September 13, 2008

Righteous Among the Editors: When the Left Loved Israel

Ronald and Allis Radosh

On the 60th anniversary of Israel’s founding, the argument that the Jewish state should cease to exist as a Jewish state may still be found in the pages of the flagship publication of the American left, The Nation. Last year, in a special issue devoted to Israel, the magazine’s editors noted that, although for many years the publication had supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a shift of “realities on the ground” mandated a shift in their thinking. If the age-old goal of a two-state solution fails—and the magazine’s editors suspect it might very well—then “the calls for inclusion on fully equal terms in one state will grow.” Americans thus have to “rethink our assumptions.”

The magazine had been engaged in just such a rethinking for years. Writing in The Nation in 2002, law scholar Richard Falk argued that the “state terrorism” engaged in by Israel is “greater” than the Palestinians’ use of terror. In any case, Falk interpreted suicide bombings as “reactive and understandable” responses to the U.S.-backed occupation of Palestine. Writing in July 2007, Falk went even further, identifying Israel’s “treatment of Palestinians with …[the] criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity.” The problem, as Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University added in the same issue, was that “Most Jews consider themselves victims in this conflict, not aggressors.” Since Gordon and The Nation believed otherwise, Gordon on The Nation’s behalf called for major protests against Israel from abroad, “not unlike the sanctions imposed on South Africa.” Most recently, Henry Siegman, a former executive director of The American Jewish Congress, concluded that a once noble Jewish “national liberation struggle” has been transformed into “a colonial enterprise.”

In arguing their case, The Nation’s writers rely on an absurdly selective and tendentious reading of history. Nowhere has the airbrushing been more thorough than in their treatment of the antecedents of the present crisis, among them the role that the left itself played in Israel’s creation. When Israel had not yet been born, the idea of a Jewish state had the support of substantial numbers of Americans, drawing special enthusiasm from members of the left intelligentsia. This was especially true of The Nation magazine. In fact, no journal of opinion or media outlet campaigned more vigorously and vocally for Israel’s creation. For The Nation’s publisher and editor-in-chief, Freda Kirchwey, the struggle for a Jewish Palestine was nothing less than the sequel and parallel of the Spanish Civil War, the other struggle to which she had dedicated the opinion journal.

Freda Kirchwey’s credentials on the left were impeccable. Her father had been dean of Columbia University Law School, a well-known pacifist, and president of the American Peace Society (a sponsor of this journal). After graduating from Barnard College in 1915, she began a career in journalism, working for various New York newspapers. In 1918, she joined the staff of The Nation, eventually becoming its editor in 1933 and its publisher from 1937 to 1943. That same year she launched The Nation Associates, a mechanism to fund the poorly financed magazine and influence policy on the issues of the day.

A stalwart backer of the New Deal, Kirchwey used The Nation to champion the cause of the Spanish Republicans and broke with pacifists over America’s entry into World War II. The drama editor of The Nation, Joseph Wood Krutch, described her as a “natural-born Bohemian who would undoubtedly be talking to people over cocktails about the state of the world every day of her life, if she didn’t have The Nation as an outlet.” After her death, the New York Times editorialized that Kirchwey should be remembered for her “unique combination of personal charm and militant principle” and for being “a cheerful crusader.”

Her most important crusade was waged on behalf of the Jewish state. In 1944, Lillie Shultz, a former assistant to Zionist leader Rabbi Stephen Wise, was hired as The Nation Associates’ director and chief fundraiser. Kirchwey assembled a board of influential progressives, which included such luminaries as Philip Murray, president of the CIO; theologian Reinhold Niebhur; James G. Patton, president of the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union; left-wing radio commentators Frank Kingdon and Raymond Graham Swing; playwrights Lillian Hellman and Eugene O’Neill; and writer Thomas Mann.

After the War, Kirchwey and her board decided the Associates should concentrate its efforts on the issue of Palestine. They believed that the plight of Holocaust survivors languishing in Europe’s displaced-persons camps “presented a problem which challenged the conscience of mankind and the ability of civilization to make some restitution.” The overwhelming majority of refugees wished to go to Palestine to rebuild their shattered lives. Thus, The Nation Associates saw the solution to the Jewish problem as “irrevocably linked with the future of Palestine.” To that end, the organization sponsored public policy conferences, created special issue committees, conducted radio broadcasts, and published twelve influential reports on the case for a Jewish state that were disseminated to senators and congressmen, to President Truman and members of his administration, and to the United Nation delegates who in 1947 were debating the future of Palestine.

Kirchwey’s pro-Zionist sentiments were cemented during a trip she made to Palestine as The Nation’s correspondent in the spring and summer of 1946. Her impressions of the Jews, the Arabs, and the British were not unique, but similar to those held by many of the members of the various international commissions dispatched to Palestine. Kirchwey was impressed with the achievements of the Jews in Palestine and their rehabilitation of the Holocaust’s survivors. She contrasted their accomplishments with the poverty and what she called the backwardness of the Arabs. She also reported disapprovingly on the role played by the 100,000 British troops stationed in Palestine.

In her diary, Kirchwey wrote about her visit to Hebrew University and the new Hadassah Hospital. She was especially impressed by the latter, where, despite an Arab boycott of the Jews, the “corridors (were) jammed with Arabs.” Kirchwey toured Beth Haarava, a Jewish settlement planted in the world’s toughest spot: “1400 ft. (plus) below sea level; desert; temperature about 100; earth 17% salt. But in four years the colony (a communal one) has produced marvelous crops on land washed until the salt content is just enough to encourage the biggest tomatoes in Palestine. Fish raised. Colony flourishing. I won’t see a more astonishing achievement anywhere, I’m sure.” She met with Goldie Myerson (Meir) and visited Chaim Weizmann for lunch at his house—“a most beautiful place in a fine setting—looking out over fields and orchards that were barren earth when he first went there.”

In a series of articles she wrote about her trip, Kirchwey noted how “overpowering” the British military presence had become and how biased against the Jews she found British officials to be. President Truman was calling on Britain to allow 100,000 Holocaust survivors entry into Palestine. London refused, convinced that Jewish immigration would stir Arab protests and violence. By their “painful reluctance to apply any clear-cut policy,” Kirchwey wrote, the British were inviting an Arab revolt and encouraging the Arabs to conclude that through blackmail the “Western powers can be frightened into sacrificing the Jews just as they have already abandoned the Christians in Lebanon.”

Nevertheless, she found the Jews “organized and prepared. They believe they are fighting, not just for their families and their homeland as in the thirties, but for the survival of their people. The horror of the past six years is alive in every Jew in Palestine whether he suffered it in his own person or through the bodies and minds of his fellow Jews in Europe.” What one Jewish leader said to her left a particularly vivid impression: “Under no circumstances will we give up. We will fight to open Palestine to all Jews who want to come. We will fight to maintain Jewish Palestine. We have no other choice. We cannot go on from here. This is the stopping place—the end of the road. We will stay here or die.”

Energized by such convictions, The Nation Associates became an important lobbying arm for the Zionist cause. Kirchwey believed they were especially effective because they were an independent and, more to the point, non-Jewish group. She counted among her friends both Eliahu Epstein, the Jewish Agency’s representative in America and later Israel’s first ambassador to the Unites States, and Weizmann, as well as most of the American Zionist leaders. She was willing to do anything necessary in the name of “a war in which we must enlist without hope of leave,” one with “no slackers and no conscientious objectors.” To carry out this war, Kirchwey and Shultz worked behind the scenes, coordinated activity with the Jewish Agency, and answered in programmatic detail every argument against the creation of a Jewish state offered by the State Department, the oil lobby, the British, and the Arabs.

The Nation’s involvement in the Palestine debate intensified in April 1947, after the British, having become caught in a bind of their own devising and unable to negotiate a satisfactory solution, referred the matter to the United Nations. On April 28th, a special session convened at the new UN Headquarters on Long Island, charged with establishing the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). Kirchwey’s aim was to have the UN General Assembly vote for a resolution in favor of the establishment of a Jewish state. To accomplish this, The Nation immersed itself in the setting up of UNSCOP. There were difficult questions to be settled. Which countries would serve on the committee, and who would represent the Jews and the Arabs? A week before UNSCOP’s first meeting, a committee led by The Nation Associates, with “the co-sponsorship of leading progressive organizations,” submitted its first memorandum to United Nations Secretary General Trygve Lie.

The memorandum requested that only neutral nations, and not the Arab countries or the British, be allowed to sit on UNSCOP. It also asked that the Jewish Agency, established by the mandate as the legally recognized representative of the Jews in Palestine, represent them before the committee. The Nation submitted the memorandum to every delegation at the UN. Four thousand copies were distributed to members of the United States Congress, the State Department, the Supreme Court, to the press and radio, and to “leading American personalities,” along with a request that the recipients urge President Truman to “issue a directive to the American delegation in line” with the memorandum’s proposals.

On May 5th, The Nation Associates submitted its second memorandum, a 133-page report signed by Kirchwey, titled “The Palestine Problem and Proposals for its Solution.” Kirchwey claimed it served as the UN delegates’ “Handbook” and became the major media brief on behalf of the position of the Jewish Agency. Like all of the Associates’ reports, its release and contents were widely reported in the press, including the New York Times. The report reviewed the history of Hitler’s crimes against the Jews, the unwillingness of the Western powers to rescue them, and the British white paper of 1939 that slammed the doors of Palestine “shut in the face of the supplicants.”

At the war’s end, the report continued, “the common assumption was that the first victims of Hitlerism would be the first to be rescued by a sympathetic world.” That the doors of Palestine would be promptly opened to the Jews was taken for granted, especially after the British Labor Party won the 1945 elections. The party was on the record supporting the creation of a homeland for the Jews in Palestine and opposing the 1939 white paper, which severely limited Jewish immigration. It was not to be. By 1947, the number of Jewish refugees in the American sector of Germany and Austria had swelled to 250,000 desperate people, mostly arriving from Eastern Europe. The British Government was using every method of “exclusion and repression, to prevent them from going to Palestine.” This policy, Kirchwey believed, was meant to serve British imperial interests and the ruling elements among the Arabs, “even at the cost of defending a decadent, feudal, and hierarchical social system.”

