Sunday, April 29, 2012

The India-China Rivalry-Robert D. Kaplan

As the world moves into the second decade of the 21st century, a new power rivalry is taking shape between India and China, Asia's two behemoths in terms of territory, population and richness of civilization. India's recent successful launch of a long-range missile able to hit Beijing and Shanghai with nuclear weapons is the latest sign of this development. This is a rivalry born completely of high-tech geopolitics, creating a core dichotomy between two powers whose own geographical expansion patterns throughout history have rarely overlapped or interacted with each other.

Despite the limited war fought between the two countries on their Himalayan border 50 years ago, this competition has relatively little long-standing historical or ethnic animosity behind it.
The signal geographical fact about Indians and Chinese is that the impassable wall of the Himalayas separates them. Buddhism spread in varying forms from India, via Sri Lanka and Myanmar, to Yunnan in southern China in the third century B.C., but this kind of profound cultural interaction was the exception more than the rule.
Moreover, the dispute over the demarcation of their common frontier in the Himalayan foothills, from Kashmir in the west to Arunachal Pradesh in the east, while a source of serious tension in its own right, is not especially the cause of the new rivalry. The cause of the new rivalry is the collapse of distance brought about by the advance of military technology.
Indeed, the theoretical arc of operations of Chinese fighter jets at Tibetan airfields includes India. Indian space satellites are able to do surveillance on China. In addition, India is able to send warships into the South China Sea, even as China helps develop state-of-the-art ports in the Indian Ocean. And so, India and China are eyeing each other warily. The whole map of Asia now spreads out in front of defense planners in New Delhi and Beijing, as it becomes apparent that the two nations with the largest populations in the world (even as both are undergoing rapid military buildups) are encroaching upon each other's spheres of influence -- spheres of influence that exist in concrete terms today in a way they did not in an earlier era of technology.

And this is to say nothing of China's expanding economic reach, which projects Chinese influence throughout the Indian Ocean world, as evinced by Beijing's port-enhancement projects in Kenya, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar. This, too, makes India nervous.
Because this rivalry is geopolitical -- based, that is, on the positions of India and China, with their huge populations, on the map of Eurasia -- there is little emotion behind it. In that sense, it is comparable to the Cold War ideological contest between the United States and the Soviet Union, which were not especially geographically proximate and had little emotional baggage dividing them.

The best way to gauge the relatively restrained atmosphere of the India-China rivalry is to compare it to the rivalry between India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan abut one another. India's highly populated Ganges River Valley is within 480 kilometers (300 miles) of Pakistan's highly populated Indus River Valley. There is an intimacy to India-Pakistan tensions that simply does not apply to those between India and China. That intimacy is inflamed by a religious element:
Pakistan is the modern incarnation of all of the Muslim invasions that have assaulted Hindu northern India throughout history. And then there is the tangled story of the partition of the Asian subcontinent itself to consider -- India and Pakistan were both born in blood together.
Partly because the India-China rivalry carries nothing like this degree of long-standing passion, it serves the interests of the elite policy community in New Delhi very well. A rivalry with China in and of itself raises the stature of India because China is a great power with which India can now be compared. Indian elites hate when India is hyphenated with Pakistan, a poor and semi-chaotic state; they much prefer to be hyphenated with China. Indian elites can be obsessed with China, even as Chinese elites think much less about India. This is normal. In an unequal rivalry, it is the lesser power that always demonstrates the greater degree of obsession. For instance, Greeks have always been more worried about Turks than Turks have been about Greeks.
China's inherent strength in relation to India is more than just a matter of its greater economic capacity, or its more efficient governmental authority. It is also a matter of its geography.

True, ethnic-Han Chinese are virtually surrounded by non-Han minorities -- Inner Mongolians, Uighur Turks and Tibetans -- in China's drier uplands. Nevertheless, Beijing has incorporated these minorities into the Chinese state so that internal security is manageable, even as China has in recent years been resolving its frontier disputes with neighboring countries, few of which present a threat to China.
India, on the other hand, is bedeviled by long and insecure borders not only with troubled Pakistan, but also with Nepal and Bangladesh, both of which are weak states that create refugee problems for India. Then there is the Maoist Naxalite insurgency in eastern and central India.

The result is that while the Indian navy can contemplate the projection of power in the Indian Ocean -- and thus hedge against China -- the Indian army is constrained with problems inside the subcontinent itself.

India and China do play a great game of sorts, competing for economic and military influence in Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. But these places are generally within the Greater Indian subcontinent, so that China is taking the struggle to India's backyard.
Just as a crucial test for India remains the future of Afghanistan, a crucial test for China remains the fate of North Korea. Both Afghanistan and North Korea have the capacity to drain energy and resources away from India and China, though here India may have the upper hand because India has no land border with Afghanistan, whereas China has a land border with North Korea. Thus, a chaotic, post-American Afghanistan is less troublesome for India than an unraveling regime in North Korea would be for China, which faces the possibility of millions of refugees streaming into Chinese Manchuria. Because India's population will surpass that of China in 2030 or so, even as India's population will get gray at a slower rate than that of China, India may in relative terms have a brighter future.

As inefficient as India's democratic system is, it does not face a fundamental problem of legitimacy like China's authoritarian system very well might.
Then there is Tibet. Tibet abuts the Indian subcontinent where India and China are at odds over the Himalayan borderlands. The less control China has over Tibet, the more advantageous the geopolitical situation is for India. The Indians provide a refuge for the Tibetan Dalai Lama.

Anti-Chinese manifestations in Tibet inconvenience China and are therefore convenient to India. Were China ever to face a serious insurrection in Tibet, India's shadow zone of influence would grow measurably. Thus, while China is clearly the greater power, there are favorable possibilities for India in this rivalry.
India and the United States are not formal allies. The Indian political establishment, with its nationalistic and leftist characteristics, would never allow for that. Yet, merely because of its location astride the Indian Ocean in the heart of maritime Eurasia, the growth of Indian military and economic power benefits the United States since it acts as a counter-balance to a rising Chinese power; the United States never wants to see a power as dominant in the Eastern Hemisphere as it itself is in the Western Hemisphere.
That is the silver lining of the India-China rivalry: India balancing against China, and thus relieving the United States of some of the burden of being the world's dominant power.
Robert D. Kaplan is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, in Washington, D.C. His latest book is Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power (Random House, 2010).


China Digs It-How Beijing Cornered the Rare Earths Market

In September 2010, after Japan arrested a Chinese fishing boat captain in disputed waters in the East China Sea, Beijing allegedly retaliated by holding back shipments to Tokyo of rare earths, a group of 17 elements used in high-tech products.

Arcane names such as cerium, dysprosium, and lanthanum -- elements that populate the bottom of the periodic table and whose unique properties make them ideal materials in the batteries that power iPhones and electric vehicles -- suddenly commanded global attention. It mattered little whether Beijing actually carried through with the threat (reports are murky), the damage was already done: The world had awoken to the fact that overreliance on China for rare-earths supplies could put the international high-tech supply chain at risk.
Today, China produces more than 90 percent of the global supply of rare earths but sits on just about one-third of the world's reserves of the elements -- with the rest scattered from the United States (13 percent) to Australia (5 percent).

That was not always the case.
A few decades ago, the United States led production, primarily through a large mine in California owned by the mining firm Molycorp. But as California's environmental regulations tightened in the 1990s, costs rose and profits declined, prompting the American industry eventually to shutter.

