June 18, 2011

Durand Line is the root of the AfPak conflict

Author Hadi Hairan
The killing of Osama bin Laden in a Pakistan compound was a major success for the US. It may make the commitment for the troop withdrawal easier, but will have no significant effect on the Afghan problem. I had written this piece during the very hours when the operation in Abbottabad was still going on. When I completed it, the news came that the Terrorist No. 1 was gone. A few days later I lost my previous blog so I could not put this online. The second development is that President Karzai is again in Pakistan and both countries have again ‘agreed on a joint commission.’ It is now clear that neither the government in Pakistan nor the one in Afghanistan is willing to fight against terrorism or work for improvement. Both are fraud and corrupt and both are rejected by the people. Furthermore, after using the 10 years’ war for their corruption and money earning, the officials and their networks are now extra busy earning money from selling the deceiving words of peace, reconciliation and reintegration.

These networks have been working under different groups, their main tactic is that they have found some former and ‘reconciled’ Taliban commanders and fighters, and have contacts in the foreign embassies and countries. And when they talk about peace and reconciliation, they create unrealistic and imaginary situations like telling that once the Taliban come for reconciliation, Afghanistan will become an overnight paradise. ‘They are not the Taliban that were 10 years ago. Now they are very moderate, very understanding, and now they respect human rights and democracy,’ these so-called peace-seekers tell their Western audience. But 10 minutes later they hear that a 12-year old suicide bomber has killed more than 20 innocent people and a woman is publicly stoned.

My point is that extremism is the main problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Instead of wasting time on reconciliations and peace-talks, which I believe are false and useless, both the countries should put their energies in combating extremism, promoting democracy and civil society, and awareness and education. At the same time the international community needs to work on the long time, trouble-making, problems such as the Durand Line. And following is what I had written about it.

Recently some Afghan and Pashtun intellectuals and nationalists gathered in London and revived their commitment to a cause that has played deep role in the decades long Afghan conundrum. The cause is to denounce the controversial Durand Line and campaign for a united Afghanistan. Messages of Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Afzal Khan Lala, two prominent Pashtun leaders, were read to the gathering. The gathering was arranged by Durand Jirga, a small group based in London. ‘Jirga’ is the traditional Afghan gathering of elders to resolve national and tribal issues.

This meeting took place just a week after Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani along with other high level military and civilian officials visited Kabul and reportedly told President Karzai that he ‘should forget about allowing a long term U.S. presence in his country’ and that ‘the Americans had failed them both.’

It is clear that Pakistan is more concerned about a stable Afghanistan than the long term U.S. presence. Pakistan’s support to Taliban and other insurgent groups is no longer a secret. The U.S. authorities, according to latest Wikileaks leaks, even listed the country’s spy agency as a terrorist group. However, little is said about the motivation for Pakistan’s support to Taliban and other insurgent groups as well as former Mujahedeen who first fought against the Soviet invasion and after the Soviet withdrawal got engaged in a civil war that further destabilized Afghanistan and paved the way for international terrorist networks to gain strength and get organized in the scattered kingdoms of jihadi warlords.

From the support to former Mujahedeen to supporting the current Taliban all Pakistan wanted was to destabilize Afghanistan. Remember that Pakistan had started supporting Mujahedeen before the Soviet invasion in order to counter President Daud’s claim for Pashtunistan. And the Pashtunistan idea was based on the Durand Line which is, in the view of nearly all Afghans, an illegitimate and unacceptable border that has divided the Pashtuns in four different administrations: Afghanistan, Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province now called Khyber Pashtunkhwa, Baluchistan, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Even Afghan warlords who were completely in the midst of a chaotic anarchy and entirely dependent on other countries’ support refused to accept Durand Line as a legitimate border or further divide Afghanistan. According to Ahmad Rashid: In 1988-1989, the KGB tried hard to convince General Abdul Rashid Dustam to create a buffer state. He refused. In the 1980s, and again in the 1990s, Iran tried to persuade its Shia and Hazara protégée to create a Shia corridor linking western and central Afghanistan with Iran. They refused. In the mid-1990s some of Tajikistan’s leaders tried, and failed, to persuade Ahmad Shah Massoud to build a Greater Tajikistan. In 1996, Pakistan’s ISI suggested the Taliban create their own state in the south. They refused.

Similarly, from Zahir Shah to Hamid Karzai, none of the Afghan leaders has ever accepted the Durand Line. And any such attempt is most likely to face strong resistance from all sides, including the Taliban. The American Institute of Afghanistan introduced a lengthy report after its conference on Durand Line in July 2007 titled: The Durand Line: History, Consequences, and Future. ‘No Afghan government ever accepted the Durand Line as an international border. This refusal has continued for more than a century under regimes of all political stripes, some of which called for the reincorporation of the territory into Afghanistan or the creation of a new state of Pashtunistan,’ wrote the report.

