October 09, 2010



The award of the Nobel Peace Prize on October 8,2010, to the imprisoned Chinese political dissident Liu Xiaobo, the co- author of Charter 08, a pro-democracy manifesto signed by more than 300 prominent Chinese scholars, writers, and activists and published online on Dec. 10, 2008—the 60th anniversary of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights---- could be counter-productive.

2.The Charter, emulating Charter 77 issued by dissidents in Soviet-era Czechoslovakia, calls for the implementation of the guarantees of China’s Constitution and for institutions in China upholding democratic reforms, human rights, and the rule of law. It warns of national disaster in the absence of political change and makes 19 recommendations to improve human rights in China, including the establishment of an independent judiciary, freedom of association and an end to one-party rule.

3. Istead of embarrassing the Chinese political leadership, the award has made it defiant as could be seen from the writings in the Chinese media condemning the award, which is seen as politically motivated. The Communist Party-controlled "Global Times" wrote in an editorial on October 9: "The controversy in the West over Liu Xiaobo's sentence is not based on legal concerns. They are trying to impose Western values on China. Obviously, the Nobel Peace Prize this year is meant to irritate China, but it will not succeed. On the contrary, the committee disgraced itself. The award however makes it clearer that it is difficult for China to win applause from the West during China's development, and China needs to be more determined and confident in choosing its own development path, which is different from Western approach.
The Nobel committee made an unwise choice, but it and the political force it represents cannot dictate China's future growth.
China's success story speaks louder than the Nobel Peace Prize."

4. The award is also seen as another attempt to humiliate China similar to the attempt made before the Beijing Olympics of August,2008, to organise a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Games as a mark of Western disapproval of alleged human rights violations in China. The boycott move failed partly because the then US President George Bush was opposed to any boycott which could be seen as a Western-inspired humiliation of China and partly because the indignant Chinese people called for a boycott of Western goods and Western departmental stores in China.

5. In an article, the same issue of the "Global Times" quotes Shi Yinhong, a Professor in the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, as saying as follows: "The Nobel committee claims to be independent, but its decision to award the peace prize to Liu strategically caters to anti-China forces.The decision is aimed at humiliating China.Such a decision will not only draw the ire of the Chinese public, but also damage the reputation of the prize. "

6. The award is badly timed because it has come in the midst of a debate in China on the need for political re-structuring as a follow-up to the economic re-structuring which the country has undergone with great benefit since Deng Xiao-ping opened up the Chinese economy in 1978. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has been in the forefront of this debate and has been increasingly articulate in calling for greater transparency in governance and greater freedom of speech which would allow constructive criticism of the way China is governed. Advocates of political re-structuring have been pointing out that ultimately the economic re-structuring would have to be followed up by political re-structuring at an opportune time when the political opening-up would not lead to political and economic instability.

7. The confidence gained by the political leadership as a result of the successful handling of the economic crisis, which had led to the closure of a large number of export industries and consequent loss of millions of jobs, has encouraged the debate on the need for taking up the task of political re-structuring envisaged by Deng himself. An article carried by the "Global Times" on August 23 pointed out: "Wen's remarks about political reform (at Shenzhen) came 30 years after the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping first raised the issue during an important speech on August 18, 1980, which was regarded as "the programmatic document for China's political restructuring."

8. Thus, the current debate on the need for political reforms is seen as nothing but the beginning of the implementation of a promise made by Deng himself in 1980. When Wen and others speak of the need for political reforms, they do not mean the winding-up of the one-party rule as fondly hoped for by human rights activists in the West, but the identification and eradication of the negative aspects of the one-party rule. When Wen talks of the need for freedom of speech , he means freedom to constructively criticise Government policies and working instead of having to implicitly support them. How to have public accountability under a one-party rule? That is one of the questions being posed during this debate.

9. It would have been in the interest of the West to let this debate develop and result in a genuine re-structuring of the political set-up in China. Instead, by giving the award to a dissident who has only limited following inside China and calling for political reforms, the Nobel Committee and those supporting its award would only strengthen the hands of those who are opposing any political restructuring of the Chinese set-up.

10. The Chinese leadership and people are fearful of any instability which could wipe out the considerable economic gains made by the country since 1978. The decision of the Nobel Committee to honour the dissident at a time of transition in China from economic to political re-structuring could rekindle fears of an externally-inspired attempt to destabilise the country. The ultimate losers will be the advocates of political re-structuring. ( 9-10-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

October 08, 2010

Is Pakistan falling apart?

It has suffered disaster after disaster. Its people have lived through crisis upon crisis. Its leaders are unwilling or unable to act. But is it really the failed state that many believe?

By Patrick Cockburn


Is Pakistan disintegrating? Are the state and society coming apart under the impact of successive political and natural disasters? The country swirls with rumours about the fall of the civilian government or even a military coup. The great Indus flood has disappeared from the headlines at home and abroad, though millions of farmers are squatting in the ruins of their villages. The US is launching its heaviest-ever drone attacks on targets in the west of the country, and Pakistan closed the main US and Nato supply route through the Khyber Pass after US helicopters crossed the border and killed Pakistani soldiers.