In the meantime, China started assuming the role of global supplier, spurred on by the Chinese patriarch Deng Xiaoping's supposed proclamation that "there is oil in the Middle East, but there are rare earths in China." In the last few decades, Chinese production of rare earths skyrocketed, more than offsetting declining production elsewhere. And consumers grew accustomed to what seemed to be a low-cost and reliable supplier in China. 
Yet behind the façade of stability was an industry marked by mismanagement. First, a perceived abundance of the resources led to a general disregard for efficient and scalable production. In the early days of the Chinese rare-earths rush, preservation of resources was an afterthought, as private entrepreneurs, sensing a lucrative market, dove in. Many of these small-scale miners operated off the books and with little concern for environmental degradation. They were so numerous that the Chinese government could not keep track of them.
Even so, their efforts added up. Between 1990 and 2000, Chinese production of rare earths skyrocketed from just 16,000 tons to 73,000 tons. And in the decade since, China has essentially come to monopolize rare-earths mining. At its peak in 2009, China accounted for 129,000 of the 132,000 tons produced worldwide -- in other words, 97 percent of total global output. Meanwhile, it exported roughly 40-50 percent of what it produced.  
Yet as demand for these raw materials rose, Beijing became increasingly unhappy that it was "selling gold to foreigners at the price of Chinese radishes," as one Chinese expression had it. Nationalistic voices in Chinese op-ed pages argued that China should create an OPEC-like rare-earths cartel or strategic reserve. Those calls were colored by an unsubstantiated belief among many Chinese that Japan was keeping just such a strategic reserve of its own, in which it had squirreled away 20 years' worth of rare earths that it had imported from China.
Moreover, the same jingoistic voices complained that developed countries were "outsourcing" to China the dirty work of digging the elements out of the ground while capturing the value added from designing sophisticated products that used the rare earths themselves. These arguments struck a chord, especially toward the end of the decade when China was crafting its twelfth Five-Year Plan, in which technology and innovation took center stage.

China was no longer resigned to being the world's workshop; it wanted to become the next Germany, Japan, or United States. The way to do this, Beijing rightly believed, would be to capture more value from the goods the country exports, as every successful industrialized nation has done before it.

Consider the iPhone. Each unit of the device carries a manufacturing cost of $6.50, or China's value of assembling the device, a mere 3.6 percent of the total cost of production. The profit margins for Apple are near 64 percent, by some estimates.

Rare earths, as Beijing saw it, would be a key ingredient in moving China up the value chain.
Consequently, rare earths took on new strategic importance in China's drive for technological leadership. In 2011, the elements were formally placed under the purview of the powerful Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (although they had informally been in that department's portfolio for some time).

The MIIT is the architect of China's industrial policy and a champion of consolidation. And market-based solutions are not exactly in the bureaucracy's DNA. As evidence, in August 2009, the ministry had already unveiled a rare-earths development plan through 2015 that capped export volume at 35,000 tons and mandated a production range of 120,000-150,000 tons. Both policies were meant to put upward pressure on prices and rationalize the sector.
Those figures mean that China plans to keep roughly 100,000 tons a year of rare-earth elements for domestic consumption. (It had been using up about 70,000 out of 125,000 tons as of 2008.)

To eat up all those resources, the MIIT plan also called for China to corner 70 percent of the world market on the manufacture of fluorescent lights, electric vehicle batteries, computers, and electronics -- all of which fall under the so-called strategic emerging sectors, a key pillar of the new Five-Year Plan.

Not only does MIIT have control over rare-earths policy, it has also been tasked with shaping the development of these emerging sectors, which will drive demand for rare earths.
Beijing has also used the allure of abundant rare earths to entice foreign technology firms to build in China. Just this week, MIIT encouraged U.S. and Japanese firms to partner with Chinese companies on developing rare-earths environmental products.

Indeed, Baotou, a city in Inner Mongolia, which is responsible for roughly half of China's total rare-earths output, has been experimenting with such a strategy. Because nearby Ordos has also become a hub for wind power, Baotou could potentially feed the nearby wind turbine factories that require rare-earth-based permanent magnets.

By 2015, China anticipates installing wind farms that can generate an additional 60 gigawatts of power, solar panels that will reach 10 gigawatts, and nuclear plants that will put out 40 gigawatts. Those projects could consume as much as 40,000 tons of rare-earths magnets, according to official estimates.
The rare-earths story illustrates a larger point about China's development. Despite such well-laid plans, Beijing all too often underestimates market forces and the resistance it will face from local authorities and industries that do not share the central government's interests. For one, the market effect of capping rare-earths exports has been a precipitous rise of rare-earths prices on the world market -- exactly what Beijing intended.

But higher prices since 2010 have allowed firms such as Australia's Lynas Corporation to begin developing its Mount Weld mine, which projects 22,000 tons of annual output by 2012. Molycorp has also begun reopening its mine in California, with the claim that it could reach 40,000 tons of production over the next several years.

Indeed, for all China's efforts to impose more order and exert price leverage, it has unintentionally driven a revival of global rare-earths production. Over time, China will likely be just one of many global suppliers, weakening the hand that it sought so hard to strengthen. 
On the domestic front, skyrocketing prices will undermine Beijing's efforts to consolidate the industry and restrict export and production volumes. That is because the industry is highly fragmented, with thousands of small producers and illegal miners seeking quick but low-margin profits -- a Chinese gold rush of sorts. Further, local authorities generally try to protect their companies and producers in their provinces, even if they are illegal, in direct opposition to the central government's wishes.
What is more, the higher the prices, the more incentive miners have to circumvent central quotas or use illegal channels to get the products out of the country. Indeed, that is already a serious problem. According to some estimates, in recent years, as much as one-third of the rare earths that left the country were illegal, mostly smuggled through Southeast Asia and bought by Japanese traders on the black market. 

In an ironic twist, as producers have started to sell more expensive rare earths at home, reports have emerged of small Chinese fluorescent light companies stopping production because they can no longer afford the rare earths they need. Yet these are precisely the kind of emerging industries that Beijing's industrial policies are supposed to support.

Many tend to focus on China's "aspirations," which usually come with a formidable helping of dazzling figures and objectives. But a spectacular rise, no matter how fast, has to be managed. And evidenced by its handling of rare earths, that can be the biggest challenge of all.

Beyond Agni-5 Go for ICBMs and thermonukes, says N.V.Subramanian

25 April 2012:

Now that the slightly over-the-top celebrations of Agni-5's test have ceased, some harsh truths must be told. Agni-5 has a five-thousand-kilometre range and can carry a one-ton nuclear payload. For India's strategic requirements, that is not enough.
Without stating who India's enemies are, the country must have deterrent capacities to reach anywhere, anytime. Since India is also a self-proclaimed second-strike power, it becomes critical to have credible and secure deterrents, and our current inventory is unsatisfactory.

From available evidence, it appears that India will deploy boosted fission warheads on missiles like Agni-5. It confirms that the thermonuclear devise tested on the first day of Pokhran II failed.

The boosted fission trigger worked but couldn't ignite the paired fusion bomb. The Indian nuclear scientific establishment has its own explanation for the low yield of the thermonuclear device. It has never satisfied the world. You can take the attitude that it doesn't matter what the world thinks. In other walks of life, that may work. But not when it comes to deterrent weapons.

Deterrent weapons not only have to be repeatedly tested for perfection. But they must satisfy the rest of the world. Only from world satisfaction comes credibility for a weapon system. If a deterrent is not credible, it is not worth having, and positively dangerous to flaunt.