On the Pakistani side, at least three Pashtun nationalist political parties, including Awami National Party led by Asfand Yar Wali Khan, grandson of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan aka Bacha Khan who was a staunch supporter of Pashtunistan, have publicly rejected the Durand Line as a border. Awami National Party now rules the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Mahmood Khan Achakzai’s Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party has a strong following in Baluchistan and some areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Followers of this party never identify themselves as Pakistanis, rather they introduce themselves as Afghans and their homeland as part of Afghanistan.

Fayeq Khan, one speaker of the gathering in London, who is affiliated with this party, called the Durand Line a ‘Black Line,’ and told the audience that ‘unless Kabul and Kandahar are honoured, you will never be honoured, O Peshawaris,’ referring to the people of Peshawar, center of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

‘Our Afghan land has everything, but our enemy is determined to destroy it. Our children are being killed in Mohmand Agency, our elders are being assassinated in Helmand province, our people are being massacred everywhere in our Afghan land,’ he added. His entire speech was in Pashto, but when he came to the point to talk about Pakistan, he switched to English and bluntly said: ‘Pakistan has occupied 124000 square miles of our land. And by Pakistan we mean Punjab.’

The third, a small but relatively popular, party is Afzal Khan Lala’s Da Pakhtun/Afghan Qawmi Wahdat (The Pashtun/Afghan National Unification). Afzal Khan Lala is based in Swat Valley, a militancy affected Pashtun area, was once a federal minister in Pakistan, and has been campaigning for the reunification of Pashtuns with Afghanistan by removing the Durand Line. In several conferences on this issue, I have heard him saying that if the Germans could demolish the Berlin Wall, the Pashtuns and Afghans also can destroy the Durand Line.

Historically, the Durand Line was disputed from the very day it was established. The Durand Line agreement was entered into by the Afghan emir Abdul Rahman Khan and Foreign Secretary of the colonial government of the British India, Sir Mortimer Durand, in 1893. Majority of the Afghans and Pashtuns think the agreement was forced on the emir. Afghans and Pashtuns who think it was voluntary label him as a ‘puppet.’ In both cases they are not ready to accept it. When the British left the region, and Pakistan was created, the Durand Line remained in place and the area came under the control of Pakistan. The Afghan government and the Pashtun leader Bacha Khan refused to accept this. That was the beginning of the tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan and continues to be the cause of tension till this day.

The Durand Line is a sensitive issue both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan nobody is ready to speak in favour of it. In Pakistan, anyone who speaks against the Durand Line is labeled as traitor. Bacha Khan had spent a big part of his life in Pakistani prisons under this label.

But one thing is important to note. The Pakistani attitude to impose the Durand Line as a fact is mainly military. Pashtun nationalists who opposed and condemned this border were put in jails in the past. During the later decades, Pakistan has mainly used Islam and jihadists to destabilize Afghanistan and suppress the Durand Line issue. On the contrary, the hate for the Durand Line has become a part of the Afghan being, the Afghanism, and a big part of Pashto poetry revolves around this. Interestingly, the decades long war and chaos in Afghanistan has never discouraged the Pashtun nationalists in Pakistan to stop their campaign for reunification with Afghanistan. This poem, which has become folklore, was from a Pashtun poet on the Pakistani side: ‘The Khyber Pass is our travelling route; the Afghan is one in Kabul and Peshawar.’

So to understand the current conflict in the AfPak region, it is necessary to understand the root cause which is the Durand Line. The Pakistani establishment has this obsession that a stable and strong Afghanistan will enable it to raise the issue of the Durand Line or Pashtunistan again. They don’t want to see another Sardar Daud Khan and for this reason they are willing to support any group that can destabilize Afghanistan.

As is suggested to resolve the Kashmir issue for peace between India and Pakistan, it is equally important to resolve the Durand Line issue for peace between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unless this issue is resolved, Pakistan will continue to destabilize Afghanistan by any means no matter whoever rules the country. A withdrawal of the international community from Afghanistan without resolving this problem can further intensify the conflict and strengthen extremism in the region. However, if a solution is worked out, it can significantly increase the chances of a final solution of the ongoing war.