Pakistan is undoubtedly in a bad way, but it is also a country with more than 170 million people, a population greater than Russia's, and is capable of absorbing a lot of punishment. It is a place of lop-sided development. It possesses nuclear weapons but children were suffering from malnutrition even before the floods. Electricity supply is intermittent so industrialists owning textile mills in Punjab complain that they have to use their own generators to stay in business. Highways linking cities are impressive, but the driver who turns off the road may soon find himself bumping along a farmer's track. The 617,000-strong army is one of the strongest in the world, but the government has failed to eliminate polio or malaria. Everybody agrees that higher education must be improved if Pakistan is to compete in the modern world, but the universities have been on strike because their budgets had been cut and they could not pay their staff.

The problem for Pakistan is not that the country is going to implode or sink into anarchy, but that successive crises do not produce revolutionary or radical change. A dysfunctional and corrupt state, part-controlled by the army, staggers on and continues to misgovern the country. The merry-go-round of open or veiled military rule alternates with feeble civilian governments. But power stays in the hands of an English-speaking élite that inherited from the British rulers of the Raj a sense of superiority over the rest of the population.

The present government might just squeak through the post-flood crisis because of its weakness rather than its strength. The military has no reason to replace it formally since the generals already control security policy at home and abroad, as well as foreign policy and anything else they deem important to their interests. The ambition of the Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, in the next few weeks is to try to fight off the demand by the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, that the legal immunity of President Asif Ali Zardari should be lifted. Mr Zardari, who owes his position to having been the husband of Benazir Bhutto, assassinated in 2007, has a well-established (though unproven) reputation for corruption during his pre-presidential days. Whatever the outcome of the struggle with the Supreme Court, Mr Zardari is scarcely in a position to stand up to the military leaders who may find it convenient to have such a discredited civilian leader nominally in power.

The military have ruled Pakistan for more than half the time since independence in 1947, but their control has never been quite absolute. The soldiers have never managed to put the politicians and the political parties permanently out of business, so the balance between military and non-military still counts. But there is no doubt about which way the struggle is going. A decisive moment came on 24 July this year when General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief of staff, was reappointed for another three-year term. The US embassy in Islamabad is said by foreign diplomats and Pakistani officials to have protested vigorously but unavailingly to Washington. It said that keeping General Kayani in place would inflict a fatal wound on democracy and demonstrate that the civilian government could not get rid of its own army commander. In the event, Washington, always a crucial influence in Islamabad, decided that it would prefer to deal with a single powerful figure able to deliver in negotiations over Afghanistan. This was in keeping with US policy towards Pakistan since the 1950s. "We were put under intense pressure to keep Kayani," said an aide of President Zardari's. "We were left with no choice."

In one sense, the army never really left power after the fall of General Pervez Musharraf in 2008. It has continued to allocate to itself an extraordinarily high proportion of Pakistan's limited resources. Military bases all over the country look spruce and well cared-for, while just outside their razor-wire defences are broken roads and slum housing. At the entrance of a base just west of Islamabad last week was an elderly but effective-looking tank as a monument, the ground around it parade-ground clean. A few hundred yards away, a yellow bulldozer was driving through thick mud to make a flood-damaged road passable two months after the deluge, while a side street nearby was closed by a pool of stagnant grey-coloured water. At the other end of the country in northern Sindh, a local leader, who like many critics of the Pakistani military did not want his name published, pointed to a wide canal. He said: "This canal is not meant to be taking water from the Indus, but it is allowed to operate because it irrigates land owned by army officers."

The army projects a messianic image of itself in which it selflessly takes power to save the nation. It likes to contrast its soldierly virtues of incorruptibility and efficiency with the crookedness and ineptitude of civilians. "The army is very good at claiming to be the solution to problems which it has itself created," complained a local politician in Punjab. "It is also good at ascribing all failures to civilian governments, which cannot act because the army monopolises resources." He added caustically that in his area, the floods had arrived on 6 August and the first army assistance on 26 August.

Politicians and journalists criticising the army often employ code words where more is implied than stated. But last month, a government minister made a pungent attack on the army that astonished listening journalists. The minister for defence production, Abdul Qayyum Jatoi, directly accused the army of being behind the killing of the opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, in 2007, and the revered Baluchi leader Nawab Bugti, a year earlier.

"We did not provide the army with uniforms and boots to kill their own countrymen," Mr Jatoi said bluntly, suggesting that the army leaders do their duty by going to defend Pakistan's frontiers and end rumours of a coup. He added: "Not only politicians should be blamed for corruption, rather [army] generals and judges should be held responsible."

Mr Jatoi's words reflect what Pakistanis say about the army in private, but seldom dare do so in public. He paid a price for his forthrightness, since Mr Gilani promptly sacked him and he is being accused of high treason in a petition before the courts. He says he does not miss his job very much because all the important decisions in his ministry were in any case taken by the military. Pakistanis are unhappy because every week seems to bring another piece of bad news. The country is highly politicised with millions of people observing with acute interest the struggles for power at the central and local level. Taxi drivers discuss the make-up of the Supreme Court and its future composition. When it comes to open and lively political disputes, Pakistan is more like Lebanon, with its tradition of weak government but free expression of opinion, than Russia or Egypt with their supine and intimidated populations. Political parties in Pakistan are powerful and, given an ineffectual and corrupt administrative apparatus, everybody believes he or she needs somebody of influence to protect their interests. The army likes to denigrate civilian politicians as "feudalists", but in practice, big landowners have limited political power. Politicians gain influence through helping "clients" who need their support and that of their parties. "All politics here is really about jobs," says National Assembly member Mir Dost Muhammad Mazari.