The section called “Some Proposed Solutions” carefully surveyed possible alternatives for Palestine. Kirchwey, its principal author, flatly rejected calls for the creation of a bi-national state coming from liberal Jewish intellectuals such as Judah Magnes, Martin Buber, I. F. Stone, and Hannah Arendt. Acknowledging that the idea “has a strong democratic appeal,” she countered that it would not “satisfy the needs of the Jews to migrate to Palestine—particularly in view of the consistent opposition of the Arabs.” If such a state were created, Kirchwey predicted, “conflict would inevitably develop between two peoples whose cultural and industrial development is on such contrasting levels and whose approach to social and political problems is so different.” While the Jewish advocates of a bi-national state were “patient and reliable,” the Arab leaders would never permit it. The only workable solution was therefore partition.

Kirchwey also rejected the demand for an independent Arab state in Palestine. The Jewish population, she wrote, would be at the mercy of an Arab majority led by the anti-Semitic Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. The exposure of the role played by Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini in the affairs of Arab Palestine was probably The Nation’s most important revelation. Newly published histories, such as Matthias Küntzel’s Jihad and Jew-Hatred and Klaus Gensicke’s Der Mufti von Jerusalem und die Nationalsozialisten, have detailed the Mufti’s wartime relationship with Hitler, and his role in support of the Nazis while living in exile in Germany from 1941 to 1945. Kirchwey presented much the same evidence and material in 1947.

On May 10th, The Nation Associates submitted a memorandum on Axis affiliations with the exiled Grand Mufti and chairman of the Arab Higher Committee. The facts in the report, Kirchwey explained, were taken directly from captured files belonging to the Mufti and the German High Command, all discovered by American military authorities in Germany and now in the possession of the State Department.

“The Arab Higher Committee: Its Origins, Personnel and Purposes” contained documents and 35 photographs showing the Mufti and other Arab leaders in the company of Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Dino Alfieri, Benito Mussolini’s ambassador to Berlin. The report substantiated the charge that the Mufti controlled and directed the Arab Higher Committee, the self-appointed representative of the Palestinian Arabs, from his Egyptian exile and that he had worked with the Nazis. All 55 UN delegates received a copy of the 75-page report; 5,000 copies were printed and disseminated to Congress and the White House. The report identified Emil Ghouri, head of the Arab delegation to the UN, and delegates Wasef Kamal and Rasem Khalidi, as being “notorious for their long-time association with the Mufti and his Axis activities.” It also noted that one of the other delegates, Jamal Husseini, the Mufti’s cousin, had joined him in Iraq in 1939. There, he organized a fifth column that incited the anti-British rebellion of 1941. Kamal, it reported, subsequently fled Iraq and escaped to Turkey, where he became a “paid agent of the German secret service.”

As for the Mufti himself, captured German files revealed that he planned the Arab Palestinian riots of 1936, using funds supplied by the Nazis to fuel the violence. After escaping to Iraq, the report alleged that the Mufti bore responsibility for the deaths of 400 Jewish men, women, and children who were murdered on Baghdad’s streets. Escaping again, he made his way to Italy and then on to Nazi Germany.

In Berlin, the report stated, “The Nazis established a special office for him,” from which the Mufti engaged in activities including “propaganda, espionage, organization of Moslem military units in Axis-occupied countries and in North Africa and Russia, establishment of Arab legions in an Arab brigade and organization of fifth-column activities in the Middle East, including sabotage and parachutist expeditions.” He used Nazi radio to broadcast not only to the Middle East but also to Bari, Rome, Tokyo, and Athens, and eventually to India, Indonesia, and Java.

The report concluded that the Grand Mufti both supported and encouraged “the Nazi program of extermination of the Jews.” Captured records revealed that he had accompanied Adolf Eichmann to visit the gas chambers at Auschwitz and helped to put an end to negotiations being carried out by the Nazis to ransom Jews; the Mufti insisted they be liquidated. Writing to Himmler, the Mufti accused him and Joachim von Ribbentrop of being too lenient, since they had allowed some Jews to flee Germany. “If such practices continue,” the Mufti was quoted, “it would be “incomprehensible to Arabs and Moslems and provoke a feeling of disappointment.” Refusing comment, members of the Arab Higher Committee in New York responded simply that “the Axis issue should be forgotten.”
Kirchwey made sure that her reports reached the White House. Writing to Truman about The Nation Associates’ report on the Mufti and the Arab Higher Committee, White House aide David Niles explained the significance of the material:

You have received a copy of the Documentary Record submitted to the United Nations. This contains very confidential material that is in the files of the State Department. I think it is important to find out how it got out. It is very damaging evidence that the Arab representatives now at UNO were allies of Hitler. There is also included in this material the diary of the Grand Mufti, which Justice Jackson found at Nuremberg. Copies of this document have already gone to all the Members of Congress.

Clearly, Freda Kirchwey had obtained the classified information from a friendly source in the State Department. “Thanks, glad you sent it,” Truman replied. The president was already aware of its revelations. “I knew all about the purported facts mentioned and, of course, I don’t like it.” He wished that its contents “could have been used [by the U.S. government] for the welfare of the world.”

The Arab states and the Arab Higher Committee had proposed that the UN immediately declare itself in favor of an independent Palestine, which, under the terms they favored, would have meant an Arab state. In such a state, Kirchwey argued, a pledge of legal equality for Jews was not credible. There is nothing, she wrote, “to justify confidence in the attitude of the Arab states towards minorities in their population.” Their treatment of Jews, Lebanese, Christian Copts, and Armenians offered “striking refutation” of their assurances. Kirchwey later noted that her report on the connection between the Mufti, the Arab Higher Committee and Hitler gave the delegates pause; into whose hands might they be delivering the Jews? The Nation report, she wrote, had “a striking effect on the final decisions of the session” and persuaded various delegations not to vote for the Arab proposal.

On September 1st, UNSCOP submitted two reports to the General Assembly: the majority report called for the establishment of two independent states, Arab and Jewish; the minority report called for Palestine to become a federalized state. Kirchwey promptly dedicated herself and The Nation to the cause of the former. To move the administration in the direction of the partition plan, Kirchwey convened a special meeting of The Nation Associates with members of Congress, briefing them on the state of play at the UN and passing along data to use when marshalling their own arguments in favor of partition.

The State Department, in particular, opposed the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, claiming, among other things, that American troops eventually would have to be dispatched to save the Jews and that access to the region’s oil was at stake. Pointing out that the Soviet Union had gone on record at the UN as being inclined toward partition, Kirchwey thought there was “no longer the excuse, adduced by the British and unfortunately carried out . . . by the American delegation, to appease the Arabs in the hope of weaning them away from possible Soviet orientation.” Yet there were rumors that Truman had surrendered his Palestine policy to the State Department. The president, she wrote, must reassert control over his own government. Doing so was a matter of “honor and decency” as well as a “practical political necessity.” Previewing arguments to come a half-century later, Kirchwey wrote that the Jewish community in Palestine was “the only democratic community in the feudal Middle East,” and hence could play a “leavening influence in spreading democracy” throughout the region.

Kirchwey also leaned on the New York State Democratic Committee, which duly relayed to the president the political consequences that would follow from a decision not to endorse the majority report. Moreover, to oppose partition would contravene “the declared policy of this country to which both political parties and successive administrations had been pledged since 1922.” Although Truman asserted that there had been no change in U.S. policy, Kirchwey was sure the State Department was preparing what she called a “double-cross” at the UN.

To prevent this “double-cross,” on October 13th The Nation hosted a forum on Palestine at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. On the invitation’s letterhead were listed the names of board members and the Dinner Committee Officers. Included as the dinner’s co-chairs were University of North Carolina President Frank Graham and Eleanor Roosevelt. The invitation was hardly subtle, warning that “there is a gigantic double-cross in the offing at the United Nations. Our own government seems scheduled to play a stellar role. President Truman is reported as capitulating to the Arabs. If it succeeds, there will be no hope for settling the Jews of Europe in Palestine.” Only a public demonstration, the letter went on to say, “can play a decisive role in making clear to the United States delegation that American public opinion will not accept the planned betrayal.” The former First Lady, whom Truman had installed as part of the U.S. delegation to the UN, promptly called the meeting “irresponsible” and quit her sponsorship.

On November 29, 1947, the majority report was finally put to a vote at the UN. It was adopted by a margin of 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions. Kirchwey and her associates had lobbied successfully to break an alliance between the Chinese and the Arabs, pressing China to abstain rather than vote against partition. She also helped to engineer the favorable votes of Yugoslavia, Haiti, and Liberia.

The double-cross that Kirchwey predicted came anyway. On March 19th, Senator Warren Austin, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, announced that in light of the continued fighting in Palestine, the United States was changing its position. Partition was to be postponed and Palestine placed in the care of the UN Trusteeship Council. For Kirchwey, “The careful plot of the State Department, acting in collusion with the British and the Arab States, had reached its climax.” Even though each opposed partition, scant evidence bolsters Kirchwey’s allegation of a conspiracy between the British, the Arab states, and the State Department. She was correct, however, in her conclusion that the State Department’s Division of Near Eastern and African Affairs (NEA) was bent on derailing partition.

The Nation quickly launched a public relations campaign in cooperation with the Jewish Agency’s leaders in the United States, especially Eliahu Epstein. There was much work to be done “to sell the idea of a Jewish State,” Epstein told Kirchwey. He knew that in this regard, Kirchwey and The Nation would operate as a megaphone for the Jewish cause. Epstein regularly conveyed his thoughts about the situation in Palestine, especially Arab violence, and suggested that “it might be useful to indicate some of these points in one of your editorials in THE NATION.”