Recalling Baloch history

By Yaqoob Khan Bangash
Published: June 14, 2011

The writer is a historian at Keble College, University of Oxford
The recent deplorable killing of Professor Saba Dashtiari is yet another episode in Baloch history rooted in the creation and consolidation of Pakistan. Much of the current discussion of today, and of the last six decades, fails to take into cognisance the history behind the Baloch national struggle.
The Baloch are a very peculiar social organism with their secularity and their strong tribal networks and leadership. These factors meant that in the 1940s the Islamic rhetoric of the Muslim League failed to make an impact on the Baloch. The only strong political party in the area was the Kalat State National Party (KSNP) which was nationalist and secular in its outlook and aligned with the Congress. The KSNP took its cue from the Khan of Kalat, Ahmed Yar Khan, who, with some historical justification, claimed that Kalat was never a part of India. The British never accepted this claim but Jinnah unequivocally accepted it and signed an agreement to the effect on August 11, 1947. Satisfied by this agreement, the Khan established two houses of parliament in October 1947 to ascertain the will of the people concerning the future of the state. While not ‘democratic’ in the modern sense, the Darul Awam (House of Commons) and Darul Umara (House of Lords) were broadly representative of public opinion in the state.
The debates in these houses were a clear indication of the aspirations of the Baloch and Brahui people. Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, the leader in the Darul Awam, clearly stated: “We have a distinct civilisation… We are Muslims but it is not necessary that by virtue of being Muslims we should lose our freedom and merge with others. If the mere fact that we are Muslims requires us to join Pakistan, then Afghanistan and Iran should also amalgamate with Pakistan”. We are ready to have friendship with that country on the basis of sovereign equality but by no means [are we] ready to merge with Pakistan…” The Baloch knew that under accession their separate identity and unique heritage was being threatened; they only wanted alignment with Pakistan, not accession.
Unfortunately, Pakistan rejected the legitimate concerns of the Baloch. Pakistan never treated Kalat as a non-Indian state and insisted on unconditional accession. To attain this objective, the Pakistani government used several ploys, including the buying off of Kalat state feudatories (Kharan and Las Bela) through lavish privy purses, and the elevation of the Gichki sardar of Mekran — a Kalat district sardar — to princely status. The end result of these machinations, including a threat of military action, was that the Khan acceded to Pakistan in March 27, 1948.
As expected, public reaction against the accession was strong and the brother of the Khan, Abdul Karim, repudiated the accession and led the first of many insurgencies against Pakistan. The rest of Baloch history is a litany of broken promises, threats and repression by the government. In July 1948, Abdul Karim was induced to return on an assurance of amnesty, but the promise was immediately broken. The later story of Nauroz Khan is now a legend in Balochistan. Since then — in 1958, 1977 and now — the Baloch have articulated their grievances through an armed revolt, since the government refuses to listen to their concerns.
It is high time that successive governments stop treating the Baloch insurgency as a law and order problem and assess it in its historical context. The government needs to come to the negotiating table with respect for the distinctiveness and autonomy of the Baloch, a clear remorse for the repression of yester years, and bring to an end the divide and rule game in the province. The solution to the Baloch issue will not be easy, but it needs to be tackled now or else even going back to the drawing board might not convince the Baloch to stay in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2011

June 17, 2011

Truth about Pak: US to be blamed for its double game

Last updated on: June 18, 2011 08:51 IST
Anti-US demonstrators wave a burning American flag during a protest rally in Peshawar
Harold A Gould

'Those who cannot learn from history are condemned to repeat it.' If ever there was a poetic affirmation of philosopher George Santayana's time-worn aphorism, it is the saga of United States policy toward Pakistan -- from its inception over 60 years ago until the death of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, says Harold A Gould.

It is a judgment that cuts both ways. Neither Pakistan nor the US ever learned from their past mistakes and the consequences are there for all to see; history has repeated itself -- not once, but several times.

Reggie Sinha has recently summed it all up in a single crisp sentence: 'When will the American leadership,' he declared, 'realise the true cost of (Pakistan's) double game?'

But the plea can equally be made in the opposite direction: When will the American leadership face the fact that it was US policies that put Pakistan in the position to play its double game?

The events which led up to Abbottabad did not happen yesterday or a decade ago or even two decades ago. They have their roots and their origins in the American decision following World War II to bring the emerging Cold War to South Asia.

Harold A Gould is a veteran South Asia expert



Can there be a revolt against Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), either by the subalterns or by senior officers due to their unhappiness over his perceived/alleged amenability to US pressure?

2. There has been an interesting and exciting debate on this question in the wake of the publication of a report by the “New York Times” (June 15,2011) bearing on this subject.

3. Anti-US anger in Pakistan---in the streets as well as in the barracks---is nothing new. It has always been there right from the 1950s when it enthusiastically joined the US-sponsored regional military pacts.

4. Pakistani leaders---civil as well as military--- had given a free play to this anger in order to extract more assistance from the US without letting this anger become uncontrollable. Using anti-US anger without letting themselves be burnt by it--this has become a fine art in Pakistan.

5.The anti-US anger being seen in Pakistan since the beginning of this year due to the surge in the US drone strikes in the tribal areas, the increase in the presence of US intelligence officers and Special Forces commandos in Pakistani territory and the unilateral and clandestine raid by the US Naval commandos at the residence of Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad on May 2 is not a new phenomenon. It is a re-enactment of an old phenomenon.

6. The only thing new this time is that this anger has been accompanied by feelings of humiliation in the public as well as in the barracks over the perceived disregard by the US of Pakistani sensitivities relating to the repeated violations of its sovereignty.