Pakistan may not be falling apart, but the floods and the economic crisis – the government is bankrupt and inflation is at 18-20 per cent – means that every Pakistani I meet, be they small farmers, generals, industrialists or tribal leaders, is gloomy about the future. Each negative incident is interpreted as a sign of Pakistan's decline and a menacing omen of worse to come. Two recent scandals, both filmed as they happened and shown on as many as 26 cable television news channels, appear to confirm that the country is saturated with corruption and violence. This explosion of news channels has happened only in the past few years and makes it far more difficult to censor information.

One scandal was the notorious allegation of match-fixing in return for bribes made against Pakistani cricketers touring England. Commentators noted acidly that it was typical of the political system that the highly unpopular head of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Ijaz Butt, could not be dismissed by the defence minister, Ahmad Mukhtar, because he is the latter's brother-in-law. The scandal was peculiarly damaging because it broke in August just as the government was trying to persuade the world to give it large sums of money for flood relief.

A second scandal, which may have horrified Pakistanis even more than the bribery case in England, took place a few days earlier. News out of Pakistan at the time was all about the devastating floods and it received little international attention, but the gory events were again played endlessly on television. They took place on 15 August in the city of Sialkot, north of Lahore, where two wholly innocent teenagers called Hafiz Sajjad, 18, and Mohammed Muneeb Sajjad, 15, were misidentified as robbers and lynched by a crowd in the middle of a city street. Uniformed police stood nonchalantly by as men with iron rods and sticks took turns over a period of hours to beat the boys to death. Their mangled bodies were finally hung upside down in the market and the case only became know because a courageous television reporter had accidentally witnessed and secretly filmed what happened.

The Sialkot lynching shows Pakistani society at its worst. It also illustrates what happens when there is a breakdown in the administration of justice. In this case, the local police are reported to have routinely killed alleged criminals or handed them over to lynch mobs. This breakdown in the administration of justice is general. I asked Pashtun tribal elders in a town near Lakki Marwat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province what they most needed. They all said governance: some form of effective local government administration. In south Punjab I went to a tribal court where 100 tough-looking Baluchi tribesmen had submitted a land dispute to a respected leader of their tribe. It was a complicated case involving a grandfather's will written in 1985 that left 12 acres of land unequally to the sons of his two marriages. The will was not very precise but nobody cared at first because the land was in the desert. But then one member of the family started to irrigate it and made it productive, leading to a rancorous dispute about ownership. The claimants to the land had chosen binding arbitration by a respected local leader, because a decision would be swift and free. They said that if they went through the state courts, the case could take years and the judges and police could be bribed.

But incidents such as the Sialkot lynching do not mean that the country is slipping into primal anarchy like Somalia. The Western world looks at Pakistan primarily in relation to Afghanistan, the Taliban, extreme jihadi Islam and the "war on terror". In a country of 170 million people there are always episodes that can be used as evidence to illustrate any trend, such as the belief that Pakistan is filled with bloodthirsty Islamic militants bent on holy war. Earlier this year, Foreign Policy magazine in Washington, which compiles an annual list of failed states, placed Pakistan 10th on the list, claiming that it showed more signs of state failure than Haiti and Yemen, and is only slightly more stable than Somalia and Yemen.

The country's high ranking in the survey tells one more about the paranoid state of mind of Washington post-9/11 than what is actually happening. There is no incentive to play down the "Islamic threat to Pakistan" on the part of any journalist who wants his or her story to be published, think-tankers who need a grant, or diplomats who seek promotion. The influence and prospects for growth of small jihadi organisations are systematically exaggerated. Over-attentive reading of the Koran is seen as the first step on the road to Islamic terrorism. Overstated claims about their activities by fundamentalist Islamic groups are happily lapped up and repeated.

Stories acquire a life of their own, regardless of their factual basis. During the recent floods, the foreign media reported on how militant Islamic groups were prominent and energetic in distributing aid to victims, the suggestion being that they will use their enhanced status to recruit more young men for holy war. This is supposedly what they did during the Kashmir earthquake of 2005, which killed 75,000 people whom it was difficult to reach because they lived high in the mountains. Christine Fair, an expert on Pakistan at Georgetown University in Washington, eloquently demolishes this and other spurious stories about the growth of militant Islam in Pakistan. She cites a survey of 28,000 households in 126 villages in Kashmir in which one-quarter of the inhabitants said they had received aid from international agencies, 7 per cent from non-militant Islamic charities, and just 1 per cent from the Islamic militant groups. Of course, the militantly religious of all kinds are likely to be to the front in helping survivors of any disaster, because most faiths adjure their adherents to help others in a crisis. The only person I met during a visit to flooded areas who could in any way be described as a religious militant engaged in relief work was an amiable German Pentecostalist waiting for a flight in Lahore airport.

Another hardy-perennial story about Pakistan claims that because of the undoubted inadequacy of the Pakistani public education system, madrasahs, or religious schools, provide free education to the needy. Once enrolled, the children are supposedly brainwashed to turn them into the future foot soldiers of jihadi Islam. In reality, Pakistani educational specialists say that just 1.3 per cent of children in school go the madrasahs, 65 per cent to public schools, and 34 per cent to non-religious private schools. In recent years, it is the small and affordable private schools that have expanded fastest, mainly because jobs in them are open to educated women prepared to accept low pay. Most jihadis turn out to have been educated at public schools.