On January 27, 1948, Kirchwey sent Truman a letter about British plans to subvert the creation of Jewish state, attaching yet another report, with yet another strident title: “Conspiracy Against Partition.” In addition to the president, Kirchwey sent copies to every member of Congress and all of the UN delegates. Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R-Michigan), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote back to say that he, too, believed the UN Security Council ought to “move promptly to implement the proposed Palestine partition.”

Like Kirchwey, Epstein thought there was a “big conspiracy brewing in Washington” to defeat partition—a plot hatched in the NEA division of the State Department, The Arabian-American Oil Company (ARAMCO), and the Pentagon office of James Forrestal. To substantiate the claim, he passed confidential material to Kirchwey on James Duce, one of the vice presidents for operations at ARAMCO. In May, Kirchwey wrote the president a note detailing Duce’s and ARAMCO’s work on behalf of the Arab position. In particular, she noted Duce’s recent meeting in Cairo with Azzam Pasha, secretary general of the Arab League, where the two proposed transforming Tel Aviv into a Jewish domain with international status, similar to that of the Vatican. She warned the president of Duce’s campaign to persuade policymakers that the creation of a Jewish state ran counter to American interests. Duce had even gone so far as to argue that “good Jews” are leaving Palestine, and that those left behind harbored pro-Soviet sympathies. “It is generally recognized,” Kirchwey quoted Duce as saying, that “Jewish Palestine will be organized as a communistic state.”

The opponents of partition were caught by surprise when, on May 14th, 1948, Truman granted de facto recognition to the new state of Israel. Kirchwey claimed that The Nation had played no small part in bringing this about, especially the adoption of the November 29th UN resolution on Partition. She did not exaggerate. Immediately after the UN vote, Eliahu Epstein sent Kirchwey a telegram of congratulations and gratitude. He wrote to The Nations Associates’ director, Lillie Shultz, that there were “no words to express the feeling of gratitude for your work during the crucial months we have all just passed through.” There were few people, he wrote, who had “worked with such devotion and self-sacrifice as you,” and Epstein gave her credit for having had “a good and honorable share in our success.” Now he counted on The Nation “to keep public opinion at the proper level in our favor when we shall need so much American help in the making of a Jewish State.”

That The Nation would go on to do exactly the reverse was not a possibility that any of them could have imagined.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, responds to this essay in the Letters to the Editor section of our Web site.

Ronald Radosh, adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, and Allis Radosh, are co-authors of a forthcoming book about Harry S. Truman and the creation of Israel.

Valdai Club launching a diplomatic marathon

22:31 | 12/ 09/ 2008

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev) - We are currently witnessing the opening moves in a large-scale political game, that will probably last for months, aimed at building a new system of relations between Russia, the U.S. and EU. This is the conclusion to be drawn from the recent meetings of the Valdai Discussion Club in Rostov-on-Don, Sochi and Moscow.

This year's meetings of the Club, an annual conference bringing together experts in international relations from Russia and around the world, in fact marked the starting point of the new game. This was purely by chance, as Georgia's attack on Tskhinvali took place exactly a month before the planned annual meeting of the club.

But even if it were not for this coincidence, the big game would have still begun where it did - at a major expert meeting. What I mean by experts here is not people employed by various research centers. I mean people who advise their governments. Expert consultations are followed by confidential negotiations, which are in turn followed by open talks - this an established procedure.

The Valdai Club is known to the international community mainly thanks to its traditional last day meetings with Vladimir Putin, and this year also with Dmitry Medvedev, and other Russian leaders. Although these final meeting are in part held behind closed doors, much of what happens there becomes generally known in a few days anyway, because the global media elite are among the experts invited.

But the most important part of the club's work is the Valdai Conference, which usually takes place over two days. At this year's conference in Rostov-on-Don a lot of interesting things came up pertaining to the current international crisis.

It is worth mentioning here that the club's meetings feature little propaganda and few impassioned statements. Almost all the participants are professionals who do not have to be told things like who really unleashed the war.

They rarely argue; what they do is rather share their assessments, and sometimes send signals that are part of pre-diplomatic work. And, in this case, they are people who realize perfectly well that any war eventually ends with negotiating peace. They know that we are entering that stage now.

With South Ossetia it isn't easy to tell who has won the war. Everyone seems to have been hurt by it, including Georgia, the United States, the European Union and Russia. This only aggravates the situation, making it really acute.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Robert Blackwill, who is now deputy national security adviser, said it looked like Western and Russian leaders woke up every morning with new ideas of how to spoil their relations still further. He said it is necessary to calm down. Back in the Soviet times there were at least no personal insults between leaders, but now the EU, U.S. and Russia communicate only through press conferences.

Georgia is not the essential reason for this conflict. In fact, it was the sudden manifestation of problems that had been accumulating since 1991. There was a feeling at some points in the conference that it was really focused on Europe's annoyance with America over Georgia, Russia and much more.

Here are some opinions voiced at the conference.

- There are actually two crises, a healthy one, and an unhealthy one. The bad one is unfolding between Russia and Europe as a whole, the good one, between Europe and the United States. The war in Georgia was the manifestation of a conflict between Europe and the United States over NATO expansion, which America has tried to impose on Europe. Europe needs new relations with the U.S. above all, and indirectly, with Russia. (Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, Great Britain)

- We are now paying for 15 years of ignoring Russia. We don't have the nerve to oppose the U.S. within NATO, or over Kosovo. (Thierry de Montbrial, head of the French Institute of International Relations)

- The way the European mass media covered the conflict in Georgia was not the first case of encouraging confrontation. The Americans destroyed the free press at the beginning of the war in Iraq. The media participated in selling the lies to the American public with catastrophic results. (Professor Anatole Lieven, King's College, London)

- The entire scheme of partnership with Russia is ineffective. Yet, we need one. What should it be like? (James Sherr, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London)

- The U.S. and European strategy in the Middle East and Central Asia includes three fights - one around Afghanistan and Pakistan, one in the Caucasus and one in Central Asia. In two cases out of three the U.S. could be partners with Russia. All the three strategies are incompatible. It was wrong to quarrel with two of the region's countries, Russia and Iran, which used to fight the Taliban. (Anatole Lieven)

They have not produced too many answers to the vital questions of what to do and how to do it. One was that the time for mutual threats has passed, and that it is now time for mutual concessions and serious consultations. The problem is that the parties have so far laid out only their clashing positions. But the situation is familiar. It is at least good that each of the opponents can see the others' extremes.

More excerpts from presentations at the conference confirm this idea:

- Twenty-seven countries have supported one aggressor killing 2,000 civilians. Moscow did not take offence, but it drew some conclusions: Our attempt at integration with the West is over now. We are a separate part of the world, and the West is more of a problem than a help to us. Ukraine is becoming a priority. Its accession to NATO is a direct threat to Russia. We will do anything to prevent it. (Vyacheslav Nikonov, executive director of the Russian World foundation.)

- The United States admitted that Georgia was wrong to attack South Ossetia. It isn't the moment for the United States to quarrel with Russia. We have already paid for the conflict, as Russia slapped a ban on importing frozen chicken quarters from the U.S. in retaliation for the uranium agreement recalled from the Congress. But if Russia begins ousting the United States from Central Asia, tensions will grow. There is also the issue of weapons supplies to Syria and Iran.

So, we are back to the key problems in Russia's relations with the West, which preferred to ignore Russia for a long time. Did we really need a war to push matters forward?

In any case, the preparations for building new relations will go on, quietly and slowly, but surely. The U.S. is busy with the run-up for the presidential elections, where candidates need to look strong. Time will show what will happen next. But in any case, the Valdai Club conference is leading the current diplomatic marathon.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


The so-called Indian Mujahideen (IM) has once again, through an E-mail sent to some media offices, claimed the responsibility for a series of five explosions in three crowded market places of New Delhi between 6-45 PM and 7 PM on September 13,2008. At least nine persons are reported to have been killed and many injured. The message is reported to have been sent five minutes before the explosions took place. It speaks of nine Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) planted in different places. Five of these have exploded. Three are reported to have been detected by the police before the explosion could take place. One remains unaccounted for.

2.One has to await details of evidence regarding the IEDs before one could comment on their similarity,if any, with the earlier blasts in three cities of Uttar Pradesh last November, in Jaipur in May and in Bangalore and Ahmedabad in July, but the means of communication used to claim responsibility for the blasts and to provide authenticity of the claim are the same.The use of E-mails signed by similar kuniyats (assumed names such as al-Hindi or al-Arabi) and similar-sounding E-mail addresses indicate the same organisation has been responsible.

3. It is already quite clear that a wide area pan-Indian network of terrorists has come up in our midst and has managed to train a number of Indian Muslims not only in assembling IEDs, but also in clandestine methods of operation and communication. From what one heard of the contents of the message from the IM about the New Delhi blasts, there is an element of bravado in it. It taunts the security experts for not being able to establish who are behind these messages. It shows a certain confidence that the police are not yet on the trail of those sending these messages.

4. The success of the UP Police in identifying some of those involved in the blasts of last November did not prevent the blasts that followed in other cities. Similarly, the success of the Ahmedabad and Jaipur Police in arresting many of those responsible for the blasts in their cities has not come in the way of the successful strike in New Delhi.

5. Normally, timely preventive intelligence comes either from intercepts of communications and/or penetration of the terrorist organisations. The IM has apparently been using the Internet for its internal communications and not telephones. If so, this highlights our inadequacies in intercepting Internet communications. Since we still do not know the identity and organisational structure of the IM, penetrating it would have been understandably difficult. We were presuming before the UP blasts of last November that all terrorist strikes must be the work of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) or the Pakistan/Bangladesh based Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI). Since November last, we have been focussing on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). It is possible that elements from all these organisations are involved. It is equally possible that there are other Indian Muslim elements who had not come to the notice of the police earlier/. It is important to keep an open mind and establish the composition and structure of the IM. Only then penetration would be possible.