7. Pakistani leaders have never had any qualms over letting themselves be used by the US in a manner designed to serve US interests provided the payment for such use was adequate.They had let themselves be used by the US for its U-2 flights over the USSR. They had let themselves be used by the US for monitoring Chinese nuclear tests in Lop Nor. They had let themselves be used by the US against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s. They are letting themselves be used by the US in the post-9/11 war against terrorism emanating from the Af-Pak region.

8.Fears of public anger never inhibited the actions of the Pakistani military leadership in entering into a quid pro quo relationship with the US provided the compensation and benefit to Pakistan were adequate.

9. What is worrying the Pakistani military leadership this time are the feelings of national humiliation caused partly by the unilateral nature of some of the US decisions and operations. The frequency of such unilateral decisions and actions by the US has been dictated by the growing distrust of Pakistan’s sincerity in counter-terrorism.

10.Gen.Pervez Musharraf was more sensitive to the US interests and more accommodating to US demands than Kayani. He readily agreed ---without ever dragging his feet--- to many of the requests that emanated from the George Bush Administration.He shifted senior Lt.Gens and a chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence because the US viewed them with suspicion as close to the Afghan Taliban,he allowed the US Air Force to use Pakistani bases in Balochistan for mounting rescue operationsin Afghanistan, he permitted an immense increase in the US intelligence presence in Pakistani territory, he agreed to US intelligence and investigating officers accompanying joint teams of the ISI and the police when they raided suspected hide-outs of Al Qaeda operatives in places such as Faislabad, Karachi and Rawalpindi, he enforced restrictions on the admission of foreign students in the madrasas, he allowed the movement of logistic supplies to the NATO troops in Afghanistan through Pakistani territory, he facilitated the interrogation of two retired senior Pakistani nuclear scientists by the US, he placed A.Q.Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, under house arrest after the discovery of his proliferation activities by the US and he ordered his intelligence and investigating agencies to informally hand over hundreds of terrorism suspects to the US for rendition and interrogation in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and other places without following the due process of the law.

11. These actions of Musharraf caused anger at the lower levels of the Pakistani Armed Forces which triggered off three unsuccessful attempts to kill him---once in Karachi through an explosive device which malfunctioned and twice in Rawalpindi through commando-style ambushes that failed. But the anger at the lower levels in the barracks was kept under control by the commissioned officers and core commanders who remained loyal to Musharraf despite whatever misgivings they might have had in their mind about the wisdom of his unreserved co-operation with the US. Even senior Lts-General whose promotion chances were stymied by Musharraf’s continuing to hold the post of the Chief of the Army Staff, never wavered in their loyalty to him.

12. A chief is a chief right or wrong for most in the Pakistan Army.There have been plots in the past, but these plots failed because of the failure of the plotters to enlist widespread support against the chief. Have things become different under Kayani? I find it difficult to accept this on the basis of the currently available information.

13. Yes, Kayani co-operated with the US, but not as extensively as Musharraf did. Yes, there is anger against Kayani at the lower levels, but he has never been the target of a serious assassination attempt as Musharraf repeatedly was. Yes, there is a feeling of humiliation in the Army as there never was when Musharraf was the chief, but there are no signs that this humiliation has reached a critical point or could do so.

14. Yes, Kayani could face threats of assassination, but could he face the threat of being overthrown by his own officers? I am doubtful in my mind for the present. We should resist the urge to over-assess Pakistan—positively or negatively. (18-6-11)

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

When Secret Sats Spy on Us, Monsieur Legault Spies Back


From mysterious robotic space planes to giant spy satellites the size of school buses, space is teeming with secret American hardware meant to gaze down on insurgents, terrorists and, well, everybody on the third rock from the sun.

For mere proles like you and me, it can be hard to get a straight answer from the Air Force, NASA and other space-faring agencies about precisely what is up there, what it’s doing and where exactly it all is at a given moment.

Now a pair of enterprising Frenchmen have decided to answer at least one of those questions for themselves, using a modified consumer-grade telescope, a small motor, a hand-held controller and a video camera. The result is a do-it-yourself satellite tracker capable of recording the movements of America’s most secretive spacecraft.

Two years into their little science project, Thierry Legault and Emmanuel Rietsch have managed to record the International Space Station, the X-37B space plane and the Keyhole and Lacrosse spy satellites, the kind probably used to peer into Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound.

“In mid-2009, I have decided to adapt my Takahashi EM400 [telescope mount] for motorized satellite-tracking,” Legault, pictured above, wrote on his website. He fitted a Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain 10-inch telescope to the mount and teamed up with Rietsch to design a system for slowly and precisely rotating the mount to follow a distant, orbital object.