Extreme Islamists have seldom done well in elections in Pakistan. Widespread popular support for the Afghan Taliban stems primarily from the conviction that they are essentially a Pashtun national liberation movement fighting a foreign occupation. The Pakistani Taliban was once said to be "60 miles from Islamabad", but such scaremongering ignored the fact that there were three mountain ranges and one of the world's most powerful armies in between the Taliban's rag-tag fighters and the capital. The Pakistani state may not function very well but it is not failing, and – a pity – current crises may not even change it very much.

The center of Asia's divide


NEW DELHI — Japan may have created the impression of having buckled under China's pressure by releasing the Chinese fishing trawler captain. But the Japanese action helps move the spotlight back to China, whose rapid accumulation of power has emboldened it to aggressively assert territorial and maritime claims against its neighbors, from Japan to India.

Having earlier preached the gospel of its "peaceful rise," China is no longer shy about showcasing its military capabilities and asserting itself on multiple fronts. While the Chinese leadership may gloat after forcing Tokyo to climb down and release the captain, the episode — far from shifting the Asian balance of power in Beijing's favor — has only shown that China is at the center of Asia's political divides.

China's new stridency in its territorial and maritime disputes with its neighbors has helped highlight Asia's central challenge to come to terms with existing boundaries by getting rid of the baggage of history that weighs down a number of interstate relationships. Even as Asia is becoming more interdependent economically, it is becoming more divided politically.

While the bloody wars in the first half of the 20th century have made war unthinkable today in Europe, wars in Asia during the second half of the 20th century did not resolve matters and have only accentuated bitter rivalries. A number of interstate wars have been fought in Asia since 1950, the year both the Korean War and the annexation of Tibet started. Those wars, far from settling or ending disputes, have only kept disputes lingering.

China, significantly, has been involved in the largest number of military conflicts. A recent Pentagon report has cited examples of how China carried out military preemption in 1950, 1962, 1969 and 1979 in the name of strategic defense. The report states: "The history of modern Chinese warfare provides numerous case studies in which China's leaders have claimed military preemption as a strategically defensive act.

For example, China refers to its intervention in the Korean War (1950-1953) as the "War to Resist the United States and Aid Korea." Similarly, authoritative texts refer to border conflicts against India (1962), the Soviet Union (1969) and Vietnam (1979) as "self-defense counterattacks." The seizure of Paracel Islands from Vietnam in 1974 by Chinese forces was another example of offense as defense.

All these cases of preemption occurred when China was weak, poor and internally torn. So today, China's growing power naturally raises legitimate concerns. A stronger, more prosperous China is already beginning to pursue a more muscular foreign policy vis-a-vis its neighbors, as underscored by several developments this year alone — from its inclusion of the South China Sea in its "core" national interests, an action that makes its claims to the disputed Spratly Islands nonnegotiable, to its reference to the Yellow Sea as a sort of exclusive Chinese military-operations zone where the U.S. and South Korea should discontinue holding joint naval exercises.

China also has become more insistent in pressing its territorial claims to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, with Chinese warships making more frequent forays into Japanese waters.

As if to signal that it is acquiring the military power to enforce its claims, China has since April conducted large-scale naval exercises, first near Japan's Ryukyu Islands chain — with a Chinese helicopter buzzing a Japanese destroyer — then in the East China Sea and, most recently, in the Yellow Sea.

In Tibet, the official PLA (People's Liberation Army) Daily has reported several new significant military developments in recent months, including the first-ever major parachute exercise to demonstrate a capability to rapidly insert troops on the world's highest plateau and an exercise involving "third generation" fighter-jets carrying live ammunition.

In addition, the railroad to Tibet, the world's highest elevated railway, has now started being used to supply "combat readiness materials for the air force" there. These military developments have to be seen in the context of China's resurrection since 2006 of its long-dormant claim to India's northeastern Arunachal Pradesh state and its recent attempts to question Indian sovereignty over the state of Jammu and Kashmir, one-fifth of which it occupies.

Against that background, China's increasingly assertive territorial and maritime claims threaten Asian peace and stability. In fact, the largest real estate China covets is not in the South or East China Seas but in India: Arunachal Pradesh is almost three times larger than Taiwan. Respect for boundaries is a prerequisite to peace and stability on any continent. Europe has built its peace on that principle, with a number of European states learning to live with boundaries they do not like.

Efforts to redraw territorial and maritime frontiers are an invitation to endemic conflicts in Asia. Through its overt refusal to accept the territorial status quo, Beijing only highlights the futility of political negotiations.

After all, a major redrawing of frontiers has never happened at the negotiating table in world history. Such redrawing can only be achieved on the battlefield, as Beijing has done in the past.

Today, whether it is Arunachal Pradesh or Taiwan or the Senkaku Islands, or even the Spratlys, China is dangling the threat to use force to assert its claims. In doing so, China has helped reinforce the specter of a China threat. By picking territorial fights with its neighbors, China also is threatening Asia's continued economic renaissance. More significantly, China is showing that it is not a credible candidate to lead Asia.

It is important for other Asian states and the rest of the international community to convey a clear message to Beijing: After six long decades, China's redrawing of frontiers must now come to an end.

Brahma Chellaney is the author, most recently, of "Asian Juggernaut: The Rise of China, India and Japan" (HarperCollins, 2010).
The Japan Times: Friday, Oct. 1, 2010

The great game pantomime


Instead of crying over the amazing pace of development of Chinese territories across our borders, ask Chinese companies to come forward and invest in our border roads.