6.Preventive intelligence also comes fom the thorough interrogation of those arrested in connection with the previous blasts. All the arrests made so far, whether in UP or Jaipur or Ahmedabad , were mainly of those involved in those blasts. They apparently did not enable us to identify and arrest those trained with a capability for assembling IEDS, but who had not yet participated in any terrorist strike.

7. It should be apparent by now firstly, that we have only identified the tip of the jihadi iceberg in our midst. The iceberg itself remains unexposed. Secondly, we have not yet been able to identify the command and control of the IM. Thirdly, like Al Qaeda, the IM is divided into a number of autonomous cells each capable of operating independently without being affected by the identification and neutralisation of the cells involved in previous blasts.

8. All these years, our focus was on the training camps for jihadi terrorists in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Interrogation of those arrested since the beginning of this year has brought out that many training camps had been held in different parts of India by the SIMI. We were apparently oblivious of the details of these camps and the identities of those trained. It is important to have a common investigation cell for the whole of India to identify the various elements involved in this wide area network and neutralise them. Piecemeal investigation in different States ruled by different political parties each with its own partisan perception and agenda will result in our continuing to bleed at the hands of this network (13-9-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

September 12, 2008

F-35: Delivering on the Promise to Redefine National Strategic Capabilities

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- A Lockheed Martin (NYSE:
LMT) Joint Strike Fighter executive said today that the Lockheed Martin
F-35 Lightning II is living up to the originally conceived ideal of a
tri-service combat aircraft that leverages stealth technology, introduces
multi-service interoperability, achieves economies of scale to drive down
costs and strengthens important international alliances.

Tom Burbage, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
Company and general manager of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program
Integration, reviewed the F-35 operational requirement and provided his
thoughts on the game-changing technologies that are ensuring the delivery
of dramatic improvements in fighter capability envisioned when the program
was conceived more than a decade ago.

"The F-35 is designed to satisfy a very challenging operational
requirement -- to go deep into enemy territory against the most lethal
surface-to-air missile threats. The aircraft is also designed to destroy
targets through any weather while outnumbered by the most advanced
current-generation fighters equipped with highly sophisticated air-to-air
missiles," Burbage said. "The F-35 can perform that mission from any base
and at a lower cost than legacy programs. It's a daunting expectation but
we are on the way to fulfilling it."

The intent of the program was to leverage recent major national
investments in technology, introduce true service interoperability and
achieve economies of commonality and scale as legacy combat aircraft fleets
were replaced, according to Burbage.

In addition to its strategic military importance, the F-35's integrated
global production structure will promote worldwide allied collaboration and
significant maturation of the global industrial base.

"The ongoing National Security strategy to require coalition based
operations had also exposed significant capability gaps between U.S. and
allied forces equipment," said Burbage. "To address these gaps, a decision
was made to allow participation by selected nations in the development and
procurement of the JSF. The sharing of the technology capability with
allied nations implies that future coalition combat operations will be more
synergistic and much less expensive from a logistics standpoint."

Drawing upon global supply resources and strategically positioning
parts and services around the world enable our allies to expand their local
economies. The F-35 will strengthen international relationships and fortify
political ties among the United States and its allies.

The F-35 is a supersonic, multi-role, 5th generation stealth fighter.
Three F-35 variants derive from a common design. Developed together, they
use the same sustainment infrastructure worldwide. The fighter will replace
at least 13 types of aircraft for 11 nations initially, making the
Lightning II the most cost-effective fighter program in history. Two F-35s
have entered flight test, two are in ground test and 17 are in various
stages of assembly, including the first two production-model jets scheduled
for delivery to the U.S. Air Force in 2010.

F-35 and Lightning II are trademarks of Lockheed Martin Corporation.

For additional information, visit our Web site:

SOURCE Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company

President Bush Sends US-India Nuclear Deal to Congress

USIBA Galvanizes Support by Hosting Briefing Featuring US Assistant
Secretary of State Richard Boucher

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Wednesday, September
10th, US President George Bush sent the text of a proposed US-India nuclear
agreement to Congress for approval.

Today, in response to the President's actions, the US-India Business
Alliance (USIBA) and the US Congressional Task Force on US-India Trade held
a briefing on Capitol Hill with Assistant Secretary of State Richard
Boucher regarding the deal's current status.

Ambassador Boucher congratulated Mr. Sanjay Puri, President of the US
India Business Alliance (USIBA) for organizing this most timely event,
which was the first briefing to be held by the Administration on Capitol
Hill since India was given a waiver by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers'
Group (NSG) on Saturday, September 6, 2008. Recognizing the importance of
the briefing, Ambassador Boucher said, "This is where the action is,"
referring also to the fact that it is now up to Congress to get the deal
done. "We hope the legislation can be passed,"

The Chairman of the Taskforce, Rep. Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS), who also
serves as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on Asia, the
Pacific, and the Global Environment, commended USIBA for the important role
it has played in galvanizing the Indian American community. "USIBA's work
has not gone unnoticed. We will continue working in hopes of seeing this
deal through, and Mr. Puri and I will be meeting with Chairman Berman of
the Foreign Affairs Committee in the very near future for further

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and
a key Democratic leader in the US House of Representatives, stated, "Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated he would like to see this move, I
share that. It's high on the agenda even if it goes to the lame duck
session. I am confident that we will pass it."

Rep Ed Royce (R-CA), also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee,
said, "India today views the US as a reliable, dependable partner. If our
actions are to match our rhetoric, if we are truly concerned about our ally
in a tough neighborhood, now is the time to extend this helping hand."

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Chair of the Caucus on India and Indian
Americans offered a more cautious note. "Congress has received a report
from the White House and that sets the clock in motion but you can't expect
this to go through like a rifle shot. The chances are fifty-fifty. But if
it doesn't go through now, I will emphasize it doesn't mean any disrespect
for India."

"The accord will strengthen economic, military and diplomatic ties with
an emerging power and will bring a new source of energy to a fast-growing
country working to lift millions out of poverty," Sanjay Puri, President of
USIBA, said, "and USIBA is fully committed to doing its part to help get
this deal done."


The U.S.-India Business Alliance (USIBA) is a trade association based
in Washington, DC. By drawing its strength from the Indian-American
community, USIBA is recognized today as one of the most influential trade
groups working for increased commerce between the United States and India.
For more information, go to

MALDIVES: Election Eve: Electioneering In Full Swing:

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

Those who have been visiting Maldives regularly will be surprised by vast changes that have taken place in Maldives now and particularly in its capital Male. There is a free and festive atmosphere and the Presidential candidates and their parties are freely criticising the government’s policies and there has hardly been election related violence.

The Ministry of legal reform, information and arts is giving a very comprehensive update every week called the Thursday brief which not only gives the updates on the legislation that is on the pipeline, but also on the activities of various political parties without any prejudice- a remarkable change from the earlier days!

What is more, six of the Presidential contenders appeared together and attended a “question and answer” session co-ordinated by the Ministry of Information’s Think Nation Campaign and screened on state broadcaster Television Maldives. What is surprising is that President Gayoom attended the session as one of the contenders (though initially he did not want to) and freely answered questions without rancour though some of the other contenders made veiled attacks on his policies.

The participants besides Gayoom were, Anni the MDP candidate, Gasim Ibrahim, former finance minister of the JP- the Republican Party, Ibra of the SLP, Dr. Hassan Saeed of New Maldives contesting as an independent and Umar Naseer of IDP (Islamic democratic Party).

All the contenders except for one were once Gayoom’s subordinates and yet he shared the platform on an equal basis. None of the contenders, we are told (though I do not believe it) knew in advance the questions that were to be put to them. The questions were

Why have you stood for the Presidency?
Every candidate is making a lot of promises to the people while campaigning. If you win the upcoming election, what is the plan to fulfill those promises?
What is your policy to bring the benefits of tourism and fishing, the most important industries to the people?
Due to natural formation of the islands and dispersion of population, it is difficult to provide equal basic necessities such as education and health for everyone. How do you propose to provide these services equally and fairly to all?
Give the concluding remarks.
The speakers came well prepared and some like Dr. Hassan Saeed was able to provide facts and figure with ease.

Gayoom started off by saying that his dream of establishing democracy in Maldives has been realised that night. But he claimed that he on his own after realising the advances made in the field of economy, education, medical care etc., he “realised that Maldives was ready for reform and change” and that by 2004 he introduced the reform agenda. This statement will be disputed by many as he was forced to go for reforms after the prison riots of 2003 and unprecedented opposition by many in the islands. This process is now irreversible. Whatever were the circumstances that forced him to change, the fact is that in introducing a constitution that has turned the old order completely upside down, he should take the credit for his willingness to let go his firm grip on governance that he enjoyed for three decades. Gayoom made a weak argument that with Maldives, facing a lot of challenges needs someone who is experienced with the international community, someone who is known to foreign governments and trusted by them and by implication that only he fits the bill! An unjustified claim and one would wonder why Gayoom after seeing Maldives through economically and having started the irreversible changes to bring in multi party democracy should take a gamble and stand for elections for another term which is legally and morally unjustified?

Anni of MDP made an emotional statement of the sacrifices made by his party members which is true. He himself had to undergo imprisonment under harsh archaic laws and only recently the terrorism charges against him for having participated in an opposition rally were withdrawn. The credit for pushing the reform agenda goes to the MDP and not anyone else.

A new heavy weight in the form of Gasim Ibrahim has entered the fray and reports indicate that he may be a serious challenge both to Gayoom and Anni. Gasim who has the money and influence is a contender from the recently formed Republican party (JP). He claimed credit for completing the constitution within a short time, which is true.