“More tricky than expected” is how Legault described the creation of the custom rotation system, which attaches a motor to the mount and, in the beginning, used a radio joystick for controlling the motor. Apparently cued by the global network of amateur satellite spotters, profiled by Wired in 2006, Legault would hunt for orbital objects using the telescope, switch on the video camera, and then use the joystick to keep the targeted spacecraft in the frame.

But there was a problem. “Despite this performing tracking system and hours of training on airplanes passing in the sky, keeping the spaceship inside a sensor of a few millimeters at a focal length of 5000mm and a speed over 1°/s needs a lot of concentration and training,” Legault wrote.

So last year Rietsch devised a new computer program, called Videos Sky, to move the telescope automatically. Now Legault uses a second telescope to “scout” for spacecraft, gets the 10-incher into place, peering at a spot the satellite is on course to pass through, and activates the computerized tracker once the target is in view. Legault has helpfully uploaded a video depicting the whole tracking process, as seen by the main telescope.

Plus, what Legault and Rietsch are doing is legally aboveboard. The effort is actually no more illegal than standing on a public street and looking around really carefully. But considering how hard the intelligence community works to keep details of its space arsenal under wraps, it’s not hard to imagine the two Frenchmen have pissed off a lot of spooks unaccustomed to having regular people spy back.

Photo: Thierry Legault

China: Pakistan's other partner

By Dilip Hiro


Washington often acts as if Pakistan were its client state, with no other possible patron but the United States. It assumes that Pakistani leaders, having made all the usual declarations about upholding the "sacred sovereignty" of their country, will end up yielding to periodic American demands, including those for a free hand in staging drone attacks in its tribal lands bordering Afghanistan. This is a flawed assessment of Washington's long, tortuous relationship with Islamabad.

A recurring feature of the Barack Obama administration's foreign policy has been its failure to properly measure the strengths (as well as weaknesses) of its challengers, major or minor, as well as its friends, steadfast or fickle. To earlier examples of this
phenomenon, one may now add Pakistan.

That country has an active partnership with another major power, potentially a viable substitute for the US should relations with the Obama administration continue to deteriorate.

The Islamabad-Washington relationship has swung from close alliance in the Afghan anti-Soviet jihad years of the 1980s to unmistaken alienation in the early 1990s, when Pakistan was on the US watch list as a state supporting international terrorism.

Relations between Islamabad and Beijing, on the other hand, have been consistently cordial for almost three decades. Pakistan's Chinese alliance, noted fitfully by the US, is one of its most potent weapons in any future showdown with the Obama administration.

Another factor, also poorly assessed, affects an ongoing war. While, in the 1980s, Pakistan acted as the crucial conduit for US aid and weapons to jihadis in Afghanistan, today it could be an obstacle to the delivery of supplies to America's military in Afghanistan. It potentially wields a powerful instrument when it comes to the efficiency with which the US and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies fight the Taliban. It controls the supply lines to the combat forces in that landlocked country.

Taken together, these two factors make Pakistan a far more formidable and independent force than US policymakers concede publicly or even privately.

The supply line as jugular
Angered at the potential duplicity of Pakistan in having provided a haven to Osama bin Laden for years, the Obama administration seems to be losing sight of the strength of the cards Islamabad holds in its hand.

To supply the 100,000 American troops now in Afghanistan, as well as 50,000 troops from other NATO nations and more than 100,000 employees of private contractors, the Pentagon must have unfettered access to that country through its neighbors.

Among the six countries adjoining Afghanistan, only three have seaports, with those of China far too distant to be of practical use. Of the remaining two, Iran - Washington's number one enemy in the region - is out. That places Pakistan in a unique position.

Currently about three-quarters of the supplies for the 400-plus US and coalition bases in Afghanistan - from gigantic Bagram air base to tiny patrol outposts - go overland via Pakistan or through its air space. These shipments include almost all the lethal cargo and most of the fuel needed by US-led NATO forces.

On their arrival at Karachi, the only major Pakistani seaport, these supplies are transferred to trucks, which travel a long route to crossing points on the Afghan border. Of these, two are key: Torkham and Chaman.

Torkham, approached through the famed Khyber Pass, leads directly to Kabul, the Afghan capital, and Bagram Air Base, the largest US military facility in the country. Approached through the Bolan Pass in the southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan, Chaman provides a direct route to Kandahar air base, the largest US military camp in southern Afghanistan.

Operated by some 4,000 Pakistani drivers and their helpers, nearly 300 trucks and oil tankers pass through Torkham and another 200 through Chaman daily. Increasing attacks on these convoys by Taliban-allied militants in Pakistan starting in 2007 led the Pentagon into a desperate search for alternative supply routes.

With the help of NATO member Latvia, as well as Russia and Uzbekistan, Pentagon planners succeeded in setting up the Northern Distribution Network (NDN). It is a 3,220-mile railroad link between the Latvian port of Riga and the Uzbek border city of Termez.