The latest contribution to the discourse on China comes from Jaswant Singh, former External Affairs and Finance Minister. His opinion piece in the American media enjoins our strategic community's current discourse on the power dynamics in Asia. He is convinced that India has a “great game” on its hands and seems to imply that the outcome of this game will critically depend on its military prowess and its strategic alliance with the United States, whereas expanding Sino-Indian economic cooperation ultimately becomes inconsequential. Mr. Singh has articulated these views at an interesting point in the U.S.-India strategic partnership. To be sure, President Barack Obama's forthcoming visit to India gives them a sense of immediacy.

However, is there a great game in our region, and if so, is it as one-dimensional as Mr. Singh suggests? He says: “Rudyard Kipling's old ‘Great Game' now has new contestants. Instead of an expansionist Russian empire confronting Imperial Britain, it is now China hungry for land, water, and raw materials that is flexing its muscles, encroaching on Himalayan redoubts and directly challenging India.”

It may seem an esoteric historical detail in current polemics, but thanks to able historiography in the West, we now know that Imperial Britain exaggerated the “perception of threat” from Czarist Russia with the purpose of expanding its own influence in India and in the regions to the southwest in a wide arc that stretches from Cairo to China's Xinjiang — Greater Middle East. There is a spellbinding book by David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace, which Jawaharlal Nehru would have acquired for our Parliament library had been alive today. Unlike Kipling's fiction, Fromkin provides calm, meticulously researched conclusions on Imperial Britain's strategy leading to the great Middle East settlement of 1921 — and the immense vistas of decades of history that provided its backdrop.

What makes Fromkin's world of yesterday absolutely fascinating is that the world of today bears striking similarities. Then too, as the decline of the Ottoman Empire began accelerating, there was a furious struggle for geopolitical space (and resources) among the established and emerging powers in Europe. There were great anxieties as a revolution was erupting with an obscure ideology amid convulsions of social unrest that were threatening to breach the dam in the established powers and which had no easy solutions.

The great game today, too, is a pantomime. The U.S. moves into Middle Asia to get embedded in a region which it historically never accessed — and couldn't access so long as the Soviet Union existed. These U.S. moves are, like Kipling's fiction, easy to dissimulate but the geo-strategic thrust is barely disguised: get embedded in a region that holds multitrillion dollars worth of mineral resources, and which overlooks 4 nuclear powers (potentially 5), three of which are emerging powers that may at some point, inevitably, see the raison d'etre of getting together in a post-Bretton Woods world order. Mr. Singh loses the plot.

He asserts: “The Chinese urge is to break from the confines of their country's history, and thus China's own geography. An assertive and relatively stable China, it seems, must expand, lest pent-up internal pressures tear it apart.” This is taking a walk fearlessly into terrains where Sinologists fear to tread. The point is China is a neighbour and even if a neighbour is not tailor-made for us, we have to live with it. And that can commence only by knowing our neighbour without pride and prejudice. The well-known American historian and author, Jeffrey Wasserstrom (who edits The Journal of Asian Studies), also happened to amble across these tricky terrains last week. Whereas Mr. Singh is self-confident, Prof. Wasserstrom is unsure about the great ambivalences in the Chinese story. I need to quote him at some length:

“One way to interpret China' elevated rhetoric … is as another indication that Chinese leaders have grown supremely self-confident and are eager to throw their weight around. The reality, though, is more complex … words and deeds are often shaped by a mixture of insecurity and cockiness … Of course, there are moments when China's leaders do seem like people who know that they are succeeding and want others to acknowledge it.

“And yet, when news broke last month that China had officially replaced Japan as the world's second-largest economy, instead of crowing about surpassing a long-time rival and having the top spot, held by the U.S. in its sights, the government issued statements emphasising that theirs remains a “poor, developing” country… Why, then, do China's rulers continue to backslide into doubt and fear, why do they seek to avoid having China labelled a superpower?

“China really is still a “poor” country in terms of per capita income. And parts of the country are more similar to sections of troubled “developing” countries than to China's showplace cities … Outsiders are increasingly convinced that China is a superpower, and that it needs to show that it can be a responsible one. But China's rulers only sometimes embrace the designation — and the [Chinese Communist] Party still sometimes behaves as if it had only a tenuous hold on power.”

Of course, it is an extraordinary intellectual challenge facing Indians to comprehend China. To compound it, we base opinions on dogmas and beliefs. Don't trade and investment constitute “constructive engagement” and become “CBMs”? There is a Chinese proposal today that they desire to build nuclear power plants in India — yes, maybe even bigger than the ones in Pakistan — having been India's “strategic partner” historically in the nuclear field. Somehow, our gurus are missing out on the quintessence of history and diplomacy, something our Chief Ministers in Karnataka and Gujarat who frequent China seem to grasp better — that good politics is about creating wealth.

If we are savvy, instead of sitting on the ground and crying about the amazing pace of development of Chinese territories across our borders, ask Chinese companies to come forward and invest in our border roads, too. According to Kamal Nath, China is prepared to increase threefold its present investments in our infrastructure sector. Why can't China build a world-class container terminal near Thiruvananthapuram so that we won't end up depending on the Colombo port, which China is expanding? The Sri Lankans seem to anticipate better the acute infrastructural problems of the Indian economy as it moves into a dazzling trajectory of growth.