Dr. Hassan Saeed showed his erudition by quoting statistics and argued that he would be able to do better in terms of services to the people, cut wasteful government expenditure, improve educational opportunities and health facilities. He quoted Quran frequently unlike others, may be because of some harsh criticism he experienced after his book on apostasy!

Ibra who was mainly responsible in drafting the constitution said that with his sincerity he would be in a better position to bring power to the people as specified in the constitution.

Umar Naseer of IDP, made a preposterous suggestion that the inhabitants now distributed in over 94 islands should be brought together in manageable groups so that health and educational facilities could be enjoyed by all citizens!

Election Date:

The constitution has provided 10th October as the cut off date for conducting the Presidential elections. On 25th August this position became irreversible when the Election bill was passed leaving no option to the parliament to reconsider the date. Both the SLP and the IDP had called for postponement of the elections in view of the limited time available to get all the relevant laws passed for the transition arrangements before the elections are held.

In the elections to be held under the new constitution, the president has to be elected by over 50 percent of the votes and if no candidate obtains such majority, a run off must be held within 21 days between the top two receiving the highest number. All this will have to be done before November 11 when President Gayoom completes his term.

On September 4, the interim election commission was institutionalised and Mohamed Ibrahim was appointed the chief.

The first decision the commission had to take was to fix the date of elections, keeping in view the limited time available for a possible run off. On 8 October the Election Commission announced at a news conference that he “hopes” to conduct the elections on October 4 and that he would call for filing of nominations next week. But this depended on passing three bills before that time namely the Presidential election, the General Election and the Supreme Court by the parliament. Unfortunately the Parliament sat over the bills and on the first day of sitting they were more keen to make a hefty raise in their salaries and that of other members of independent commissions and that of Supreme Court judges rather than consider these bills in all seriousness and the urgency that the bills required.

The latest we hear is that the Majlis has sent the election bill to the standing committee of on Public Affairs. It is not clear why the Majlis could not have passed the bills in time. Even if the bills are passed this week and the date fixed, there is an unknown element of some disgruntled candidates going to the Supreme Court challenging the nominations of the candidates. There is already a move to challenge Gayoom from contesting for another term in terms of Article 105 (a) of the constitution. Anni’s nomination could be challenged under article 109 (f) and (g) under a very vague involvement of a technical theft case.

The question arises - if the new President is not elected by November 11, will there be a political vacuum? There could be, but ways could be found to over come it.

China’s naval ambitions

Second chance at command of the oceans

Le Monde diplomatique.

Five hundred years ago the obvious contender for dominance of the world’s oceans was the Chinese imperial exploration fleet, which was technologically centuries ahead of all its rivals. But the emperor decided to turn the nation’s back on the sea. The Chinese will not make the same mistake twice
By Olivier Zajec

In 2006 China Central Television showed a documentary series, Daguo Jueqi (The rise of great powers) (1), which was immediately successful. It included interviews with historians and international leaders and was considered accurate enough to be bought by the History Channel and broadcast in the United States. The 12 50-minute episodes explained how the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French, British, German, Japanese, Russian and American empires rose, prospered and fell. The man behind the idea, Beijing university professor Qian Chengdan, understands its popular appeal in his own country: “It’s because China, the Chinese people, the Chinese race, has been revitalised and is once again on the world stage” (2).

Daguo Jueqi looks at the maritime achievements of the major powers in their rise to global dominance. Whatever the population, size or territory of the originating country, its strategy was always to open to the outside world, control the principal sea lanes and deep-water bases, and master technology, naval action and influence. Those are the Chinese government’s new priorities, laid down in the 2000 Maritime High Technology Plan and the parallel rise of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

Pragmatism and diplomacy
The documentary broke with decades of Chinese Communist Party historical ideology and revealed China’s current pragmatism as that of a rising power intent on avoiding the arrogant blindness that left it in a long period of weakness in the 19th century. To influence the world in a “harmonious and peaceful” manner (two key words used in current policy), to open China to the world – and the world to China – appears to be Hu Jintao’s present creed. In an unprecedented effort of naval diplomacy in 2007, Chinese warships visited French, Australian, Japanese, Singaporean, Spanish and US ports and took part in joint manoeuvres against the threat of piracy.

China’s soft-power ambitions should be put in perspective against the regional backdrop. There are also two major issues. One concerns China’s territorial claims on Taiwan and the extent of Chinese territorial waters in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). If China were to satisfy these ambitions it would gain free access to vast areas of the Pacific Ocean and Southeast Asian sea lanes beyond the Indochinese peninsula. The second issue, now that China has become the world’s second oil importer, is the protection of its energy corridors. The territorial issue will be a determining factor for the present. Beijing has succeeded in settling land border disputes with 13 of its neighbours in a friendly manner (3). Only two neighbours oppose China openly: Bhutan and India. But, according to Loïc Frouart, of the French defence ministry’s strategic affairs delegation, “those 14,500 km of maritime borders represent many possibilities for potential crisis or friction. There are many unresolved conflicts” (4). China is claiming full sovereignty over 4m sq km of water.

The Chinese authorities would like to regain their hold on Taiwan “by force if necessary”. That remains the official stance, although the election in Taiwan of Ma Ying-jeou’s Kuomintang party has reduced tensions on both sides of the straits. Along with the rapid rise of the Chinese navy and the decline, however relative, in the tonnage difference with the US navy, China is using psychological as well as military means to accompany the developments that will lead to the peaceful return of Taiwan. That involves both dissuasion and enticement. The missiles aimed at the island, and the US attitude to them, prevent Taiwan from declaring independence, while the growing economic interdependence between Taiwan and the mainland is preparing citizens for a possible Hong Kong transfer.

However, Taiwan is not the only stone in China’s vast game of maritime Go. China is also in conflict with Japan over the Diaoyu Islands (Senkaku in Japanese) near Okinawa, which house a US military base. Tokyo insists that its EEZ extends 450 km to the west of the archipelago, which Beijing contests by claiming the entire continental plateau that extends its own territory into the East China Sea. It is no coincidence that this area contains a potential 200bn cubic metres of natural gas. China is also in conflict with Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia over the Spratly Islands (Nansha in Chinese) and the Pratas archipelago (Dongsha), and with Vietnam and Taiwan over the Paracel Islands (Xisha). China is contesting maritime borders in Japan and Vietnam and disputing fishing quotas with South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Longstanding naval ambitions
We tend to forget that China has always been active in the region. In the 1950s the Chinese navy took back most of the small coastal islands controlled by Chiang Kai Shek’s nationalists. In 1974 it took advantage of South Vietnam’s defeat to occupy the Paracel Islands, and in 1988 seized the Fiery Cross reef close to the Spratly archipelago from the Vietnamese. All the countries in the region, once vassals and tributaries of the Middle Kingdom, fear Beijing’s naval ambitions.

In the 1980s the important feature of Admiral Liu Huaqing’s maritime strategy (5), before oil or fishing in the South China Seas, was to secure access to the high seas for the Chinese fleet. China needed to impose its presence to the west of a “green sea line” from Japan to Malaysia via Taiwan and the Philippines. The main contender is the Japanese navy, which China has already tested by repeated submarine incursions (including an incident with a Chinese nuclear submarine in 2004).

Now Beijing is attempting to break through this line and pass through the shallow waters of the East and South China Seas into the “blue water line” of a second basin from Japan to Indonesia via Guam, the US military air and navy hub in the West Pacific. The main obstacle to the projection of Chinese naval power as far as the deep blue line (patrolled by the US Seventh Fleet) is Taiwan. In January 2008 the Taiwanese minister of defence, Ko Chen-heng, denounced the Chinese navy’s activities in the Bashi Channel, a communications bottleneck between Taiwan and the Philippines.

Once Chinese has solved its deep-water access, the navy will be able to devote more time to securing Southeast Asia’s four energy corridors. The first carries oil tankers of under 100,000 tonnes from Africa and the Middle East to the South China Sea via the Straits of Malacca. The second takes giant oil tankers from the same production areas through the Sundra and Gaspar Straits (6), while the third leads from South America through Filipino waters.

The fourth is an alternative route from the Middle East and Africa between the Straits of Lombok and Macassar, the Philippines and the West Pacific before reaching Chinese ports. Malacca is the main stranglehold, with 80% of Chinese oil imports passing through the straits, making China vulnerable in conflict. It is diversifying its access by developing the rail networks connecting Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) nations, finalising the direct Chinese-Burmese pipeline between Sittwe and Kunming (7), assisting in the development of offshore natural gas production capacity in Southeast Asia (especially in Burma and Thailand), and even considering the construction of a canal across the Kra isthmus in southern Thailand, in a region threatened by separatist insurgencies.

Pearl necklace strategy
These projects are difficult and will only partly reduce China’s dependence on the corridors. The need to secure them against piracy and the ambitions (real or imaginary) of the US, Japan and India, has led China to reinforce its deep-water naval strategy. Beijing is building a “pearl necklace” of permanent Chinese bases along the shores of the Indian Ocean and the maritime routes to Malacca: Marao in the Maldives, Coco island in Burma, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Gwadar in Pakistan, while waiting to create coastal bases in Africa, now open to Chinese investment. China has no shortage of workers or funds to organise and maintain operational bases in allied countries. It even offers ships to those countries to protect their offshore oil (8).

Apart from the US, which believes the Pacific will be a major strategic area for the next 50 years, China has two serious rivals: India and Japan. India and China, the two largest countries in demographic terms, have long been wary of each other – not least, in India’s view, because China supports Pakistan over Kashmir and continues to supply Islamabad with weapons. India aspires to the same status as China (a regional power with a global vocation) and has maritime ambitions to match. Its fleet is growing and its stated strategic goal is to make the Indian Ocean its own sea. Beijing’s pearl necklace strategy is an intrusion.