It is possible that India has built a viable thermonuclear device after the Pokhran II fizzle. But this or a future Indian government will have a hard time testing it, especially as it will have a bearing on the Indo-US nuclear deal and the uranium fuel and reactor contracts flowing from it.

Sooner or later, however, India has to overcome the obstacle and test -- and the sooner the better. The Agni-5 test has produced little protest from major powers, which means there is greater reconciliation to India's military nuclear status. That should give India the creative opportunity and space to test a thermonuclear weapon. To stress, the sooner it is done, the better.

Boosted fission warheads that Agni-5 and longer range missiles are expected to carry have the bang, so to speak. But thermonuclear devices have more bang for the buck. With far better yield-to-weight ratios than fission or boosted-fission devices, smaller and lighter fusion warheads would cause vast destruction at greater distances. Which is where, therefore, Indian weapons' designs and tests must head, if the country must be counted as a serious weapons' power.

Which in turn leads to the quality, Indianness and reach of our missiles. Of course it is not a matter to tom-tom that you have missiles that go to the top end of ICBMs, but there is robust deterrent logic to have them. The longer the range of missiles, the more deployment options you have, and at greater strategic depth.

For example, it cannot make sense to deploy deterrent weapons in Jammu and Kashmir or Assam where they are most vulnerable to a first-strike. The longer the missile range, the further inland it can be deployed.

But there are limits to the security of land-based deterrent systems. The Andamans may seem a long way away from the threats from the North and West, but weapons systems deployed there are vulnerable from sea and natural calamities.

A sea-based deterrent is more secure. But whilst it demands the most sophisticated, secure, fool-proof and fail-safe fire control, command and control and informational systems, its foremost requirement, after SSBNs, is long range missiles. And the longer the range of missiles, the more secure your deterrent.

Hence, whilst Agni-5 is a good starting point, India must place no ceiling on the missile range. If an Indian IRBM is acceptable to the world, why not an ICBM? And our need is for the longest range of ICBMs, so that we have secure deterrents deployed in any of the waters of the world. And with tested and perfected thermonuclear weapons, the world would accept the credibility and soundness of our deterrent. That is where India should be headed.

N.V.Subramanian is Editor,, and writes internationally on strategic affairs.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Changing Colours of ISI (Outlook as moderated by Capt Reet MP Singh, VrC (Retd))

In the latest issue of the Outlook magazine, there is a small piece (without the name of the author) about a dinner in Islamabad hosted by the ISI for a group of visiting Indian journalists.
With such a grim reputation, when your dinner host turns out to be a senior official of the ISI, as happened recently to the Indian media delegation that visited Pakistan, a faux pas or two was naturally par for the course. “Is it a think-tank?” asked one member of the Indian team innocently, after our host introduced himself as an ISI honcho. But once it was clear who was buying us dinner at the posh Islamabad restaurant, there was no stopping the barrage of questions.

“See, I have neither horns nor fangs,” the official smiled as way of assuring his Indian guests. But why was he there? Well, he informed the Indian media that he wanted to put across ISI’s point of view on the ongoing peace initiative. “We’ve realised that we cannot live in an environment of hostility with each other,” reasoned the official. For the rest of the dinner, he patiently answered questions on topics ranging from terrorism directed against India to the evolving situation in his country. Predictably, he didn’t take responsibility for much of the terrorist acts in India that originated from Pakistan, including 26/11. But he tried to convey that on the government’s attempt to have peace and normalise relations with India, the ISI was on the same page.[Outlook]

This should not surprise anyone, least of all this blogger, who had warned of this danger when these journalists were being taken on a guided tour of Pakistan (see this blogpost).

But what if this fear is unfounded? Or as Bharat Bhushan argues in his column in the same magazine, why is India refusing to respond to the change in Pakistan’s attitude. That is a very persuasive line to use, but how real is the change that we are witnessing. Can India afford to move merely on the words of someone like Mahmood Durrani, a regular participant in India-Pakistan Track-2 jamborees, who was sacked as the National Security Advisor by the current setup in Pakistan after Mumbai terror strikes in 2008?

Whether it be the relationship with US or the state of its economy or its perilous internal security situation or a lack of help from China, all observers, including those in India, can see that Pakistan is currently squeezed from all sides. This, counterintuitively, makes it even more difficult for India to trust Pakistan’s words: this peace-talk could be a posture to seek temporary relief till Pakistan army reverts to its perennial anti-India stance. The onus is thus upon Pakistan to prove its sincerity by taking suitable actions — closing terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and bringing the perpetrators of Mumbai terror strike to justice, to begin with — so that India can reciprocate.

Trust can’t be generated by words alone. It has to come from actions, and actions that can be verified (read Vikram Sood in the Mid-day to understand the point).

Many people will remember a similar crescendo of public opinion in India before the Shimla summit between Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto after the 1971 war. A large number of Indian commentators were then asking India, as victors of the war, to be large-hearted and trust Bhutto’s words. That large-heartedness towards a civilian ruler in Pakistan when its army was weak, many contended, would beget permanent peace between India and Pakistan. We all know how it actually played out.

Mr Bhutto went on to ensure that Pakistan gets an Islamic nuclear bomb even if Pakistanis ate grass. India got terror strikes in Kashmir, Punjab and at myriad places across the country: it is under the shadow of the nuclear bomb that jehadis have hurt India and Indians.

If we are so oblivious today to our own history from just four decades ago, we will pay a similar price that we have paid in the recent decades. ( I fully endorse this.  I dealt with the Pakistan Military in 1966 in J&K as a Brigade Major after Tashkent Agreement. They were sugar and honey till the areas captured by either side were handed back and after that we just could not contact them!!)

Getting back to the ISI, what do these nice gestures towards the Indian journalists by the ISI convey? The answer comes from this story in the Washington Post about ISI and the Osama bin Laden raid:
On Friday evening, over iced tea at a hotel cafe, two ISI officials offered a narrative that they say puts Pakistan in a better light. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter.

One noted that the ISI’s new head, Lt. Gen. Zaheer ul-Islam, is taking a “proactive” approach to public relations to improve the international image of the much-maligned intelligence service.

This is it. The dinner table talk and the post-dinner gift of books at Islamabad are nothing but a part of the new ISI chief’s “proactive” approach to public relations to improve the international image of ISI.

Enjoy the meal, relish the conversation and read the book but do not get carried away. Remember. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. (Great conclusion)

Comments by Lt Gen Harbhajan Singh

We Indians are sooo gullible and emotional. A few gestures/conciliatory words from Islamabad melt our hearts and dull our thinking. Must analyse, as done in the write up above, why at this time suddenly Pakistan establishment including ISI and Army Chief Kiani are coming out with offers of peace etc.

1. They are in a dark corner.
2. At this moment at least their benefactor America is not with them.
3. They have lost over 150 soldiers in an avalanche in Siachin.
4. Terrorism nurtured by them has struck Pakistan itself in a big way.
5. Considerable number of their Forces are fighting insurgency in Afpak borer area.
6. Above all they are in a very precarious economic and financial state (still look at the drama they have been playing to open trade with India!!)

Fortutiously for them along with their own woes, they see Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Manmohan Singh, the leader of the ruling coalition and the Prime Minister of India, are also cornered due to-

  •  large scale corruption cases against the government;
  • poor administration;
  • their Party the Congress losing elections in UP and elsewhere; and
  • India's economic situation on fast track to decline; etc etc
  So the duo who are leading the Party and the Government are so keen to get some brownie points to talk about in the Parliament and with the media.