The recent U.S. Senate testimony by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on China following his consultations with the Chinese leadership, including President Hu Jintao, provides a fascinating essay in realpolitik. Mr. Geithner said: “We [U.S.] have very significant economic interests in our relationship with China… [China's] efforts to encourage growth led by domestic demand ultimately mean more demand for American goods and services… [U.S. investment] in China provides a major channel through which U.S. exports flow, and as a result contributes to creating jobs here at home at our exporting firms … China has a very substantial economic stake in access to the U.S. market … And we have a very strong interest … in the Chinese market, so that U.S. businesses and U.S. workers do not face unfair trading practices. I want to be clear: a strong and growing China benefits the United States.”

Mr. Geithner, a personal friend of Mr. Obama, is pondering how China makes butter and how they can make butter together. There can be differences of opinion over what should be our appropriate and principled response to the Chinese way of making butter. Yet, today, there is so much for Indians to know: how, for a start, China is beginning to climb from low-end assembly lines and sweatshops to green technology and wind turbines and solar panels and electric cars. As Orville Schell, director of Asia Society's Centre on U.S.-China Relations, put it recently: “The first priority is to get our own house in order, so we're not filled with so much anxiety that is easily transferred on to the rise of another country.”

The pity is, just the wrong people could exploit Mr. Singh's plain thesis: middlemen for American arms manufacturers. India has a need to modernise its armed forces for meeting the new security challenges and “asymmetrical” wars that we may (or may not) fight. But we don't want to be hustled into things. Look at the contemporary politics of power. Saudi Arabia is embarking on a $60-billion dollar arms deal with the U.S. The Obama administration admits that the deal will generate thousands of new jobs in America.

In the run-up to the arms deal, the arms manufacturers and their middlemen whipped up nerve-wracking xenophobia regarding a growing “Iranian threat.” Meanwhile, the U.S. is inching towards normalisation with Iran. China is a serious challenge to the U.S. and the challenge is increasingly how to tap into China's growth. Mr. Obama's ultimate focus is on butter, how to make more butter in America — with the Chinese brought into that enterprise.

(The writer is a former diplomat.)

Turmoil in Kashmir – Root-cause & Remedies

Social Cause

(A Registered Society with No. 614 of 2003)


Forum for Integrated National Security (FINS)

Cordially invite you and your friends to a Seminar on

Turmoil in Kashmir – Root-cause & Remedies

Sri K. Ajit Doval*

Former Director, Intelligence Bureau (IB), New Delhi

will be the Principal Speaker.

Sri Ashok Pandit**

Filmmaker & Social Activist, Mumbai

will be the Chief Guest

Sri K. Ramachandra Murthy

Managing Director, HMTV

will be the Guest of Honour.

Maj. Gen. (retd.) A.B. Gorthi, AVSM, VSM

Chairman, FINS, AP

will Preside.

Date & Time:

10th October, 2010 (Sunday) at 10.00 a.m.


Myadam Anjaiah Memorial Hall, Munnuru Kapu Vidyarthi Vasathi Gruham

Opp. Venkata Ramana – Padmavathi Theatres, Kachiguda, Hyderabad

All are welcome.

Dr. Somaraju Suseela

President, Social Cause

Col. Prof. Datla Raju

General Secretary, FINS, AP

*Sri K. Ajit Doval joined the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1968 and retired as Director of the IB in 2005. He is the first police officer to get the Kirthi Chakra, the second highest gallantry award. He is also a recipient of the President's Police Medal for distinguished service, and the Indian Police Medal for meritorious service. He has got outstanding credentials as an operations man. He is an expert on national and global security issues ranging from counter-terrorism to India's strategic challenges.

** Sri Ashok Pandit is fiercely passionate about his first movie ‘Meri Zameen’, which is set in the backdrop of the Kashmir problem and brings to light the plight of the Kashmiri Pandit community to which he belongs. He made documentaries like "Sharnarthi Apne Desh Mein', which won RAPA award for being the best documentary in the year 2000 and also 'And the world remained silent." Kashmiri is very much part of sensibilities of this talented filmmaker.

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October 07, 2010

Our Foes Cannot Destroy This Nation

I am traveling in India now where concerns are high about the possibility that foreign or homegrown terrorists may attack the country during next week’s Commonwealth Games. Such concerns are understandable where in the past decade, jihadist fanatics have attacked India’s Parliament, blown up trains, and, less than two years ago, launched a three-day suicide assault on Mumbai, in all, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. Added to this is an unfortunate history of communal violence between India’s Hindu and Muslim communities that has, since 2001, produced riots and other clashes that, according to official statistics, have left 2,234 dead and 21,460 injured. This is considered an improvement over the even bloodier 1990s. Tensions are high as people await a high court’s final decision on Ayodha, a holy site claimed by both Hindus and Muslims, and the cause of past bloodshed.

With three shooting wars between mostly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan since the 1947 partition, several military confrontations between the two nuclear powers, plus an undulant guerrilla war in Kashmir, the threat to security is real. It is from this temporary perspective that I look back upon the current jihadist terrorist threat in the United States.

The global terrorist enterprise inspired by al Qaeda’s and similar ideologies has its own geographies. A map of jihadist terrorist attacks since 9/11 will show that its center lies along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, spreading to Northwest India. Subsidiary and allied movements carry on terrorist campaigns that stain the map in Iraq, Algeria, Yemen, Somalia. Beyond these, dark patches appear in the Caucasus, across sub-Saharan Africa, the rest of the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia and the Philippines. Beyond these are outlying spots indicating isolated attacks in Europe. The U.S. gets a few dots.

