of the Indian Ocean are also home to continually evolving strategic developments, including the rise of regional powers with nuclear capacities. Conflicts in the Gulf, unrest in Afghanistan, rise of violent extremism, growing incidents of piracy in and around the Horn of Africa loom over the region. All of this has led to the substantial militarisation of parts of the IOR. In Sri Lanka’s view, the vital Sea Lanes of Communication in the Indian Ocean that fuels the global economy needs to be open for all and must be used for mutual benefit in a sustainable manner. It is essential to maintain peace and stability in the IOR which ensures the right of all states to freedom of navigation and overflight.

In terms of the maritime build up in the Indian Ocean, we see India, China, Japan, Australia and the United States envisaging various projects from ocean excavation to placing remote sensors for ocean research. The United States, China, India and Japan are deepening their naval presence. Naval power is expected to play an increasingly significant role in regional affairs. This in turn will lead to naval power competition, with plans for sea control as well as sea denials.

There are massive challenges to be met. Maritime pollution is one such. The Indian Ocean, we are told, has the second largest accumulation of floating plastic waste in the world. It is the region where larger tankers, container vessels and the like plying between west and east, dump their waste. Oil and tar are common sights on Sri Lankan beaches. Recent studies estimate the amount of oil and petroleum discharged into the Indian Ocean to make up about 40 percent of the total petroleum spill of the oceans of the world. Undercurrents of naval build ups in the South China Sea are being felt in the Indian Ocean. China has established its first overseas military base in the Indian Ocean rim nation of Djibouti, causing serious concerns in Delhi.

Sri Lanka faces a continuing issue of poaching and rape of marine life in the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar due to illegal fishing by Indian fishermen. Bottom trawling by these fishermen are causing immense damage to Sri Lanka’s precious marine resources and harming livelihoods of Sri Lanka’s fishermen. Research in countries like Somalia have shown that illegal fishing by foreign vessels was ‘a fundamental grievance that sparked piracy and provides ongoing justification for it’ according to analysts quoted in leading Sri Lankan newspapers. According to these sources, among foreign vessels found indulging in such illegal fishing are those belonging to so-called developed European countries, like Spain for example, who send their surplus trawlers and mother ships to exploit tuna stocks and other Indian Ocean resources using satellites to track movements of schools of fish. Some countries like Indonesia, for example, have been less tolerant of illegal fishing in their waters. It has been reported that in 2016, Indonesia had blown up foreign boats confiscated for fishing illegally in its waters. Of the 23 so blown up, 13 were from Vietnam and 10 from Malaysia.

The Indian Ocean plays a crucial role in the future of both China and India. The sea routes through the Indian Ocean are vital to China’s maritime trade and energy supply. Both countries need to respect each other’s legitimate interest in the region. As Anit Mukherjee of the Rajaratnam School of International Studies of the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore observes, the United States can be considered a resident power in the Indian Ocean given its bases in West Asia (Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar), in the Horn of Africa (Djibouti) and in Diego Garcia. In addition, on the eastern flank of the Indian Ocean, the United States has a military presence in Thailand, Singapore and Australia. As it is pre-occupied in West Asia or the Middle East, the United States is comfortable with India playing a leading role in the Indian Ocean.

Some analysts view this above development as an indication of stretched United States resources, given its interests in East China and South China Seas. Nilanthi Samaranayake et al of the CAN ( a non-profit research and analysis organization based in Arlington, Virginia) view it as ‘a security burden sharing’ between India and the United States in the IOR. Enhanced Indo-US defence co-operation received a fresh boost with the 26-28 September 2017 visit of US Defence Secretary James Mattis. The latter is the first cabinet-level visitor to India under the Trump administration. It was also the first follow-up visit by a US cabinet official after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s June 2017 visit to the US. As I speak here today, we also know that Secretary Rex Tillerson has since visited Delhi as well. Prior to his visit to India, at a speech he made at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington D.C., Tillerson noted, among other things, that the United States wants to ‘dramatically deepen’ ties with India.

Although no major announcements were made during the Mattis visit, it needs to be noted that in 2016, the United States acknowledged that India was now a major defence partner. India may not become an ally in the way Japan or South Korea or any of the NATO countries are, but even if limited co-operation develops, that will prove a strikingly complex change in the defence relations between the two countries. Such a momentous change will have an impact not on just South Asia alone. It is likely to impact significantly on the strategic dimension of the larger Asia-Pacific region presently dominated by the United States and China.