And no doubt Sh. Manmohan Singh (both of us are of same age) is so keen to visit his native village near Jehlum, as a VVIP before he demits office, but not at the cost of the Nation please. (I have two native villages too in Pakistan-older one between Narowal-Zafarwal and the comparatively newer one, still over 110 years old just four miles from Sargodha. Also my school on Ravi Road, Lahore, just opposite the Government College). But I have no desire to visit them as I have not forgotten the trauma of being shunted out from there in 1947 by those who were responsible for the division of the country.

I am all for amity between India and Pakistan. We speak same language, same music, same food and even similar customs. But it has to be based on solid long term measures and not for Pakistan to get out of tight situation and dupe us later.

Sooner or later the Islamists/hard liners are going to be in power in Pakistan and our planning has to keep in mind what we perceive how they will view any agreements arrived at now and concessions given by India.

My Salams to people of Pakistan. Hum aap ke saath aman mein rehna chahte hain. Magar aap ke hukmaran, Army, ISI aur kattar Mussalmeen tabqa yeh nahin chahta. Hum baar baar dhoka nahin khana chahte.

Harbhajan Singh
Lt Gen

India's missile bamboozle: Bharat Karnad in Asian Ag

There has been needless confusion and obfuscation about the Agni-V missile test-fired on April 19. First was the delay in the launch by some 11 hours. For a missile touted as “all weather”, a bit of lightning shouldn’t have frightened off the DRDO brass. More likely, the reason was last minute jitters about a missile whose launch had been turned into a media circus.

What is less comprehensible was the persistent description in the media, no doubt at the DRDO’s prompting, of the Agni-V as an “Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile” (ICBM) when, given its stated range of around 5,000 kms, Dr V. Saraswat, DRDO boss and scientific adviser to the defence minister, identified it correctly for television cameras as an Inter-mediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM).

The first hint of Agni-V’s ICBM status was dropped by the minister of state for science, Ashwini Kumar, when he referred to the missile re-entering the atmosphere at “24.4 times the speed of sound”. Depending on the altitude, this works out to roughly 7.2 to 7.7 kms per second as terminal velocity, making it unquestionably an ICBM, compared to 6.2 to 6.5 kms per second re-entry speed of Agni-IV, which is IRBM performance.

Obviously, Agni-V was fired in a high-parabolic trajectory to depress the distance it travelled, which may be why Chinese military sources have claimed that Agni-V’s 8,000-km range is being covered up. The Agni has to have a minimum range of 10,000 kms to be considered an ICBM.

But why did the DRDO not publicise the missile’s full capability?

The reason was to mollify the Manmohan Singh government that has always been fearful of spooking the US. Washington has insisted that India restrict its missile capacity to cover China without tripping into the ICBM range lest that leads to India being perceived as a threat, resulting in American counter-measures. While the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government’s minister for external affairs (MEA), Jaswant Singh, denies he had cut any deal during his 19 rounds of “strategic dialogue” with Strobe Talbott, former US President Bill Clinton’s deputy secretary of state, in early 2000 to cap Indian missile capability at the IRBM level, the Congress coalition government has adhered to this restriction, which is reflected in the DRDO’s programmatic thrust.
Indeed, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s reluctance to offend Washington was stretched to a point where he reportedly kept delaying the approval of the first test of Agni-V until defence minister A.K. Antony put his foot down around mid-2011, and compelled Dr Singh to approve the launch.

The government tried to soften any negative reaction by scheduling foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai’s speech extolling India’s spotless nuclear and missile technology non-proliferation record at an MEA-sponsored seminar on the same day as the missile test.

The DRDO’s fear of the government disallowing sustained testing of critical strategic technologies, backed by an equally nagging apprehension about reduction of funds for strategic technology development, is why the DRDO resorted to over-the-top publicity. The DRDO’s strategy was to thwart moves by the government to curtail activity in the missile field by creating huge public support for Agni-V and follow-on ICBM.

It resembles the decision by nuclear scientists to simultaneously trigger three devices (which produced mixed, suboptimal results) on May 11, 1998, because of the fear that under foreign pressure the government would terminate testing after the very first explosion if a series of separate single underground tests had been resorted to.

The hullabaloo over the untested MIRV (Multiple Independently Re-targetable Vehicles) technology, enabling one missile to engage three to eight different targets that Agni-V is configured to carry, was also for the same reason. So much public hype about the MIRV technology, awaiting government permission to test for the last eight-odd years, means that Dr Singh cannot now stop its testing in the second launch of Agni-V.

The other stellar attributes of the Indian IRBM not talked about, but worth mentioning, are the chip-embedded guidance system and the servo-mechanisms for thrust control to permit mid-flight manoeuvring.

Were the Indian government strategic-minded, which it is not, it would push through an accelerated programme of testing and induction into service of Agni-V and, in parallel, quickly develop and test-fire over Antarctica a genuine ICBM by replacing the first stage made of steel on the IRBM with lightweight composites to accommodate more fuel.

What an ICBM does is allow Chinese targets to be hit from virtually anywhere, thereby immeasurably enlarging the space for manoeuvre by Indian firing platforms outside Chinese satellite coverage. Further, the production rate of Agni-IVs and Agni-Vs needs rapid ramping up to keep pace with even a minor adversary — Pakistan.

The success of Agni-V, however, highlights the danger that I have been warning about for many years, namely, very advanced and accurate long-range missiles married to untested and unproven thermonuclear warheads that, without further physical testing of fusion and boosted-fission weapons designs, could prove to be duds. That will be a devastating denouement for the Indian strategic deterrent — accurate delivery but fizzled impact.

Even so, with a proven IRBM, India has reached deterrence parity with China in the sense of being able to reach the most distant Chinese targets.
The MEA should capitalise on the interest generated by Agni-V to explore an Indian role as the “net security provider” that countries in Southeast Asia would welcome and Washington has been urging Delhi to play.
Our dilly-dallying on the sale of the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile led Indonesia to buy a variant directly from Russia. Vietnam, which also seeks Brahmos, is unlikely to wait around either.
Unless India treats Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and other Asean members as the first tier of India’s defence and missile-arms them on a priority basis, national security will remain grievously impaired.
New Delhi emphasising non-proliferation norms at the expense of the country’s geopolitical interests is tragically short-sighted, given that the brownie points it wins cannot compensate for China transferring nuclear missile technology to Pakistan, or insinuating itself into the military affairs of Burma, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Maldives, to disadvantage India.