Concentration does not mean central direction. The situation on the ground is more complex. Parasitic jihadists do better where they can attach themselves to more deeply-rooted local conflicts as in Iraq, Afghanistan—where they ride on the back of the Taliban, where they exploited resistance to the American invasion, in Chechnya where they have exploited Chechen’s historic resistance to Russia, in Yemen, Algeria, Somalia, and the Southern Philippines, but not so well in Palestine where rival extremists see them as competitors.

Al Qaeda’s historic center has been weakened although not wiped out. It inspires a global struggle through the Internet, in recent months espousing a do-it-yourself ethic, exhorting on-line followers to do whatever they can wherever they are. The growth of the Internet, where many jihad terrorists begin their journey, the proliferation of jihadist websites since 9/11, the increase in the number of English-language jihadist websites, the increased volume and sophistication of al Qaeda’s communications, the jihadist sales pitches made by native-born Americans like Adam Gadahn, Anwar al-Awlaki, and Omar Hamami facilitate the message to an American audience. And it has gained some traction among disappointed young men, restless souls, people in personal crisis, those seeking violent adventure. These are one-off responses, not yet an underground movement.

Quantifying terrorism is slippery business. The recent Congressional report indicates that 63 individuals were arrested or convicted of jihadist terrorism this year, but that combines different categories. Some of those convicted were the subjects of investigation and arrests in previous years. Nonetheless, my own analysis of jihadist radicalization in the United States since September 11, 2001, which was issued earlier this year by the RAND Corporation asWould-Be Warriors indicates a marked increase in both the number of cases and the number of individuals involved in 2009. Authorities have discovered additional plots and made further arrests in 2010.

The good news is that the numbers continue to be small—I counted 125 out of an American Muslim population of approximately 3 million, evidence of veins of resentment and handfuls of hotheads, but no terrorist underground, which based upon the impressive record of federal and local law enforcement, would be quickly rolled up. Half of the 46 cases uncovered since 9/11 involved a single individual. Only three actually succeeded in getting as far as an attempt, and only two succeeded in causing fatalities, both lone gunmen: Carlos Bledsoe who killed one soldier and wounded another at an Army recruiting station in Arkansas and Major Nidal Hasan, who opened fire on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 and wounding 31.

Terrorist recruiting is also affected by events. The American-led invasion of Iraq and American involvement in Afghanistan were portrayed by al Qaeda’s propagandists as evidence of American hostility toward Islam and inspired some. The American-supported Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006 facilitated the recruiting of Somali-Americans. James Elshafoy, one of those arrested in 2004 for plotting to blow up New York’s subway said he was angered by friends who went to school within Staten Island displaying signs that said “God Bless America” on the front and “Kill Arab Babies” on the back. America’s current wave of Islamo-phobia will likely produce new recruits who are unable to distinguish between media-magnified manifestations of anti-Islamic hostility and America’s tradition of religious freedom and tolerance for diversity of beliefs.

It is highly likely that the United States will be the target of further terrorist attacks, abroad and at home. It is not an underestimation of this threat or evidence of substandard zeal in addressing it to say that these attacks will not bring down the republic. We have come through wars, depressions, natural and man-made disasters, indeed higher levels of domestic terrorist violence than that we face today. Our foes cannot destroy this nation. That capability is ours alone.

Rebuilding Kyrgyzstan


The recent Uzbek-Kyrgyz clashes following the second overthrow of the government in five years have not only highlighted the authoritarian state's ineffectiveness in providing enduring stability but also undermined its integrity and sovereignty. Only earnest democratization and nation-building will ensure a stable future.

By Roman Muzalevsky

When the Uzbek-Kyrgyz clashes this June threatened to undermine the regional security system, neither the regional security organizations (OSCE, CSTO, SCO) nor regional actors (Russia, the US, China, etc.) intervened militarily in Kyrgyzstan to restore stability. This, despite requests by the Kyrgyz Interim Government, which came to power following the government's overthrow in April, and dismal security conditions that left hundreds dead and led to the displacement of up to 400,000 people. Some2,500 homes, more than 100 commercial buildings and 10 government structures were either destroyed or severely damaged, with the overall financial damage estimated at $71 million.

The rehabilitation of infrastructure and housing may well take years. Inter-ethnic healing and trust-building will take decades. Fresh memories of the 1990 bloodshed between the Uzbeks and Kyrgyz – when the Soviet Union was nearing its demise – are a testament to the difficulties that lie ahead. Currently, thousands of people of all ethnic affiliations are leaving either temporarily or permanently to settle in other countries.

Dealing effectively with the humanitarian catastrophe is therefore of paramount importance, not least because deteriorating living conditions will invite more instability, subverting the already weak national security system. Miroslav Niyazov, the former secretary of the Kyrgyz National Security Council, has emphasized the utterinadequacy of the national security system in Kyrgyzstan, where authorities still struggle to exercise full control.

Meanwhile, weak government institutions and daunting sociopolitical problems might yet enable regional terrorist and extremist organizations, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Hizb-ut-Tahrir, to vigorously promote their radical agenda amidst ongoing uncertainty. About one-third of the population in the country now lives below the poverty line. The already pronounced unemployment in the south is risingfurther following the global economic crisis and the Uzbek-Kyrgyz clashes, expanding the pool of potential recruits.

Defining the Future

In these conditions the people of Kyrgyzstan should answer three questions when pondering the country’s future: how Kyrgyzstan wants to organize itself internally; in what regional environment it wants to live; and what it needs to do to achieve the first two. Failure to do so will put the country’s sovereignty at risk. As Kyrgyzstan seeks to pursue enduring stability, it should concentrate on the following short and long-term tasks.