According to the current affairs magazine ‘India Legal’, the United States decision to supply 22 Sea Guardian drones to enhance India’s naval surveillance in the India Ocean was announced during Prime minister Modi’s meeting with President Trump in June 2017. These drones are expected to help the Indian Navy to keep a close watch on the Chinese naval ships and submarines in the Indian Ocean. India, it appears, is the first non-NATO country be given the drones by the United States. ‘India Legal’ quotes former Indian Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh as saying:

Yes, Indo-US defence co-operation is very much in focus, especially as for over 20 years, Washington had denied us all military technology. The nuclear deal changed the parameters of relations, and today there is robust co-operation and a US willingness to transfer high-end military technology to India.

Noting that the unspoken part of this defence relationship is China, Mansingh goes on to observe:

The desire to balance China’s growing military and economic power in Asia by encouraging India was there from the time of George W. Bush. If American focus is on balancing the power equation in India, India, too, wants the US as an insurance against China.

Students of international relations are of the view that there is likely to be closer co-operation among China, Pakistan and Russia to meet the challenge of a possible joint defence arrangement among the United States, India, Japanand Australia. We thus see that tensions in the region are most likely to escalate given that the United States and China on the one hand, and India and China on the other are competing for dominance in the IOR. It must be noted, however, that this above-referenced possible joint -defence arrangement is not a new idea. In the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, President George W. Bush announced that India, the United States, Japan and Australia would set up an international coalition to coordinate rescue and rehabilitation operations. Suhashini Haidar writing to ‘The Hindu’ refers to this proposed multilateral grouping as ‘the Quadrilateral or Quad’. According to Haidar, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was most enthusiastic ‘voicing his long-standing idea of an "arc of prosperity and freedom" that encompassed India, and brought it (sic) into a tighter framework with Japan, the United States and Australia, which were already close military allies’. Concerns about the Quad in Beijing, Haidar suggests, led to the United States moving away from the idea in 2007, given other priorities in the pipeline at the time such as the strategic efforts underway to move for sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council and the six-nation talks on North Korea. Haidar poses an interesting question in conclusion:

A decade later, the question is: will the Quadrilateral melt away as before, or is it an idea whose time has finally come?

Sri Lanka is a small state and one of its strengths has been the significant diplomatic role it has played on the international scene over the years. Sri Lanka has had a reputation in the diplomatic world for unusual success in explaining and clarifying to the global North the concerns, concepts and complaints of the South. Many Sri Lankan scholars, diplomats and intellectuals have shown the same capacity for generating Northern interest rather than ire. Sri Lanka is indeed unlikely to be able to change the geopolitical realities of the region surrounding us. But through a pragmatic foreign policy based on avoidance of alliances with any one power bloc and maintaining friendship with all, we should be able to play a constructive role as in the past in the emerging new order. Sri Lanka, it will be recalled, played a key role in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and in calling for the possible declaration of the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace (IOPZ) beginning in the 1960s and 1970s respectively.

Given the above-referred to constructive role played by Sri Lanka in the diplomatic world, the categorical statement made by Prime Minister Wickremesinghe on behalf of the Government at the Second Indian Ocean Conference hosted by Sri Lanka in September 2017 regards the Sri Lanka Government’s decision to develop its major sea ports, especially the Hambantota port which some claim to be a military base, is to be welcomed and worthy of quotation in full:

I state clearly that Sri Lanka’s government headed by President Sirisena does not enter into military alliances with any country or make our bases available to foreign countries. We will continue military cooperation such as training, supply of equipment and taking part in joint exercises with friendly countries.

Only the Sri Lanka Armed Forces have the responsibility for military activities in our Ports and Airports. We are also working with foreign private investors on the commercial development of our ports.

Sri Lanka should now push for an international code of conduct for military vessels traversing the Indian Ocean. ASEAN and China have agreed to prepare such a code for the South China Sea. The Indian Ocean Code could be along the lines of the Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and China regarding the rules of engagement for safety in the air and maritime encounters. Such a code could recognise and seek to deal with the escalation in human smuggling, illicit drug trafficking, and the relatively new phenomenon of maritime terrorism. According to specialist opinion, UNCLOS does not have adequate provisions to address these issues of recent origin. Any code on the freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean must include an effective – and realistic – dispute resolution process.

This code of conduct should ideally be built on a consensual basis with no single state dominating it. In this regard, the United States Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift addressing the annual ‘Galle Dialogue 2017(a defence seminar dealing with the Indian Ocean region hosted by Sri Lanka) in early October said the following as quoted in ‘The Island’:

For the last 70 years, the India-Asia Pacific region achieved unprecedented level of stability and prosperity, due in large part to our collective respect for- - and adherence to - - international norms, standards, rules and laws. These benchmarks were not imposed by one nation upon another. Rather they emerged through compromise and consensus, with all states having an equal voice, regardless of size, military strength or economic power.