To stake its claim, India is building two aircraft carriers, the first of which should be operational in 2010, while a third, second-hand from Russia, is being overhauled. India’s submarine fleet uses French technology (Scorpène submarines) of a superior quality to the Chinese equivalent. The two countries are in a mutual observation phase and studiously avoid any conflict. There has been recent progress in relations between the two navies and joint manoeuvres since the countries signed a strategic partnership in April 2005.

Sino-Japanese relations have been through a tense period. The Japanese fleet is powerful and more modern than the Chinese, and has taken part in joint manoeuvres with the US navy for years. But the conflict over the Senkaku Islands revealed a nervous country, encumbered by its post-second world war pacifist constitution, now criticised by a nationalist faction. Japan is undecided as to how to handle China. Nor are Japan and India alone in their concerns about Chinese pressure. Smaller countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore are rapidly strengthening and modernising their own fleets. They are afraid that, with the US bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Chinese will hold sway in the region, and a passing situation may become permanent.

Shipyards work overtime
Chinese shipyards are seizing the opportunity and working flat out from the Yellow Sea to the South China Sea. The naval bases, river ports, sea walls, protected submarine bases (including the new Sanya nuclear base on Hainan Island) are growing and modernising as befits a nation in economic boom, whose foreign trade depends 90% on sea routes. In 2006 China’s sea-related industries accounted for 10% of GDP and seven of the world’s 20 leading ports were Chinese. Chinese efforts have civilian as well as military goals. Along with the naval construction, the maritime high technology plan is financing parallel projects to consolidate the fleet’s autonomy, such as a satellite-based geopositioning system called Beidou, maritime surveillance systems and more shipyards.

In 1995 China became the world’s third civilian shipbuilder after Japan and Korea and is catching up fast. With its two gigantic enterprises, China State Shipbuilding Corporation and China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, China stands every chance of becoming the world’s largest shipbuilder by 2020. The Chinese national plan does not distinguish between civilian and military vessels and both are built in the same shipyards.

World tonnage ranking

The world’s eight leading naval fleets Tonnes
United States 2,900,000
Russia 1,100,000
China 850,000
United Kingdom 470,000
Japan 432,000
France 307,000
India 240,000
Italy 143,000

(Source: Annuaire des Flottes de Combat, 2008)

China’s fifth national defence white paper in 2006 (9) provided a framework for the maritime awareness that emerged in the early 1990s. It transferred priority from the army, which traditionally held pride of place, to the navy and air force. The CCP’s Central Committee and its powerful Central Military Commission, now have many more naval and air force officers (10). In 2007 these were nearly 25% of the military elite, compared with 14% in 1992.

No expense has been spared. China’s three fleets (the East Sea Fleet headquartered in Shanghai, the South Sea Fleet based in Zhanjiang and the North Sea Fleet in Qingdao), each have their own naval airbase with bombers and fighter planes. More modern systems have been delivered, such as the Luyang anti-aircraft destroyers, or the locally built Ma’anshan frigate, successor to the Jiangwei of the 1990s. China had more than 500 coastal patrol boats at the end of the 1970s; half remain in use today but the deep-water fleet has increased to 60 vessels (11).

A considerable effort has also been made in amphibious vessels with some hundred ships under construction to make Chinese ambitions in the Spratly Islands or Taiwan a reality. Minesweepers, ballistic missile patrol ships and new oil tankers are also on order. There is no shortage of foreign help, from Australian wave-piercing catamarans, to Russian Sovremenny destroyers and Kilo submarines, Italian and French combat systems and Dutch naval guns. China imports, copies, adapts and often, to the surprise of its suppliers, improves, the equipment it wants. In some areas such as electronic warfare, or the most efficient engines and onboard combat systems, China depends on foreign, especially Russian, supplies.

Key role of submarines
Submarines play a key part in China’s global maritime programme. Despite persistent rumours concerning the refurbishing of the Varyag, bought from the Russians and in a shipyard for years, China does not have a single aircraft carrier, and only modern submarines could hope to dissuade the US Seventh Fleet which still guards Taiwan from its bases in Guam, Japan and South Korea. The Chinese fleet is reputed to have five fast-attack nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) and one ballistic missile submarine (SLBN) reputed to carry between 12 and 16 nuclear missiles with a range of 3,500km. It has 30 diesel-electric submarines and more than 20 other submersibles are under construction.

The US Seventh Fleet is concerned by this arsenal and admirals are petitioning Congress and the White House, claiming that the Chinese submarine fleet will exceed the number of US ships in the Pacific by 2020. Influential people, such as US Congressman Duncan Hunter (12), have recently raised the issue. Chinese SSNs carried out more patrols in 2007 than in the preceding five years. These concerns are reflected in the Pentagon’s annual report on the strength of the Chinese military (13) but they need to be placed in perspective. No one really knows what the performance of the best Chinese submarines may be, and it is possibly poor.

The US navy has 53 modern SSNs, twice the number of any other nation, as well as 12 of the world’s 15 aircraft carriers, and an unrivalled anti-submarine air fleet. The last issue of the US publication Quadrennial Defence Review (14) is more subdued in tone and discusses cooperation rather than confrontation. The situation in the South China Sea is not a declared arms race but a variable geometry opposition between the Indian, US, Australian and Japanese fleets, and the Chinese and Pakistani fleets.

China’s maritime ambitions are the result of the frustration of a nation that should have gained world dominance during its first globalisation 500 years ago, but was usurped by western barbarians. China had mastered astronomic observation-based navigation and the compass, had invented the anchor, the printing of marine navigation charts, the capstan, the adjustable centre-board, and was probably building giant multi-mast ships with pivotable rigging (15). Their junks had watertight compartments and stern-mounted rudders. All these were innovations that would be perfected by the West and used to humiliate China.

During the Ming dynasty (1358-1644), China turned away from the high seas and its great 15th century expeditions, in the most amazing of which the eunuch-admiral Zhang He had led the emperor’s 300-strong fleet to explore the world’s oceans (16). Building ocean-going vessels became punishable by death. That mistake has been taken on board and the glories of the maritime past are now cherished. The official website for promoting China’s presence in Africa tells the story of Mwamaka Shariff Lali, a young woman from Lamu Island, Kenya – where Ming dynasty porcelain shards are built in to local constructions – who is, by oral tradition and appearance, a descendent of Chinese sailors shipwrecked on the island before China withdrew from the oceans. She was offered a free place at a Chinese university and invited to celebrate “Zheng He navigation day” in Jiangsu province, the departure point for the imperial fleet (17).

The US has increased initiatives for exchange and cooperation with the Indian and Japanese navies as well as the Chinese, in an attempt to control its massive expansion as best it can. The most recent US gambit was the 2007 Global Maritime Partnership Initiative, under which each ally, including China, was invited to contribute to a thousand-ship fleet to combat piracy. Yang Yi, the director of the National Defence University’s institute for strategic studies, was not convinced that China would accept such a proposition before identifying ulterior motives and longterm implications (18).

China wants to prevent anything from stealing its second chance in history to emerge as a global and sovereign maritime power. China has not forgotten the Opium War, nor the sack of the Summer Palace (19), and will no longer tolerate threats or constraints. It is taking precautions. Even though it is still a long way from surpassing the dominant US navy, it is guided by history and each new naval accomplishment acquires a symbolic value. In 1989 the first PLAN ship to visit the US was a training vessel. It was called the Zhang He.

Translated by Krystyna Horko

Olivier Zajec is a researcher at the Compagnie européenne d’intelligence stratégique (CEIS) in Paris

(1) See the home page for the series (in Chinese) on ...

(2) Joseph Kahn, “China, shy giant, shows signs of shedding its false modesty”, The New York Times, 9 December 2006.

(3) Afghanistan, Burma, Bhutan, North Korea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Vietnam.

(4) La Revue de défense nationale et de sécurité collective, Paris, May 2007.

(5) Liu Huaqing was also the first chief naval commander to make an official visit to the US in 1985.

(6) The Sundra Strait is between the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra, while the Gaspar Strait separates Bangka and Belitung islands, also in Indonesia.

(7) Sittwe is on the west coast of Burma and Kunming is a river port in Yunnan province, south China.

(8) In October 2007 China supplied Cambodia with nine patrol boats to protect its oil installations in the Gulf of Thailand. See Defense News, International Edition, Springfield (Virginia), 18 February 2008.

(9) The first Chinese white paper was published in 1998.

(10) See Li Cheng and Scott W Harold, “China’s new military elite”, China Security, vol 3, no 4,Washington, Autumn 2007.

(11) A ship is considered ocean-going from 2,000 tonnes.

(12) Duncan Hunter is a Republican Congressman (California) who regularly defends US industry and defence budgets.

(13) See 07052.... Many American and European analysts have condemned the alarmist tone of the report, without however, denying Chinese advances.

(14) The Quadrennial Defence Review (QDR) published by US Department of Defence, describes US defence strategy over a 20-year period and is updated every four years.

(15) UCLA Centre for Chinese Studies, na

(16) Admiral Zheng He made seven sea voyages between 1405 and 1433. See Attilio Jesus, “China’s empire of exploration ”, Le Monde diplomatique, English edition, September 2005.

(17) The Chinafrique website, in English, French and Chinese, provides other edifying articles, such as “The Chinese Prime Minister shakes the hands of African AIDS patients”, “The happy life of a Congolese in Beijing”, “China has made me rich”, “Friendship first, trade second”, “China could never be labelled neo-colonial”, etc.

(18) China Security, op cit.

(19) The two Opium Wars, for the purpose of imposing the drug on China, were first led by the British alone (1839-1842) and then by a Franco-British alliance (1858-1860), which resulted in the sack of the emperor’s Summer Palace in October 1860. See Victor Hugo’s letter to Captain Butler reproduced in the Unesco Courier, November 1985.

Israel deliberately forgets its history

Le Monde diplomatique.