It is, in turn, connected by a bridge over the Oxus River to the Afghan town of Hairatan. The Uzbek government, however, allows only non-lethal goods to cross its territory. In addition, the Termez-Hairatan route can handle no more than 130 tons of cargo a day. The expense of shipping goods over such a long distance puts a crimp in the Pentagon's $120 billion annual budget for the Afghan war, and couldn't possibly replace the Pakistani supply routes.

There is also the Manas transit center leased by the US from the government of Kyrgyzstan in December 2001. Due to its proximity to Bagram air base, its main functions are transiting coalition forces in and out of Afghanistan, and storing jet fuel for mid-air refueling of US and NATO planes in Afghanistan.

The indispensability of Pakistan's land routes to the Pentagon has given its government significant leverage in countering excessive diplomatic pressure from or continued violations of its sovereignty by Washington.

Last September, for instance, after a NATO helicopter gunship crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan in hot pursuit of insurgents and killed three paramilitaries of the Pakistani Frontier Corps in the tribal agency of Kurram, Islamabad responded quickly.

It closed the Khyber Pass route to NATO trucks and oil tankers, which stranded many vehicles en route, giving Pakistani militants an opportunity to torch them. And they did. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a written apology to his Pakistani counterpart General Ashhaq Parvez Kiani, conveying his "most sincere condolences for the regrettable loss of your soldiers killed and wounded on September 30".

Anne Patterson, the US ambassador to Pakistan, issued an apology for the "terrible accident", explaining that the helicopter crew had mistaken the Pakistani paratroopers for insurgents. Yet Pakistan waited eight days before reopening the Torkham border post.

Pakistan's other cards: Oil, terrorism and China
In this region of rugged terrain, mountain passes play a crucial geopolitical role. When China and Pakistan began negotiating the demarcation of their frontier after the 1962 Sino-Indian War (itself rooted in a border dispute), Beijing insisted on having the Khunjerab Pass in Pakistani-administered Kashmir. Islamabad obliged.

As a result, the 2,000-square-mile (5,200-square-kilometer) territory it ceded to China as part of the Sino-Pakistan Border and Trade Agreement in March 1963 included that mountain pass.

That agreement, in turn, led to the building of the 800-mile-long Karakoram Highway linking Kashgar in China's Xinjiang region and the Pakistani town of Abbottabad, now a household name in America as it was here that Osama bin Laden was killed by US Special Forces on May 2. That road sealed a strategic partnership between Beijing and Islamabad that has strong geopolitical, military, and economic components.

Both countries share the common aim of frustrating India's aspiration to become the regional superpower of South Asia. In addition, the Chinese government views Pakistan as a crucial ally in its efforts to acquire energy security in the coming decades.

Given Pakistan's hostility toward India since its establishment in 1947, Beijing made an effort to strengthen that country militarily and economically following its 1962 war with India. After Delhi exploded a "nuclear device" in 1974, China actively aided Islamabad's nuclear-weapons program.

In March 1984, its nuclear testing site at Lop Nor became the venue for a successful explosion of a nuclear bomb assembled by Pakistan. Later, it passed on crucial missile technology to Islamabad.

During this period, China emerged as the main supplier of military hardware to Pakistan. Today, nearly four-fifths of Pakistan's main battle tanks, three-fifths of its warplanes, and three-quarters of its patrol boats and missile crafts are Chinese-made.

Given its limited resources, Islamabad cannot afford to buy expensive American or Western arms and has therefore opted for cheaper, less advanced Chinese weapons in greater numbers. Moreover, Pakistan and China have an ongoing co-production project involving the manufacture of JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft, similar to America's versatile F-16.

As a consequence, over the past decades a pro-China lobby has emerged in the Pakistani officer corps. It was therefore not surprising when, in the wake of the American raid in Abbottabad, Pakistani military officials let it be known that they might allow the Chinese to examine the rotor of the stealth version of the damaged Black Hawk helicopter left behind by the US Navy SEALS.

That threat, though reportedly not carried out, was a clear signal to the US: if it persisted in violating Pakistan's sovereignty and applying too much pressure, the Pakistanis might choose to align even more closely with Washington's rival in Asia, the People's Republic of China. To underline the point, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani traveled to Beijing two weeks after the Abbottabad air raid.

Gilani's three-day visit involved the signing of several Sino-Pakistani agreements on trade, finance, science and technology. The highpoint was his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao. Following that summit, an official spokesperson announced Beijing's decision to urge Chinese enterprises to strengthen their economic ties with Pakistan by expanding investments there.

Among numerous Sino-Pakistani projects in the pipeline is the building of a railroad between Havelian in Pakistan and Kashgar in China, a plan approved by the two governments in July 2010. This is expected to be the first phase of a far more ambitious undertaking to connect Kashgar with the Pakistani port of Gwadar.