The IOR needs a security architecture that is of mutual benefit and one established on a multilateral basis with an effective multilateral governing structure. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe speaking at the inauguration of the Indian Ocean Conference in Singapore in 2016 called for the formulation of an Indian Ocean Order with accepted rules and regulations that would guide interactions between and among states. Importantly he called for this Order to be built on a consensual agreement in which no one state would be allowed to dominate it.

Here are my concluding thoughts. Through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB), it is apparent that China is desirous of becoming a global power. Although, relatively speaking, the United States is in economic decline it will remain a global power for the foreseeable future, given especially its superior technological and naval capability. If the United States and China as the key international actors, and India and China as the pre-eminent regional players, can maintain a power balance, then the IOR could take off socially and economically and be a boon not only to the Asia-Pacific but to the world. To be sure, as in all equations in this equation that I have outlined, too, there are imponderables. That said, if we could achieve the golden mean between competition and cooperation and somehow avoid the bitter and relentless divisiveness that characterised the Cold War era, our collective future would and could be something to look forward to.

Concluded

A ‘Neighbourhood First’ foreign policy has little value for India

http://m.hindustantimes.com/opinion/a-neighbourhood-first-foreign-policy-has-little-value-for-india/story-lwCrbzQNOLCPMGIvID5qQP.html


All big countries have problems with their smaller neighbours because the disparity in size and power creates insecurities in them, not to mention loss of identity as in the case of India’s neighbours who share with us ethnic, linguistic, cultural, civilisational...

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Sri Lnakan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (left) and his wife Maithree Wickremesinghe, Hyderabad House, New Delhi, India, November 23, 2017 (Representative Photo) (Sushil Kumar/HT)

Updated: Dec 15, 2017 12:28 IST

By Kanwal Sibal

We often hold ourselves responsible for mismanaging relations with our neighbours, believing that either we are insensitive or overbearing in dealing with them, or that, as the bigger country, we have been ungenerous. We are faulted for not tying them to our economy. However, we oversimplify the dynamics at play between big countries and their smaller neighbours.

All big countries have, in reality, problems with their smaller neighbours because the disparity in size and power create insecurities in them, not to mention loss of identity as in the case of India’s neighbours who share with us ethnic, linguistic, cultural, civilisational and even religious commonalities. To balance the bigger neighbour, outside powers are cultivated, which in our case is principally China, though in the past the United States has played this role.

China has tense relations with all its neighbours, barring Pakistan, with its actions in the East China and South China Seas exacerbating their insecurities. Relations between the US and its neighbours to the south have been historically antipathetic. Cuba is a prime example of a big country imposing its will on a tiny neighbour. Russia, too, has problems in managing its periphery. Its western neighbours have found security under the US/EU/Nato umbrella, while the eastern ones resist its control.

Pakistan’s endemic hostility towards us has severely distorted the subcontinental relationships. It is exceptional in its use of terrorism as an instrument of State policy. Recently former Pakistan president and army general, Pervez Musharraf, avowed his admiration for LeT founder Hafiz Saeed and the value he placed on the use of terrorist groups to keep the Indian army in J&K under pressure. Pakistan, while refusing to normalise trade relations with India, has obstructed regional cooperation to prevent India from drawing strength from it. Afghanistan was invited to become a Saarc member, but Pakistan denies it the right to benefit from unhindered relations with India.

Nepal has long played the China card against India. The latest election results in Nepal, with KPS Oli emerging as the country’s prime minister, is likely to increase India’s headaches. Nepal supports China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and is backing China’s connectivity projects with it in full awareness of India’s security concerns. Under Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikha Hasina, Delhi-Dhaka ties have improved on many counts, but our porous borders pose the serious problem of illegal migration from Bangladesh. This is compounded by the illegal influx of Rohingyas through Bangladeshi territory. Dhaka, too, supports the BRI.

Sri Lanka is, in Beijing’s planning, the hub of China’s maritime silk road project. Its submarines have already surfaced at the Colombo port. Sri Lanka is aware that it has walked into a debt trap with Chinese financed projects, but, besides lacking the political will to rebuff China, it calculates that an anxious India will be induced to offer more projects to it to its gain. While balking at signing a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with India, Sri Lanka is negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China.

The Maldives has just signed an FTA with China in murky circumstances and supports the BRI, ignoring India’s concerns.