The MEA should not squander the chance to pursue substantive cooperative security measures with the United States and countries on China’s periphery beyond anti-piracy patrols and joint military exercises by, for a start, discussing and preparing for contingency scenarios.
The writer is a professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi
Warm Regards
sanjeev nayyar
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China's Military Rise

China’s military rise The dragon’s new teeth A rare look inside the world’s biggest military expansion Apr 7th 2012 | BEIJING

AT A meeting of South-East Asian nations in 2010, China’s foreign minister Yang Jiechi, facing a barrage of complaints about his country’s behaviour in the region, blurted out the sort of thing polite leaders usually prefer to leave unsaid. “China is a big country,” he pointed out, “and other countries are small countries and that is just a fact.” Indeed it is, and China is big not merely in terms of territory and population, but also military might. Its Communist Party is presiding over the world’s largest military build-up. And that is just a fact, too—one which the rest of the world is having to come to terms with. That China is rapidly modernising its armed forces is not in doubt, though there is disagreement about what the true spending figure is. China’s defence budget has almost certainly experienced double digit growth for two decades. According to SIPRI, a research institute, annual defence spending rose from over $30 billion in 2000 to almost $120 billion in 2010. SIPRI usually adds about 50% to the official figure that China gives for its defence spending, because even basic military items such as research and development are kept off budget. Including those items would imply total military spending in 2012, based on the latest announcement from Beijing, will be around $160 billion. America still spends four-and-a-half times as much on defence, but on present trends China’s defence spending could overtake America’s after 2035 (see chart).
All that money is changing what the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can do. Twenty years ago, China’s military might lay primarily in the enormous numbers of people under arms; their main task was to fight an enemy face-to-face or occupy territory. The PLA is still the largest army in the world, with an active force of 2.3m. But China’s real military strength increasingly lies elsewhere. The Pentagon’s planners think China is intent on acquiring what is called in the jargon A2/AD, or “anti-access/area denial” capabilities. The idea is to use pinpoint ground attack and anti-ship missiles, a growing fleet of modern submarines and cyber and anti-satellite weapons to destroy or disable another nation’s military assets from afar. In the western Pacific, that would mean targeting or putting in jeopardy America’s aircraft-carrier groups and its air-force bases in Okinawa, South Korea and even Guam. The aim would be to render American power projection in Asia riskier and more costly, so that America’s allies would no longer be able to rely on it to deter aggression or to combat subtler forms of coercion. It would also enable China to carry out its repeated threat to take over Taiwan if the island were ever to declare formal independence. China’s military build-up is ringing alarm bells in Asia and has already caused a pivot in America’s defence policy. The new “strategic guidance” issued in January by Barack Obama and his defence secretary, Leon Panetta, confirmed what everyone in Washington already knew: that a switch in priorities towards Asia was overdue and under way. The document says that “While the US military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region.” America is planning roughly $500 billion of cuts in planned defence spending over the next ten years. But, says the document, “to credibly deter potential adversaries and to prevent them from achieving their objectives, the United States must maintain its ability to project power in areas in which our access and freedom to operate are challenged.”
It is pretty obvious what that means. Distracted by campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, America has neglected the most economically dynamic region of the world. In particular, it has responded inadequately to China’s growing military power and political assertiveness. According to senior American diplomats, China has the ambition—and increasingly the power—to become a regional hegemon; it is engaged in a determined effort to lock America out of a region that has been declared a vital security interest by every administration since Teddy Roosevelt’s; and it is pulling countries in South-East Asia into its orbit of influence “by default”. America has to respond. As an early sign of that response, Mr Obama announced in November 2011 that 2,500 US Marines would soon be stationed in Australia. Talks about an increased American military presence in the Philippines began in February this year. The uncertainty principle China worries the rest of the world not only because of the scale of its military build-up, but also because of the lack of information about how it might use its new forces and even who is really in charge of them. The American strategic-guidance document spells out the concern. “The growth of China’s military power”, it says, “must be accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region.” Officially, China is committed to what it called, in the words of an old slogan, a “peaceful rise”. Its foreign-policy experts stress their commitment to a rules-based multipolar world. They shake their heads in disbelief at suggestions that China sees itself as a “near peer” military competitor with America.