A small fishing village on the Arabian Sea coastline of Balochistan, Gwadar was transformed into a modern seaport in 2008 by the China Harbor Engineering Company Group, a subsidiary of the China Communications Construction Company Group, a giant state-owned corporation.

The port is only 330 miles from the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf through which flows much of China's supplies of Middle Eastern oil. In the wake of the Gilani visit, China has reportedly agreed to take over future operation of the port.

More than a decade ago, China's leaders decided to reduce the proportion of its oil imports transported by tanker because of the vulnerability of the shipping lanes from the Persian Gulf and East Africa to its ports. These pass through the narrow Malacca Strait, which is guarded by the US Navy.

In addition, the 3,500-mile (5,630-kilometer) journey - to be undertaken by 60% of China's petroleum imports - is expensive. By having a significant part of its imported oil shipped to Gwadar and then via rail to Kashgar, China would reduce its shipping costs while securing most of its petroleum imports.

At home, the Chinese government remains wary of the Islamist terrorism practiced by Muslim Uyghurs agitating for an independent East Turkestan in Xinjiang. Some of them have links to al-Qaeda. Islamabad has long been aware of this. In October 2003, the Pakistani military killed Hasan Mahsum, leader of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, and in August 2004, the Pakistani and Chinese armies conducted a joint anti-terrorism exercise in Xinjiang.

Almost seven years later, Beijing coupled its satisfaction over the death of Bin Laden with praise for Islamabad for pursuing what it termed a "vigorous" policy in combating terrorism. In stark contrast to the recent blast of criticism from Washington about Pakistan's role in the war on terrorism, coupled with congressional threats to drastically reduce American aid, China laid out a red carpet for Gilani on his visit.

Referring to the "economic losses" Pakistan had suffered in its ongoing counter-terrorism campaigns, the Chinese government called on the international community to support the Pakistani regime in its attempts to "restore national stability and development in its economy".

The Chinese response to Bin Laden's killing and its immediate aftermath in Pakistan should be a reminder to the Obama administration: in its dealings with Pakistan in pursuit of its Afghan goals, it has a weaker hand than it imagines. Someday, Pakistan may block those supply lines and play the China card to Washington's dismay.

Dilip Hiro is the author of 32 books, the latest being After Empire: The Birth of A Multipolar World (Nation Books). His upcoming book on jihadists in South Asia will be published by Yale University Press later in the year.

Failed leadership

India is courting danger by putting all its eggs in the US basket, says N.V.Subramanian.


15 June 2011: This writer wrongly assessed that it was a win-win for the United States and president Barack Obama after Osama Bin Laden was killed in a high-risk American raid. Once again, the US has tied itself up in knots on Af-Pak and particularly Afghanistan's future after 2014 when it retires its military operations. What is India to do now? The assessment this writer made of the US and president Obama after the successful Abbottabad raid was that they would gain the upper hand of dealing with Pakistan's perfidious truck with terrorists. But that is not how it has played out. The US Congress was all for rationalizing/ cutting military funding to Pakistan and linking new disbursements to progress made against the Al-Qaeda, Taliban and Haqqani Taliban leaderships based in Pakistan's FATA and Quetta. The White House and Pentagon developed cold feet on this. The eternal compromiser, John Kerry, was flown to Pakistan to placate its military, followed by the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and Pentagon brass. The latest to visit is the CIA chief and defence secretary-designate, Leon Panetta. His mission was to free CIA informants in ISI custody who helped get Osama. Panetta failed. And all this while, the US political and military leadership is spewing the same rubbish again and again. Problems with Pakistan are being sorted out. Pakistani sacrifices in the war on terror are extraordinary. And so on. What does this tell? America is most bereft of leadership today. Obama showed mettle in authorizing the Abbottabad raid despite the huge risks. But he cannot sustain courageous leadership. Nor does the US opposition give hope. Obama's predecessor, George W.Bush, gave no hint of credible leadership, apart from blundering derring-do in Iraq. He chose to hold Pakistan's hand and condone its terrorism much as Obama is doing today. This American leadership crisis won't resolve anytime soon, and certainly not as early as 2012. Whether Obama gets reelected or a Republican presidency is inaugurated, expect more of the same drifting and declining US leadership. So what is India to do in the face of US leadership troubles, especially in respect of Afghanistan and Pakistani terrorism? The brutal truth is the 26/11 case is finished. While no one will go out and say it, it seems increasingly so that the US fixed the Tahawwur Rana trial to let off ISI in 26/11. In Afghanistan, the US needs Pakistan more than India. Nothing India says or does will change this state of affairs. Days before Rana's acquittal on 26/11, India gifted a $4.1 billion deal to the US for ten C-17s. Not only are these heavy lifters overpriced, they insubstantially add to India's military prowess. Even in a power projection role (which India baulks from), these aircraft come with huge disadvantages. And yet, the deal went unquestioned in India, and brought no favourable verdict in the Rana trial. Nobody will accept the existence of this quid pro quo. But it was there. And it came to nothing. Indeed, this writer would argue that good Indian monies are going to the US via C-17-like deals for a portion of it to be recycled to Pakistan as military aid. Which means Indian monies are financing anti-India Pakistani terrorism. So much for the sagacity of the Indian leadership in blindly seeking US strategic partnership. A wiser course would be to take a pause, and reassess the whole Indo-US dynamic. Specific to Afghanistan, it would mean for India to do exactly what suits its interests there, including annulling Pakistani designs to gain strategic depth against this country. India's independent course on Afghanistan has been previously spelt out by this writer. India would imperil its security by abandoning independent policy-making and action in the face of failed and visionless US leadership.