The conclusion to be drawn from this is not that India is necessarily mismanaging its relations with neighbours, but that they too, enticed by China, are mishandling their ties with India. They know India’s limitations in imposing its will on sovereign countries in today’s world. Reciprocity is the governing principle of diplomacy. While a bigger country may not seek strict reciprocity, it cannot sacrifice national interest simply for the sake of generosity. Our neighbours cultivate China at India’s cost even though generosity is by no means the guiding principle of Beijing’s foreign policy, whereas display of power, meting out punishment and asserting sovereign rights unilaterally are the hall marks of its increasingly nationalistic external conduct.

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‘Neighbourhood First’ cannot be the basis of foreign policy, especially at a time when the world’s most powerful country believes in ‘America First’. India needs investments and access to technology. It needs to fulfil its defence needs through imports and Make in India projects. It must secure its energy needs and defend its interests in international trade negotiations, besides seeking reform of the international financial and political institutions to obtain its rightful say in global governance, and so on. None of these pressing needs can be fulfilled by our neighbours. And so, while it is a bonus to have friendly neighbourhood ties, it is not a prerequisite for India’s progress and the achievement of its aspirations.

Kanwal Sibal is former foreign secretary

December 11, 2017

Modi and corrupt business lobby


The experienced and seasoned leader Narendra Modi is, it would be foolish on anyone's part to think that he was not well aware of the outlash he will face from the business community for a disruptive step such as GST which will force the trading community to pay taxes on goods, something they have been evading since forever. GST and taking disruptive steps have been the need of the hour to increase the transparency and bring more indirect taxes into the net.
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Last year, he took on a community which no one in the history of India had ever dared to ruffle - the Jewellers. He imposed a cess on jewellery traders bringing their sales in the tax net. Didn't Modi know that it will lead to outlash from the jewellers ?
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Wasn't Modi aware of the implicit but strong outlash he will face from Central government employees for introducing Biometric attendance ?? Those who were used to come at 11 am, play Golf in the lunch hours and leave by 3 pm have to stay for the entire duration of office.
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Those who used to earn hundreds of crores by bribes in appointment of government class-3 and class-4 officers during interviews have nowhere to go as interviews have been abolished and appointment is based on online results. Didn't Modi know that he is taking on the strongest lobby of middlemen - those who act as brokers in central govt recruiting ??
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Another biggest disruption has been DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer). The corruption in distribution of LPG, Kerosene, Scholarship, MNREGA wages, PDS etc by fake accounts due to subsidy leakage have been stopped to an extent that government is saving 60,000 crore annually. Wasn't Modi aware that this disruption will anger all the middlemen, traders and dealers engaged in this activity since decades ??
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*Modi is very well aware of what he is doing! He doesn't need to be on backfoot. Winning elections must never be the sole aim of any leader who is determined to clean the country of its corruption.* Had he just wanted to win elections, there was no need for so many disruptive policies one by one. He could have literally let these black practices going on and not touched this powerful lobby of middlemen and traders.

*These decisions have NOT been taken for winning elections; they have been taken for the COUNTRY'S HEALTH in the LONG RUN !!*

(PS - Yes, GST being very new and the country being huge, there are some technical issues and timely reviews are needed, which the government has assured right since the beginning. But the overall outrage against GST in entirety is just a display of frustration from traders who now have to pay taxes.)

*If Modi fails in his fight againt corruption and black money, no PM of India will have the courage to take this issue again on his agenda for next 100 years and corrupt politicians, beaurocrates, police, criminals and businessman will keep looting this country as their birth right.* So it is the duty of every resposible citizen to stand in support of PM Modi and fail the evil design of corrupt people to incite violence and create anarchy.
*If we fail to do our duty today, our children and grandchildren will never forgive us, will hold us responsible for not giving them a clean India.*
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*If you agree with this message, please send it to all your contacts and groups.*

A tale of Congress betrayal: Bizenjo speech for freedom of Balochistan — December 12, 1947

https://mustikhan.com/2017/12/11/a-tale-of-congress-betrayal-bizenjo-speech-at-dhadar-for-freedom-of-balochistan-december-12-1947/


 mustikhan  Uncategorized December 11, 2017 4 Minutes

Not many Indians know but it was the Congress party that led to the bloody enslavement of Balochistan.

On this date December 12, 1947 a chapter in what later became the blood-checkered history of Balochistan’s struggle was written in the town of Dhadhar in France-sized Balochistan. It was a Friday.

Here Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo, leader of the Kalat State National Party, who later became governor of Balochistan, made a case for the independence of Balochistan in the lower house of Balochistan parliament, called Darul Awam. After his speech, the Darul Awam unanimously rejected the idea of any merger with what what was then less than four-month-old Pakistan.

Here is Bizenjo’s speech:

We have a distinct civilization, we have a separate culture like that of Iran and Afghanistan.