In the South and East China Seas, though, things look different. In the past 18 months, there have been clashes between Chinese vessels and ships from Japan, Vietnam, South Korea and the Philippines over territorial rights in the resource-rich waters. A pugnacious editorial in the state-run Global Times last October gave warning: “If these countries don’t want to change their ways with China, they will need to prepare for the sounds of cannons. We need to be ready for that, as it may be the only way for the disputes in the sea to be resolved.” This was not a government pronouncement, but it seems the censors permit plenty of press freedom when it comes to blowing off nationalistic steam. Smooth-talking foreign-ministry officials may cringe with embarrassment at Global Times—China’s equivalent of Fox News—but its views are not so far removed from the gung-ho leadership of the rapidly expanding navy. Moreover, in a statement of doctrine published in 2005, the PLA’s Science of Military Strategy did not mince its words. Although “active defence is the essential feature of China’s military strategy,” it said, if “an enemy offends our national interests it means that the enemy has already fired the first shot,” in which case the PLA’s mission is “to do all we can to dominate the enemy by striking first”. Making things more alarming is a lack of transparency over who really controls the guns and ships. China is unique among great powers in that the PLA is not formally part of the state. It is responsible to the Communist Party, and is run by the party’s Central Military Commission, not the ministry of defence. Although party and government are obviously very close in China, the party is even more opaque, which complicates outsiders’ understanding of where the PLA’s loyalties and priorities lie. A better military-to-military relationship between America and China would cast some light into this dark corner. But the PLA often suspends “mil-mil” relations as a “punishment” whenever tension rises with America over Taiwan. The PLA is also paranoid about what America might gain if the relationship between the two countries’ armed forces went deeper.
The upshot of these various uncertainties is that even if outsiders believe that China’s intentions are largely benign—and it is clear that some of them do not—they can hardly make plans based on that assumption alone. As the influential American think-tank, the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) points out, the intentions of an authoritarian regime can change very quickly. The nature and size of the capabilities that China has built up also count. History boys The build-up has gone in fits and starts. It began in the early 1950s when the Soviet Union was China’s most important ally and arms supplier, but abruptly ceased when Mao Zedong launched his decade-long Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s. The two countries came close to war over their disputed border and China carried out its first nuclear test. The second phase of modernisation began in the 1980s, under Deng Xiaoping. Deng was seeking to reform the whole country and the army was no exception. But he told the PLA that his priority was the economy; the generals must be patient and live within a budget of less than 1.5% of GDP. A third phase began in the early 1990s. Shaken by the destructive impact of the West’s high-tech weaponry on the Iraqi army, the PLA realised that its huge ground forces were militarily obsolete. PLA scholars at the Academy of Military Science in Beijing began learning all they could from American think-tanks about the so-called “revolution in military affairs” (RMA), a change in strategy and weaponry made possible by exponentially greater computer-processing power. In a meeting with The Economist at the Academy, General Chen Zhou, the main author of the four most recent defence white papers, said: “We studied RMA exhaustively. Our great hero was Andy Marshall in the Pentagon [the powerful head of the Office of Net Assessment who was known as the Pentagon’s futurist-in-chief]. We translated every word he wrote.” China’s soldiers come in from the cold In 1993 the general-secretary of the Communist Party, Jiang Zemin, put RMA at the heart of China’s military strategy. Now, the PLA had to turn itself into a force capable of winning what the strategy called “local wars under high-tech conditions”. Campaigns would be short, decisive and limited in geographic scope and political goals. The big investments would henceforth go to the air force, the navy and the Second Artillery Force, which operates China’s nuclear and conventionally armed missiles. Further shifts came in 2002 and 2004. High-tech weapons on their own were not enough; what mattered was the ability to knit everything together on the battlefield through what the Chinese called “informatisation” and what is known in the West as “unified C4ISR”. (The four Cs are command, control, communications, and computers; ISR stands for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; the Pentagon loves its abbreviations).
Just another corner of the network General Chen describes the period up to 2010 as “laying the foundations of modernised forces”. The next decade should see the roll-out of what is called mechanisation (the deployment of advanced military platforms) and informatisation (bringing them together as a network). The two processes should be completed in terms of equipment, integration and training by 2020. But General Chen reckons China will not achieve full informatisation until well after that. “A major difficulty”, he says, “is that we are still only partially mechanised. We do not always know how to make our investments when technology is both overlapping and leapfrogging.” Whereas the West was able to accomplish its military transformation by taking the two processes in sequence, China is trying to do both together. Still, that has not slowed down big investments which are designed to defeat even technologically advanced foes by making “the best use of our strong points to attack the enemy’s weak points”. In 2010 the CSBA identified the essential military components that China, on current trends, will be able to deploy within ten years. Among them: satellites and reconnaissance drones; thousands of surface-to-surface and anti-ship missiles; more than 60 stealthy conventional submarines and at least six nuclear attack submarines; stealthy manned and unmanned combat aircraft; and space and cyber warfare capabilities. In addition, the navy has to decide whether to make the (extremely expensive) transition to a force dominated by aircraft-carriers, like America. Aircraft-carriers would be an unmistakable declaration of an ambition eventually to project power far from home. Deploying them would also match the expected actions of Japan and India in the near future. China may well have three small carriers within five to ten years, though military analysts think it would take much longer for the Chinese to learn how to use them well. A new gunboat diplomacy This promises to be a formidable array of assets. They are, for the most part, “asymmetric”, that is, designed not to match American military power in the western Pacific directly but rather to exploit its vulnerabilities. So, how might they be used? Taiwan is the main spur for China’s military modernisation. In 1996 America reacted to Chinese ballistic-missile tests carried out near Taiwanese ports by sending two aircraft-carrier groups into the Taiwan Strait. Since 2002 China’s strategy has been largely built around the possibility of a cross-Strait armed conflict in which China’s forces would not only have to overcome opposition from Taiwan but also to deter, delay or defeat an American attempt to intervene. According to recent reports by CSBA and RAND, another American think-tank, China is well on its way to having the means, by 2020, to deter American aircraft-carriers and aircraft from operating within what is known as the “first island chain”—a perimeter running from the Aleutians in the north to Taiwan, the Philippines and Borneo (see map). In 2005 China passed the Taiwan Anti-Secession Law, which commits it to a military response should Taiwan ever declare independence or even if the government in Beijing thinks all possibility of peaceful unification has been lost. Jia Xiudong of the China Institute of International Studies (the foreign ministry’s main think-tank) says: “The first priority is Taiwan. The mainland is patient, but independence is not the future for Taiwan. China’s military forces should be ready to repel any force of intervention. The US likes to maintain what it calls ‘strategic ambiguity’ over what it would do in the event of a conflict arising from secession. We don’t have any ambiguity. We will use whatever means we have to prevent it happening.” If Taiwan policy has been the immediate focus of China’s military planning, the sheer breadth of capabilities the country is acquiring gives it other options—and temptations. In 2004 Hu Jintao, China’s president, said the PLA should be able to undertake “new historic missions”. Some of these involve UN peacekeeping. In recent years China has been the biggest contributor of peacekeeping troops among the permanent five members of the Security Council. But the responsibility for most of these new missions has fallen on the navy. In addition to its primary job of denying China’s enemies access to sea lanes, it is increasingly being asked to project power in the neighbourhood and farther afield.
The navy appears to see itself as the guardian of China’s ever-expanding economic interests. These range from supporting the country’s sovereignty claims (for example, its insistence on seeing most of the South China Sea as an exclusive economic zone) to protecting the huge weight of Chinese shipping, preserving the country’s access to energy and raw materials supplies, and safeguarding the soaring numbers of Chinese citizens who work abroad (about 5m today, but expected to rise to 100m by 2020). The navy’s growing fleet of powerful destroyers, stealthy frigates and guided-missile-carrying catamarans enables it to carry out extended “green water” operations (ie, regional, not just coastal tasks). It is also developing longer-range “blue water” capabilities. In early 2009 the navy began anti-piracy patrols off the Gulf of Aden with three ships. Last year, one of those vessels was sent to the Mediterranean to assist in evacuating 35,000 Chinese workers from Libya—an impressive logistical exercise carried out with the Chinese air force. Power grows out of the barrel of a gun It is hardly surprising that China’s neighbours and the West in general should worry about these developments. The range of forces marshalled against Taiwan plus China’s “A2/AD” potential to push the forces of other countries over the horizon have already eroded the confidence of America’s Asian allies that the guarantor of their security will always be there for them. Mr Obama’s rebalancing towards Asia may go some way towards easing those doubts. America’s allies are also going to have to do more for themselves, including developing their own A2/AD capabilities. But the longer-term trends in defence spending are in China’s favour. China can focus entirely on Asia, whereas America will continue to have global responsibilities. Asian concerns about the dragon will not disappear.
That said, the threat from China should not be exaggerated. There are three limiting factors. First, unlike the former Soviet Union, China has a vital national interest in the stability of the global economic system. Its military leaders constantly stress that the development of what is still only a middle-income country with a lot of very poor people takes precedence over military ambition. The increase in military spending reflects the growth of the economy, rather than an expanding share of national income. For many years China has spent the same proportion of GDP on defence (a bit over 2%, whereas America spends about 4.7%). The real test of China’s willingness to keep military spending constant will come when China’s headlong economic growth starts to slow further. But on past form, China’s leaders will continue to worry more about internal threats to their control than external ones. Last year spending on internal security outstripped military spending for the first time. With a rapidly ageing population, it is also a good bet that meeting the demand for better health care will become a higher priority than maintaining military spending. Like all the other great powers, China faces a choice of guns or walking sticks. Second, as some pragmatic American policymakers concede, it is not a matter for surprise or shock that a country of China’s importance and history should have a sense of its place in the world and want armed forces which reflect that. Indeed, the West is occasionally contradictory about Chinese power, both fretting about it and asking China to accept greater responsibility for global order. As General Yao Yunzhu of the Academy of Military Science says: “We are criticised if we do more and criticised if we do less. The West should decide what it wants. The international military order is US-led—NATO and Asian bilateral alliances—there is nothing like the WTO for China to get into.” Third, the PLA may not be quite as formidable as it seems on paper. China’s military technology has suffered from the Western arms embargo imposed after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. It struggles to produce high-performance jet engines, for example. Western defence firms believe that is why they are often on the receiving end of cyber-attacks that appear to come from China. China’s defence industry may be improving but it remains scattered, inefficient and over-dependent on high-tech imports from Russia, which is happy to sell the same stuff to China’s local rivals, India and Vietnam. The PLA also has little recent combat experience. The last time it fought a real enemy was in the war against Vietnam in 1979, when it got a bloody nose. In contrast, a decade of conflict has honed American forces to a new pitch of professionalism. There must be some doubt that the PLA could put into practice the complex joint operations it is being increasingly called upon to perform. General Yao says the gap between American and Chinese forces is “at least 30, maybe 50, years”. “China”, she says, “has no need to be a military peer of the US. But perhaps by the time we do become a peer competitor the leadership of both countries will have the wisdom to deal with the problem.” The global security of the next few decades will depend on her hope being realised. Correction: The following definitions have been changed in the main table of this article: "Main battle tanks" to "Modern main battle tanks”; "Armoured infantry vehicles" to “Armoured infantry fighting vehicles”; "Intercontinental ballistic missiles" to "Intercontinental ballistic missile launchers"; “Transport helicopters” to "Heavy/medium transport helicopters"; “Transport aircraft” to "Heavy/medium transport aircraft"; “Tanker and multi-role aircraft” to “Tanker aircraft”. Additionally, the data are from 2011 not 2010 as originally reported. These changes were made on 6th April 2012. Click here for the original post

Friday, April 27, 2012

Why quitting Siachen will be disastrous:SIACHIN – NO SELLOUT PLEASE

By Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi  (DNA-Mumbai 24 Apr 2012)

Following the 1947-48 war between India and Pakistan, the Cease Fire Line (CFL), was delineated under the Karachi Agreement of 1949, only up to a point on the map known as Point NJ 9842. The area to the north, being highly inaccessible and glaciated, was not delineated, but the direction of the CFL beyond NJ 9842 was unambiguously stated as “thence north to the glaciers”. The same thing happened when the CFL was replaced by the LoC after the 1971 war.