Zionist nationalist myth of enforced exile

An Israeli historian suggests the diaspora was the consequence, not of the expulsion of the Hebrews from Palestine, but of proselytising across north Africa, southern Europe and the Middle East
By Schlomo Sand

Every Israeli knows that he or she is the direct and exclusive descendant of a Jewish people which has existed since it received the Torah (1) in Sinai. According to this myth, the Jews escaped from Egypt and settled in the Promised Land, where they built the glorious kingdom of David and Solomon, which subsequently split into the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. They experienced two exiles: after the destruction of the first temple, in the 6th century BC, and of the second temple, in 70 AD.

Two thousand years of wandering brought the Jews to Yemen, Morocco, Spain, Germany, Poland and deep into Russia. But, the story goes, they always managed to preserve blood links between their scattered communities. Their uniqueness was never compromised.

At the end of the 19th century conditions began to favour their return to their ancient homeland. If it had not been for the Nazi genocide, millions of Jews would have fulfilled the dream of 20 centuries and repopulated Eretz Israel, the biblical land of Israel. Palestine, a virgin land, had been waiting for its original inhabitants to return and awaken it. It belonged to the Jews, rather than to an Arab minority that had no history and had arrived there by chance. The wars in which the wandering people reconquered their land were just; the violent opposition of the local population was criminal.

This interpretation of Jewish history was developed as talented, imaginative historians built on surviving fragments of Jewish and Christian religious memory to construct a continuous genealogy for the Jewish people. Judaism’s abundant historiography encompasses many different approaches.

But none have ever questioned the basic concepts developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Discoveries that might threaten this picture of a linear past were marginalised. The national imperative rejected any contradiction of or deviation from the dominant story. University departments exclusively devoted to “the history of the Jewish people”, as distinct from those teaching what is known in Israel as general history, made a significant contribution to this selective vision. The debate on what constitutes Jewishness has obvious legal implications, but historians ignored it: as far as they are concerned, any descendant of the people forced into exile 2,000 years ago is a Jew.

Nor did these official investigators of the past join the controversy provoked by the “new historians” from the late 1980s. Most of the limited number of participants in this public debate were from other disciplines or non-academic circles: sociologists, orientalists, linguists, geographers, political scientists, literary academics and archaeologists developed new perspectives on the Jewish and Zionist past. Departments of Jewish history remained defensive and conservative, basing themselves on received ideas. While there have been few significant developments in national history over the past 60 years (a situation unlikely to change in the short term), the facts that have emerged face any honest historian with fundamental questions.

Founding myths shaken
Is the Bible a historical text? Writing during the early half of the 19th century, the first modern Jewish historians, such as Isaak Markus Jost (1793-1860) and Leopold Zunz (1794-1886), did not think so. They regarded the Old Testament as a theological work reflecting the beliefs of Jewish religious communities after the destruction of the first temple. It was not until the second half of the century that Heinrich Graetz (1817-91) and others developed a “national” vision of the Bible and transformed Abraham’s journey to Canaan, the flight from Egypt and the united kingdom of David and Solomon into an authentic national past. By constant repetition, Zionist historians have subsequently turned these Biblical “truths” into the basis of national education.

But during the 1980s an earthquake shook these founding myths. The discoveries made by the “new archaeology” discredited a great exodus in the 13th century BC. Moses could not have led the Hebrews out of Egypt into the Promised Land, for the good reason that the latter was Egyptian territory at the time. And there is no trace of either a slave revolt against the pharaonic empire or of a sudden conquest of Canaan by outsiders.

Nor is there any trace or memory of the magnificent kingdom of David and Solomon. Recent discoveries point to the existence, at the time, of two small kingdoms: Israel, the more powerful, and Judah, the future Judea. The general population of Judah did not go into 6th century BC exile: only its political and intellectual elite were forced to settle in Babylon. This decisive encounter with Persian religion gave birth to Jewish monotheism.

Then there is the question of the exile of 70 AD. There has been no real research into this turning point in Jewish history, the cause of the diaspora. And for a simple reason: the Romans never exiled any nation from anywhere on the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean. Apart from enslaved prisoners, the population of Judea continued to live on their lands, even after the destruction of the second temple. Some converted to Christianity in the 4th century, while the majority embraced Islam during the 7th century Arab conquest.

Most Zionist thinkers were aware of this: Yitzhak Ben Zvi, later president of Israel, and David Ben Gurion, its first prime minister, accepted it as late as 1929, the year of the great Palestinian revolt. Both stated on several occasions that the peasants of Palestine were the descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Judea (2).

Proselytising zeal
But if there was no exile after 70 AD, where did all the Jews who have populated the Mediterranean since antiquity come from? The smokescreen of national historiography hides an astonishing reality. From the Maccabean revolt of the mid-2nd century BC to the Bar Kokhba revolt of the 2nd century AD, Judaism was the most actively proselytising religion. The Judeo-Hellenic Hasmoneans forcibly converted the Idumeans of southern Judea and the Itureans of Galilee and incorporated them into the people of Israel. Judaism spread across the Middle East and round the Mediterranean. The 1st century AD saw the emergence in modern Kurdistan of the Jewish kingdom of Adiabene, just one of many that converted.

The writings of Flavius Josephus are not the only evidence of the proselytising zeal of the Jews. Horace, Seneca, Juvenal and Tacitus were among the Roman writers who feared it. The Mishnah and the Talmud (3) authorised conversion, even if the wise men of the Talmudic tradition expressed reservations in the face of the mounting pressure from Christianity.

Although the early 4th century triumph of Christianity did not mark the end of Jewish expansion, it relegated Jewish proselytism to the margins of the Christian cultural world. During the 5th century, in modern Yemen, a vigorous Jewish kingdom emerged in Himyar, whose descendants preserved their faith through the Islamic conquest and down to the present day. Arab chronicles tell of the existence, during the 7th century, of Judaised Berber tribes; and at the end of the century the legendary Jewish queen Dihya contested the Arab advance into northwest Africa. Jewish Berbers participated in the conquest of the Iberian peninsula and helped establish the unique symbiosis between Jews and Muslims that characterised Hispano-Arabic culture.

The most significant mass conversion occurred in the 8th century, in the massive Khazar kingdom between the Black and Caspian seas. The expansion of Judaism from the Caucasus into modern Ukraine created a multiplicity of communities, many of which retreated from the 13th century Mongol invasions into eastern Europe. There, with Jews from the Slavic lands to the south and from what is now modern Germany, they formed the basis of Yiddish culture (4).

Prism of Zionism
Until about 1960 the complex origins of the Jewish people were more or less reluctantly acknowledged by Zionist historiography. But thereafter they were marginalised and finally erased from Israeli public memory. The Israeli forces who seized Jerusalem in 1967 believed themselves to be the direct descendents of the mythic kingdom of David rather than – God forbid – of Berber warriors or Khazar horsemen. The Jews claimed to constitute a specific ethnic group that had returned to Jerusalem, its capital, from 2,000 years of exile and wandering.

This monolithic, linear edifice is supposed to be supported by biology as well as history. Since the 1970s supposedly scientific research, carried out in Israel, has desperately striven to demonstrate that Jews throughout the world are closely genetically related.

Research into the origins of populations now constitutes a legitimate and popular field in molecular biology and the male Y chromosome has been accorded honoured status in the frenzied search for the unique origin of the “chosen people”. The problem is that this historical fantasy has come to underpin the politics of identity of the state 
of Israel. By validating an essentialist, 
ethnocentric definition of Judaism it encourages a segregation that separates Jews from non-Jews – whether Arabs, Russian immigrants or foreign workers.

Sixty years after its foundation, Israel refuses to accept that it should exist for the sake of its citizens. For almost a quarter of the population, who are not regarded as Jews, this is not their state legally. At the same time, Israel presents itself as the homeland of Jews throughout the world, even if these are no longer persecuted refugees, but the full and equal citizens of other countries.

A global ethnocracy invokes the myth of the eternal nation, reconstituted on the land of its ancestors, to justify internal discrimination against its own citizens. It will remain difficult to imagine a new Jewish history while the prism of Zionism continues to fragment everything into an ethnocentric spectrum. But Jews worldwide have always tended to form religious communities, usually by conversion; they cannot be said to share an ethnicity derived from a unique origin and displaced over 20 centuries of wandering.

The development of historiography and the evolution of modernity were consequences of the invention of the nation state, which preoccupied millions during the 19th and 20th centuries. The new millennium has seen these dreams begin to shatter.

And more and more academics are analysing, dissecting and deconstructing the great national stories, especially the myths of common origin so dear to chroniclers of the past.

Shlomo Sand is professor of history at Tel Aviv university and the author of Comment le people juif fut inventé (Fayard, Paris, 2008)

Translated by Donald Hounam

(1) The Torah, from the Hebrew root yara (to teach) is the founding text of Judaism. It consists of the first five books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

(2) See David Ben Gurion and Yitzhak Ben Zvi, Eretz Israel in the past and present, 1918 (in Yiddish), and Jerusalem, 1980 (in Hebrew); Yitzhak Ben Zvi, Our population in the country, Executive Committee of the Union for Youth and the Jewish National Fund, Warsaw, 1929 (in Hebrew).

(3) The Mishnah, regarded as the first work of rabbinic literature, was drawn up around 200 AD. The Talmud is a synthesis of rabbinic discussions on the law, customs and history of the Jews. The Palestinian Talmud was written between the 3rd and 5th centuries; the Babylonian Talmud was compiled at the end of the 5th century.

(4) Yiddish, spoken by the Jews of eastern Europe, was a Germano-Slavic language incorporating Hebrew words.

Bernard-Henri Lévy: Big brains and a hairy chest

Sep 11th 2008
From The Economist print edition

IT IS, or was, fashionable to look down on Bernard-Henri Lévy, a French writer and intellectual. The left tends to despise him for questioning its idols. It doesn’t help that he is rich, talks intelligibly and has a beautiful wife. The right condescends to him for being vain, glib and writing too many books.