The alleviation of the humanitarian catastrophe is indispensable, just as rehabilitation of infrastructure and reconstruction of the cities of Osh and Jalalabad is vital, with costs estimated at $230 and $245 million respectively. Ensuring food and energy security, with price tags of $50 and $170 million respectively, represent additional challenges in light of the projected budget deficit of $619 million, external debt of $145million in the next two years and a 30-48 percent reduction of the GDP in the country’s southern areas by the end of this year.

The $1.1 billion in donor’s assistance for humanitarian support and long-term development is therefore timely. Such aid, while tailored to local conditions, should come with strict oversight, to avoid widespread corruption. In 2009, Transparency International placed all Central Asian countries high on their corruption index, including Kyrgyzstan with a rank of 162, close to Somalia – the world’s most corrupt country with the rank of 180.

Ethnic reconciliation should be pursued vigorously as well. Engaging Kyrgyz and Uzbek community leaders, clamping down on abuses of power, relying on the OSCE police advisory group and cooperating with the recently formed international inquiry commission will promote a sense of justice and trust between the ethnic groups on the one hand, and the population and government institutions on the other.

Yet, all these efforts are ultimately for naught without a long-term national development plan and a commitment to democratization. Here, Kyrgyzstan must pursue military and educational reforms, as well as robust national ideology and economic integration programs.

Building the nation-state

Military institutions should not only be made more transparent and accountable to civilian control, they should also be freed from corruption, which leads to under-recruitment of minorities and ethnic Kyrgyz alike. The latter now constitute 95 percentof all military servicemen. The Uzbeks' distrust of military and law-enforcement institutions in general, and during the June clashes in particular, has partially stemmed from the proportionally low presence of Uzbeks within these structures. Yet, the military has traditionally served as a vehicle for promoting state loyalties everywhere. And so has education.

While educational policy is designed to serve the purposes of national development, in Kyrgyzstan it does not do so effectively. Financial constrains, lack of strategic vision and corruption have stood in the way. School textbooks printed in the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan and Russia are still used in many schools, while the ethnic Kyrgyz living in the north and south speak varying dialects of the Kyrgyz language.

Kyrgyz tribalism and weak state loyalties of ethnic minorities have further undermined national cohesion. The former creates north-south tensions both among the Kyrgyz clans struggling for power and the common people, while the latter makes any vision of a modern nation-state a fiction. The Uzbeks, who mostly live in the south and comprise about 14.3 percent, represent the largest minority group, followed by Russians who number around 7.8 percent. Some Uzbeks are even known to adhere to Uzbekistan’s time zone; the one hour time difference might seem a minor issue, but it signals a significant distinction in perceived reality.

People in the south also tend to appeal to Islam as their source of identity, unlike the people in the north who tend to exhibit secular orientations. All of these identity splits further exacerbate and feed on the country’s geographical and economic divisions. The relatively well-off north and poor south have been turned into frameworks distinguishing the advantaged from the disadvantaged.

Pursuing a visionary and constructive national ideology centered on the titular ethnic group and effective educational policy is therefore necessary to ensure national integrity.

Economic integration programs – focusing on trade, infrastructure investments and transportation – should also be utilized to facilitate nation-building. Some of the $1.1 billion in assistance should be used for this purpose where possible. Ironically, despite calls for Central Asian economic integration, no adequate progress has been made, even within Kyrgyzstan’s own borders. Currently, there are only 424.6 km of railways, with separate networks running in the north and south. The overall rail network is one of the smallest in the region and the least dense as well. Plans already exist to expand it, thereby connecting the north and south and opening an additional transit and trade corridor for Eurasian rail traffic. It is time to implement them.

The road system is no better, partly because of the mountainous terrain that extends over 90 percent of the country’s territory, and partly because of corruption, lack of vision and funding. Roads cover merely 34,000 km, with unpaved ones constituting nine percent. Four major roads occupy almost half of all roadways, with transport contributing just two-to-three percent to the country’s GDP.

The north and south are not sufficiently integrated. There is also only one usable yet poorly maintained highway linking the two regions, limiting trade and inter-regional interaction. This makes the country less successful in terms of internal development as a whole, and also highly vulnerable to potential secession. It is no coincidence that Uzbek calls for autonomy have resurfaced from time to time in the south. Yet, roads and economic integration programs – just as military and educational policy – can facilitate much needed national development and cohesion.

The Uzbek-Kyrgyz clashes and recent political instability have underlined the imperative of rebuilding Kyrgyzstan. But such urgency is not confined solely to the rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure. Nor does it exclusively entail ethnic reconciliation. The task of rebuilding is much bigger, and so are the stakes – the integrity and sovereignty of the Kyrgyz state. Only democratization, the fight against corruption, reforms in the military and educational sectors and strategic initiatives promoting internal economic integration and national cohesion hold the key to Kyrgyzstan’s lasting future.

Roman Muzalevsky is Program Manager of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center’s office in Washington, DC. His publications have appeared in the Yale Journal of International Affairs, Review of International Law and Politics, Journal of Central Asian and Caucasian Studies, Eurasia Daily Monitor andCentral Asia-Caucasus Analyst.

He holds a Master's in Security and Strategy Studies from Yale University and a Diploma in International Affairs from the International Ataturk Ala-Too University in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.