We are Muslims but it is not necessary that by virtue of our being Muslims we should loose our freedom and merge with others. If the mere fact that we are Muslims requires us to join Pakistan then Afghanistan and Iran both Muslim countries should also amalgamate with Pakistan . . . 

The British conquered Asia through the force of the sword. They also subjugated the Baloch homeland. We never accepted their authority. We resisted their rule but being oppressive and cruel they deprived us of our freedom.

We were a separate entity. We were never part of India before the British over-lordship.

Pakistan’s unpleasant and loathsome desire that our national homeland, Balochistan, should merge with it is impossible to concede. 

It is unimaginable to agree to such a demand . . . It is no secret that before the creation of Pakistan, our Khan had patronized the Muslim League. Our homes, bungalows and transport were at their disposal. 

Under the Khan’s guidance many Baloch helped the League through every possible means.

What was our attitude towards Pakistan and what is its behaviour towards us ?

Lasbela and Kharan, two constituent units of Balochistan are being snatched away.

Kalat’s sovereignty over those areas has been accepted by the British. 

We never want to subjugate them. That is not our intention. They are our brethern in blood and have been part of Kalat in that capacity.

Pakistan has even refused talks and is making any discussion on the subject conditional on the repentance of the Baloch government and its prostration.

Before them……we are ready to have friendship with that country on the basis of sovereign equality but by no means ready to merge with Pakistan.

We cannot humiliate the Baloch nation and amalgamate it with others. 

How can we sign the national death warrant of fifteen million Asian Baloch?

That is inconceivable. That is impossible.

We cannot be party to such a grave mistake . . . We cannot commit such a great crime . . . 

We are told that we Baloch cannot defend ourselves in that atomic age. 

Well, are Afghanistan, Iran and even Pakistan capable of defending themselves?

Today if Russia and America so desire, they can wipe out many such states from the world map. If we cannot defend ourselves, a lot of others cannot do so either . . . 

As regards the question of statehood, let me emphasize that no Asian country including Pakistan fulfils the criteria of a modern state in true sense . . .

They say we must join Pakistan for economic reasons.

That is also absurd. We may not have hard currency but we have numerous means of income. We have minerals, we have petroleum, we have ports.

We should not be made slaves on the pretext of economic viability.  We can survive without Pakistan.

We can prosper outside Pakistan. But the question is what Pakistan would be without us?

I do not propose to create hurdles for the newly created Pakistan in matters of defense and external communication.

But we want an honorable relationship, not a humiliating one.

If Pakistan wants to treat us as a sovereign people, we are ready to extend the hand of friendship and cooperation.

If Pakistan does not agree to do so, flying in the face of democratic principles, such an attitude will be totally unacceptable to us, and if we are forced to accept this fate then every Baloch son will sacrifice his life in defense of his national freedom.

Despite the rejection of the idea of merger with Pakistan– the rejection subsequently also endorsed by the Darul Khas (House of Lords)–, India’s betrayal led to the enslavement of Balochistan. Pakistan was able to merge Balochistan at the point of gun as Maulana Abul Kalam, president of Indian National Congress, refused to side with Balochistan’s freedom. Bizenjo, who was fondly called Baba-i-Balochistan, told this writer more than 40 years later that a delegation of Kalat State National Party met Maulana Azad prior to partition to seek India’s support. Azad, however, told the delegation that raising the issue will give the British an excuse to delay their departure from India. Azad said the freedom of India could not be held hostage just because of the question of Balochistan. (Late Bizenjo was a family friend of this writer and as per his will his last rites began at Mustikhan Lodge, Karachi).

In fact, according to the Daily MailPakistan action followed an AIR broadcast on March 27, 1948, which reported a press conference by VP Menon, a civil servant who played a key role during India’s Partition, saying the Khan “was pressing India to accept Kalat’s accession”, but “India would have nothing to do with it”.

According to Pakistan’s investigative The Friday Times The issue was also raised in the Lok Sabha by Balkrishna Sharma to which Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru responded in detail that, “In view of the geographical position of Kalat state, the question did not arise at all.”

Pakistan ports and shipping minister Mir Hasil Bizenjo (second from right) with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani (center) at Chabahar port last week.

Unlike Bizenjo, his whiskey-loving son Pakistan ports and shipping minister Mir Hasil Bizenjo, president of the National Party– a close friend of Mani Shankar Aiyer– has reportedly sold out to the Deep State. He is playing a key role in handing over the Gwadar Port to the Chinese under the military’s bayonets. The younger Bizenjo has earned for himself the nickname of Khawaja Khairuddin, after the deceased East Pakistan politician who sided with Pakistan army in 1971