So it was satisfying for Mr Lévy to get a begging call from Nicolas Sarkozy last year when he was running for the French presidency. The two men knew each other from Mr Sarkozy’s former constituency, Neuilly, on the edge of Paris, where Mr Lévy lives and votes. As France’s star intello de gauche, could Mr Lévy write “a nice article” endorsing him? No, he couldn’t, Mr Lévy told him. The left was his family. “Your family?” Mr Sarkozy retorted, “These people who’ve spent 30 years telling you to go fuck yourself?” Mr Lévy held firm. Despite everything, he still belonged on the left.

On hanging up, he asked himself why. “Left in Dark Times” is his answer, a mixture of political autobiography, polemic and plea. Four 20th-century episodes fixed Mr Lévy’s general outlook: the Dreyfus affair, France’s wartime Vichy government, the Algerian war and les évènements of May 1968. Those are markers for the “isms” he learned to detest: populism, fascism, colonialism and authoritarianism. He has proud memories of the left. His father fought fascism in Spain in the 1930s. He himself saw left-wing soldiers end Portugal’s dictatorship in 1975.

Other memories make him ashamed of the left: encounters with Indian Maoists who had just shot dead several landowners, or with Mexican and Italian nihilists threatening to shoot him for apostasy. His most shaming memory is Bosnia, whose war he filmed and which he thinks the West, particularly the Western left, betrayed.

In his polemic he attacks the six principal claims of the influential anti-global left. Liberalism is not, Mr Lévy counters, just the free market: human rights and democracy matter too. Europe is not, or not only, a capitalistic machine. The United States is not a semi-fascist country. Humanitarian intervention is not an imperialist ploy. Israel is not to blame for anti-Semitism, which is serious and growing. Militant Islamism is not the West’s fault but a homegrown scourge that threatens the West much as fascism did.

He ends with a plea for the “universal values” of human rights and democracy. He is less for multicultural tolerance than for secularism. By that he means keeping moral and religious demands, where possible, out of politics. The left he would like to belong to is not dreamy about the world. It knows how bad things can get. It accepts that there is evil. He wants a “melancholic” not a “lyrical” left.

Mr Lévy’s essay deserves attention despite notable faults. He writes in bloggese, the underedited, all-in-one-breath style of webchat. For the business-school mind, it is too much about ideas, not policy management. Nor will it detain party politicians, keener to win power than to take stands. But ideas and taking stands matter too. Politics needs intellectuals. In modern times the brainy left provided most of the mental opposition up to the 1960s or so. The right’s eggheads then took over. It is the left’s turn again in Mr Lévy’s view. First, though, its intellectuals need to grow up.

China Unmasked – What Next?

by Bhaskar Roy

As India won the Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG) waiver to conduct civilian nuclear trade with other countries, there was another victory in the making on the stage in Vienna. It was the unmasking of China’s “denial and deception” strategy in conducting affairs of the state.

Multilateral negotiations are usually long drawn. There are lobbies through which forces are aligned between supporters and opponents. Partners are won or lost. All this is fair.

But what is blatantly unfair is when one party gives its word to another at the highest level and then lets it down at the last deal of hand. This is the surest way of kicking an agreement. This is the dirtiest move in international diplomacy that a major country could descend to.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, in India this week for the inauguration of the Chinese Consulate General in Kolkata and also as part of high level bilateral contacts, tried desperately to defend China’s position at the NSG meeting. Mr. Yang continued to repeat one sentence only, that China had played a “constructive” role and did not oppose India. But nobody believed him, obviously.

China’s attempt to scuttle the deal at the NSG needs further elaboration. Some western diplomats attending the meeting, informed the media on conditions of anonymity that China hoped to use the last three opponents of the agreement namely New Zealand, Austria and Ireland to kill the deal. But when these three crumbled, China, in a last desperate effort, showed its hand openly that September 5 evening.

The Chinese delegation quietly walked out of the NSG meeting around 12 midnight signaling the demise of the India specific waiver. It is not in the general realm of Chinese diplomacy to stand alone against a large international opinion. In the NSG, it has to be a consensus decision and even one abstention means the motion is defeated.

The call from US President George W. Bush and the demarche from the Indian government in the early hours of September 6 made China realize the price of scuttling the deal may be very heavy to pay. Beijing fell in line.

In India, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang sought a “face saving” exit for his country. That was given graciously from EAM Pranab Mukherjee downwards. The media did not harangue Mr.Yang, either. But for the first time, China’s high handed approach was met by India reading out the riot act, albeit politely.

China’s final position had become quite clear when the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily of September 1 conveyed its opposition to the India waiver in a sharply worded commentary. A People’s Daily commentary supersedes whatever the Foreign Ministry says in China’s political hierarchy. The Communist Party is supreme in China.

The People’s Daily commentary stated that the India-US nuclear deal will be a “major blow to international non-proliferation regime”. For China, allowing India into the nuclear fold by the international regime has multiple implications. Notwithstanding that, a brief look at China’s proliferation activities especially when it is professing itself as an anti-proliferation Brahmin may expose its rather diabolical non-proliferation pledge.

China signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1992. In 1991, they assured the USA they would abide by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) guide lines. While loudly touting their positions, Chinese-made nuclear capable M-11 missiles were found in Pakistan’s Sargoda airbase. In May 1990, according to western authorities like Thomas Reed and others, Pakistan’s first nuclear device made with Chinese assistance, was tested in China’s Lop Nor test site.

Throughout the 1990s till early 2004, China transferred nuclear warhead and missile technology and equipment to Pakistan. It facilitated centrifuge technology transfer from Pakistan to North Korea and Nodong missile technology and design from North Korea to Pakistan.

It has also been known that transfers between Pakistan and North Korea were carried by aircraft of “Shaheen” airlines, a subsidiary of nuclear scientist Dr.A.Q.Khan’s “Khan Research Laboratory” (KRL) in Pakistan, a nuclear weapons research establishment. These flights refueled in Chinese airports, but publicly available flight manifests did not show these flights. Intrepid western researchers have documented much of these activities.

China’s illegal nuclear and missile assistance to Pakistan has reduced to a great extent. The reason is that the Chinese have equipped Pakistan with technology and training, equipment production facilities and testing resources. As of today, it is reported by credible sources that China is helping Pakistan with improved weight-yield ration of nuclear warheads/bombs i.e. miniaturising, guidance system for missiles and telemetry among others. As always, China may deny all of the above but it has lost all credibility in non-proliferation among international institutions. That details are not revealed rests in the west’s economic and commercial dealings with China.

Relations between any two countries like China and Pakistan are legitimate. Pakistan has its own defence requirement and has sovereign right to procure military assistance from China and have any kind of alliance with China. But all such dealings must remain in the conventional military area as per international non-proliferation regimes. China has acceded to all international non-proliferation regimes but, at the same time, violated all of them.

At the NSG meeting, China had one fall-back compromise to offer. That is, Pakistan must be given the same exemption that India was being given. A preposterous suggestion on all counts, given Pakistan’s proliferation record, but China was serious. This position was not new.

China has always worked to maintain a military parity between India and Pakistan. Viewed from the strategic angle of cold war years, Pakistan became China’s nuclear weapons base in South Asia threatening India, much in the same way European countries like West Germany were nuclear forward bases of the US and NATO against the Soviet union during the cold war. China’s Pakistan base is being strengthened both through modernized strategic arsenal and highly improved conventional systems especially JF-17 joint fighter aircraft – the developing world’s F-16.

Pakistan’s newly elected President Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to visit China next week. True to tradition, Zardari will be making China his first overseas destination as President of Pakistan. Media reports from Pakistan say an MoU may be signed between the two sides during this visit on a nuclear cooperation arrangement much on the lines of the US-India deal. This, of course, brings up the question of NPT.

Pakistan is not a signatory to the NPT. Therefore, China cannot transfer technology on the trigger list and other such technologies to Pakistan under NSG rules. Clandestine transfer apart, is China moving to persuade Pakistan to sign the NPT to create a new issue to try and stonewall India in due course? After all, Pakistan’s nuclear policy is guided by China.

While not much is clear yet, a move to bring Pakistan to a new non-proliferation level cannot be ruled out. The US and most other NSG members may not agree to give Pakistan the same status as India’s. But if Islamabad opts to sign the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), China could launch a new fusillade against India in the international non-proliferation club. This scenario cannot be ruled out as a midsummer night’s dream. Experts need to dwell on this sooner rather than later. This signal can, perhaps, be read in Prof. Shen Dingli’s observation to the official China Daily of September 9. Pro. Shen, Director of the Fudan (Shanghai) University is American Studies Centre, said that steps should be taken to update some of the NPT regulations and there should be more stringent inspections (read intrusive) on non-NSG members for civilian use of nuclear energy. Shen Dingli is an influential member of the Chinese government’s foreign policy core group.

Non-proliferation crusaders like Daryl Kimball have lately made statements which defy intellectual decency. Kimball has publicly stated that the Indian Prime Minister “lied” to his Parliament and the people of India on the Indo-US nuclear deal. He has accused India of having a history of proliferation, while almost the entire world has saluted India’s non-proliferation record. Surprisingly, this anti-proliferation knight has little to say about the well known proliferation records of China and Pakistan. This is still a mystery. It is, however, well known that lobbyists need financial sustenance and speak on dictated lines. More need not be said.

What will be China’s next move? Most probably, as Chairman Mao Zedong wrote “Two steps forward, one step backward”, which means only tactical retreat. India must ready itself for a new tango with China. The Indian government has decided to move on. Geography has blessed or condemned the two countries to share a 4000 kms border, but with disputes. But the two also need each other. India is no longer a push over.

The People’s Republic of China has lost a lot of points in the trust department among the Indian people. So have China’s supporters in India.

(The author is an eminent China analyst with many years of experience of study on the developments in China. He can be reached at