In 1984, having received hard intelligence that the Pakistani Army was about to secure the area, the Indian Army in a pre-emptive move had occupied the Saltoro Ridge, which constitutes the watershed and runs parallel to the length of the Siachin Glacier on its western side. It has been called the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) since then. The Pakistani Army made many attempts to throw us back, but all such attacks were repulsed. Having failed militarily, Pakistan decided that negotiations were a more pragmatic option. Discussions held so far have been unsuccessful as Pakistan has been insisting on their terms for a resolution, which are not acceptable to India.

The last highly audacious attempt at dislodge us from Siachin was made by the Pakistani Army in 1999, when Kargil and surrounding areas were captured by the Pakistani Army, with the aim of cutting off our supply routes to Ladakh and secure Siachin by this indirect stratagem. However, once again the bravery and courage of our troops saved the day and the Pakistani Army had to suffer an ignominious defeat.

Another pertinent fact that must not be lost sight of is that in 1963, Pakistan had unilaterally and illegally conceded the Shaksgam area, north of Siachin, to China. 
Since early April, following the major avalanche in the area occupied by the Pakistani Army, an orchestrated attempt is being made to bring the issue back in focus. A fair amount of media hype has been created, but it is based more on emotions and less on hard facts. There is need to understand the nuances of this dispute in totality, so that a pragmatic decision is taken and there is no sellout.

            During the various rounds of talks between India and Pakistan, many myths have been created by spin doctors and those who are bent on getting the Indian Army to vacate the area. These need to be discarded. The important myths and realities are discussed below.

Firstly, the contention that Siachin and Saltoro have no strategic value is patently wrong. The reality is that if the Saltoro had not been occupied by our troops, Pakistan from the west and China from the east would have long since linked up, with the strategic Karakoram Pass under their complete control. The illegal ceding away of the Shaksgam Valley by Pakistan to China has completed the encirclement of this crucial area. It is only our occupation of the Saltoro, which has driven a wedge between the two. By our control of Saltoro, we have also retained the option of negotiating with China about the Shaksgam valley at the appropriate time.

Secondly, the Pakistani stance that since India is the aggressor, it should vacate the area, is a travesty of truth, as what our troops did in April 1984 was to occupy  our own areas; no border or line was crossed as the entire area, not having been delineated, belongs to India. 
Thirdly, it is stated that unnecessary casualties are being incurred on account of the treacherous terrain and climate. This is no longer the case with us, as the Indian Army has learnt its lessons well and we do not have such casualties any more. Fourthly, an additional reason stated is that four to five crores is being spent everyday on our troops there. While the figure may be disputed, should sovereignty be measured in this manner?

The Siachin issue is important for the peace process, but there are many others that are more important and pressing, which need to be resolved first. We seem to have fallen for the Pakistani ploy of looking at Siachin as a separate issue, unrelated to the LoC, when de facto it is an extension of the LoC. Pakistan’s compulsion on the issue must not translate into a sellout by India, for it will be an unmitigated disaster if it happens. After all, the trust deficit with Pakistan remains, as it has taken no action on the concerns of India, like stopping support and assistance to the Jihadi insurgents, punishing the guilty of the Mumbai Mayhem and the continued sheltering of criminals like Hafiz Saeed and others.

The most important point we have to keep in mind is that while it suits Pakistan to get our troops to vacate the commanding heights of the Saltoro Ridge, we would lose them permanently if we do so, as regaining them would be militarily extremely difficult. Despite this, if there is a compulsion to resolve the issue, then the first action must be to delineate the AGPL, before any shifting of troops takes place. Pakistan has so far refused to accept this, perhaps with an ulterior motive of occupying it at some future date!

Pakistan has been proposing that both sides should withdraw to positions that existed prior to the occupation of the Saltoro Ridge, but this must not be accepted as our troops will take longer to return to their positions, should this become necessary, on account of the difficult terrain on our side. There is also a need to work out a detailed joint mechanism to ensure that the terms of the resolution are strictly adhered to.
The writer is a former Vice Chief of the Indian Army.

When policy is held hostage by terror-SUNDAY GUARDIAN(NEW DELHI) &"INDIA ON SUNDAY"(LONDON)

Sunday, April 15, 2012 POLICE & STATE V.BALACHANDRAN

Kind Coutesy Brig Suresh Sharma)

Time and again we are releasing terrorists to free hostages. How far are we justified?

After the "coup" scare, it is the hostage release situation in Orissa that is engaging our attention. Some contrasted it with the US policy of "no negotiation" with terrorists. Others who are always dazzled by the "swift" Israeli response to terrorists lamented that India was weak-kneed. One retired major general shouted, "Why can't we just shoot the bloody Maoists?" The print media quoted the RSS journal Organizer (9 April) criticising former BJP minister Jaswant Singh for accompanying terrorists to Kandahar to secure the release of Indian hostages in 1999. The Ministry of Home Affairs is reported to have advised the Orissa government (9 April) not to rush through the "swap deal" even as the Orissa Police Association is reported to have threatened to stop work in Maoist dominated areas. Some of us believe that India should have formulated a "doctrine" to deal with terrorism. Would this improve our handling? The traditional US policy, which was reiterated by a 1986 State Department circular, firmly says, "No concessions to terrorists holding official or private citizens hostage." Yet, there were a number of cases in which this was breached. The Los Angeles Times (2 August 1989) said that "Reagan quietly encouraged Israel to make a deal with the terrorists to exchange Israeli held detainees for American hostages." This was after the 4 June 1985 TWA 847 hijacking from Cairo by the Hezbollah with 53 passengers. Israel released 700 Shia prisoners over the next weeks. Chicago Tribune (6 October 1990) said that Israel was releasing 40 Shias as requested by President George H.W. Bush administration in exchange for six American hostages held by Hezbollah for five years. Now Al Arabiya (28 February 2012 ) was quoted as saying that the US was negotiating with Egypt to release 19 Americans in Egyptian jails on various charges in exchange for 50 Egyptians in US jails. This includes Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind al-Gama'a al-Islamiya leader, convicted in the 1993 WTC-1 bombing. Israel, which has a similar policy, released 1,027 Hamas prisoners in October 2011 in the "Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange". Some were undergoing life terms. This was in exchange for a lone Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit held in secret captivity for five years in Gaza. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who had vehemently opposed the May 1985 "Jibril Deal" between Prime Minister Shimon Peres and PFLP releasing 1,150 Palestinians for three Israeli hostages, had to agree to the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange on account of public pressure.

Some of us believe that India should have formulated a “doctrine” to deal with terrorism. Would this improve our handling?

Reverting to the Army chief episode, it is clear that he has had the last laugh after being pilloried on TV channels by the assembled common panellists, who must have been flitting across studios, releasing the same sound bites. Quite a few discussed what punishment should be given to him. Former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra excelled others by making the most uncivil remarks: "That chap thinks he is in Pakistan", "he has lost his mental balance" and that he was "the worst Army chief so far".

Perhaps Mishra forgot his own glaring failures while in office. As National Security Adviser since November 1998 he was our unquestioned czar of security, intelligence and foreign affairs for six years, even disregarding the 1999 "Kargil Review Committee" recommendations not to combine the two busy posts of Principal Secretary to PM and NSA. The recommendation arose partly because of the inadequate "politico-strategic interaction" within the assessment process in the NSC Secretariat under him, which could not foresee the Pakistani invasion. He also failed to call an NSC meeting for policy directions till 8 June 1999, one month after the Kargil incursion was noticed. Similarly, he failed to prevent the hijacked IC-814 from leaving Amritsar airport on 24 December 1999, when Captain Devi Sharan landed it there from Kathmandu when asked to fly to Lahore. Sharan hoped that the hijacking would end there. Mishra, when questioned, said vaguely that snipers were not available. The eight-day ordeal and national shame in Kandahar could have been avoided had his security machinery prevented the plane from leaving Amritsar. In a similar situation, President Obama had fired Dennis Blair, his highest intelligence officer (DNI) in May 2010, although he was not even directly responsible for some breaches.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Augmented Reality-New Technology

Augmented Reality (AR) is a new technology that's promising to change the way we interact with the world. The technology combines elements from the physical and the virtual world to create new experiences at home, in business, on the go, and in between.
While we've heard about the exciting applications to come, few have materialized. But at this CommNexus consumer electronics SIG event, two companies actively involved in AR, Qualcomm and Wowwee.

See the video at

Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. By contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one.

Augmentation is conventionally in real-time and in semantic context with environmental elements, such as sports scores on TV during a match. With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally manipulable. Artificial information about the environment and its objects can be overlaid on the real world. The term augmented reality is believed to have been coined in 1990 by Thomas Caudell, working at Boeing.[1]

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

China’s Achilles Heel-The Economist

A comparison with America reveals a deep flaw in China’s model of growth

IKE the hero of “The Iliad”, China can seem invincible. In 2010 it overtook America in terms of manufactured output, energy use and car sales. Its military spending has been growing in nominal terms by an average of 16% each year for the past 20 years. According to the IMF, China will overtake America as the world’s largest economy (at purchasing-power parity) in 2017. But when Thetis, Achilles’s mother, dipped her baby in the river Styx to give him the gift of invulnerability, she had to hold him somewhere. Alongside the other many problems it faces, China too has its deadly point of unseen weakness: demography.

In this section

Over the past 30 years, China’s total fertility rate—the number of children a woman can expect to have during her lifetime—has fallen from 2.6, well above the rate needed to hold a population steady, to 1.56, well below that rate. Because very low fertility can become self-reinforcing, with children of one-child families wanting only one child themselves, China now probably faces a long period of ultra-low fertility, regardless of what happens to its one-child policy.

The government has made small adjustments to the policy (notably by allowing an only child who is married to another only child to have more than one child) and may adapt it further. But for now it is firmly in place, and very low fertility rates still prevail, especially in the richest parts of the country. Shanghai reported fertility of just 0.6 in 2010—probably the lowest level anywhere in the world. According to the UN’s population division, the nationwide fertility rate will continue to decline, reaching 1.51 in 2015-20. In contrast, America’s fertility rate is 2.08 and rising.

The difference between 1.56 and 2.08 does not sound large. But over the long term it has a huge impact on society. Between now and 2050 China’s population will fall slightly, from 1.34 billion in 2010 to just under 1.3 billion in 2050. This assumes that fertility starts to recover. If it stays low, the population will dip below 1 billion by 2060. In contrast, America’s population is set to rise by 30% in the next 40 years. China will hit its peak population in 2026. No one knows when America will hit its population peak.

The differences between the two countries are even more striking if you look at their average ages. In 1980 China’s median (the age at which half the population is younger, half older) was 22. That is characteristic of a young developing country. It is now 34.5, more like a rich country and not very different from America’s, which is 37. But China is ageing at an unprecedented pace. Because fewer children are being born as larger generations of adults are getting older, its median age will rise to 49 by 2050, nearly nine years more than America at that point. Some cities will be older still. The Shanghai Population and Family Planning Committee says that more than a third of the city’s population will be over 60 by 2020. This trend will have profound financial and social consequences. Most obviously, it means China will have a bulge of pensioners before it has developed the means of looking after them. Unlike the rest of the developed world, China will grow old before it gets rich. Currently, 8.2% of China’s total population is over 65. The equivalent figure in America is 13%. By 2050, China’s share will be 26%, higher than in America.

In the traditional Chinese family, children, especially sons, look after their parents (though this is now changing—see story on next page). But rapid ageing also means China faces what is called the “4-2-1 phenomenon”: each only child is responsible for two parents and four grandparents. Even with high savings rates, it seems unlikely that the younger generation will be able or willing to afford such a burden. So most elderly Chinese will be obliged to rely heavily on social-security pensions.

China set up a national pensions fund in 2000, but only about 365m people have a formal pension. And the system is in crisis. The country’s unfunded pension liability is roughly 150% of GDP. Almost half the (separate) pension funds run by provinces are in the red, and local goverments have sometimes reneged on payments. But that is only part of a wider problem. Between 2010 and 2050 China’s workforce will shrink as a share of the population by 11 percentage points, from 72% to 61%—a huge contraction, even allowing for the fact that the workforce share is exceptionally large now. That means China’s old-age dependency ratio (which compares the number of people over 65 with those aged 15 to 64) will soar. At the moment the ratio is 11—roughly half America’s level of 20. But by 2050, China’s old-age ratio will have risen fourfold to 42, surpassing America’s. Even more strikingly, by 2050, the number of people coming towards the end of their working lives (ie, those in their 50s) will have risen by more than 10%. The number of those just setting out (those in their early 20s, who are usually the best educated and most productive members of society) will have halved.

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The shift spells the end of China as the world’s factory. The apparently endless stream of cheap labour is starting to run dry. Despite pools of underemployed country-dwellers, China already faces shortages of manual workers. As the workforce starts to shrink after 2013, these problems will worsen. Sarah Harper of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing points out that China has mapped out the age structure of its jobs, and knows for each occupation when the skills shortage will hit. It is likely to try to offset the impact by looking for workers abroad. Manpower, a business-recruitment firm, says that by 2030 China will be importing workers from outside, rather than exporting them.

Large-scale immigration poses problems of its own. America is one of the rare examples of a country that has managed to use mass immigration to build a skilled labour force. But America is an open, multi-ethnic society with a long history of immigration and strong legal and political institutions. China has none of these features.

In the absence of predictable institutions, all areas of Chinese society have relied on guanxi, the web of connections that often has extended family relations at the centre. But what happens when there are fewer extended families? One result could be a move towards a more predictable legal system and (possibly) a more open political culture. And, as shifts in China’s economy lead to lower growth, Chinese leaders will have to make difficult spending choices; they will have to decide whether to buy “guns or walking sticks”.

China is not unique in facing these problems. All rich countries have rising pension costs. And China has some advantages in dealing with them, notably low tax rates (giving room for future increases) and low public expectations of welfare. Still, China is also unusual in two respects. It is much poorer than other ageing countries, and its demographic transition has been much more abrupt. It seems highly unlikely that China will be able to grow its way economically out of its population problems. Instead, those problems will weigh down its growth rate—to say nothing of the immense social challenges they will bring. China’s Achilles heel will not be fatal. But it will hobble the hero.