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

OPEC: It is about more oil - not quotas


William C. RAMSAY


Edito Energie, juin 2011

OPEC has certainly gone out of its way to show how little relevance it has in today’s oil market. It has successfully imported all the political rhetoric and malaise of some of its most unstable members. To be dictated by the Bolivarian Revolution from Caracas or revolutionary light Ecuador is already bad enough. But combining that with the objections of some obscure Libyan functionary and a stand-in for lack of an Iranian oil minister as Chairman of the meeting is pretty much a formula for disaster. We have not been disappointed.

OPEC’s own analysis points to a tightening market through the year and a need for more oil, but too many of OPEC’s members are production constrained or cash short and need every dollar they can get for every barrel. As any cartel manager must know, the ability to remain in a position of strength in a commodity market is a function of not driving customers out of the market. There is in fact a price elasticity of demand for transportation fuels. There are ways to substitute alternative fuels into transportation. Many are reviewing the potential of CNG to contribute to transport given the surge in available gas – and its liquids.

OPEC refused to adjust upwards its quotas. Who cares? Its quotas have been meaningless for some time it is production that counts and all the price hawks are producing their maximum. Libya is applauded for having succeeded in retaining its quota. So what? When Libya calms one of these days, whoever is running the place will ramp up production as fast as they can because a lot of damage has been done to that country and its people – without regard for any quota.

Why should anyone care about quotas? Iraq plans to exceed its quota as soon as it can and will probably claim the right to catch up for years of lost production. Angola will soon bust its quota as will Nigeria. OPEC quotas have always been intended to restrain the other guy.

The real result of the meeting is that everyone will continue to produce all they can and those with surplus capacity will produce more. That is a pretty good outcome which everyone but the market should be able to realize. Wait for the buzz in the market to pass.

As pressure builds in consuming counties to respond to high prices, out of concern for developing countries, sluggish economic recovery and co-incidentally, political pressure before elections – the idea of taking matters into ones hands comes immediately to mind. Congressman Markey wasted hardly a minute to call for US SPR release. In the last Presidential campaign there were calls for use of the SPR and 8 years before President Clinton used the SPR to help Al Gore’s Presidential campaign. Students of the market will remember that using strategic stocks for market manipulation did not work then, nor did it have the desired political result.

The issue is the need for incremental oil. Surplus capacity producers are stepping up to the plate. Hopefully consuming countries won't do anything with strategic stocks that will discourage them.

CIA informants? A few suggestions as to who Pakistan’s ISI might want to arrest

Posted By Robert Zeliger Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - 2:27 PM

Pakistan rounded up five informants who provided information to the C.I.A. that helped lead to the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, according to the New York Times. The arrests, which reportedly include a Pakistani Army major who copied the license plates of cars visiting the compound, highlight once again how strained the relationship is between Washington and Islamabad. As Pakistan's powerful Inter-Service Intelligence directorate (ISI) was able to uncover and arrest the alleged C.I.A. informants very soon after the killing, one might wonder what they could do if they put as much energy into locating some of the world's other most wanted people believed to be hiding out in the country.
Here are a few bad guys who remain at large.
Sajid Mir
The man believed to be behind the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008 is a shadowy figure with ties to militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and reportedly to the ISI, though they deny it. He directed the Mumbai operation as it was happening and can be heard on recorded phone conversations instructing the terrorists on the ground where to go, whom to kill, and when to go out in a storm of bullets. He also recruited the American David Headley to act as a scout for the group.
Ayman al-Zawahiri
Bin Laden's longtime deputy, the Egyptian-born doctor is one of America's prime targets in Pakistan. Since bin Laden's death, the United States has upped the pressure on the Pakistani government, military and ISI to provide more information on his whereabouts, according to reports.
Siraj Haqqani
The current leader of the powerful Haqqani network sends weapons, recruits, and supplies to attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The group is closely allied to the Taliban. Some analysts say it works as a proxy force used by the ISI, elements of which are accused of providing financial and operational support for their attacks in Afghanistan.
‘Major Iqbal'
Perhaps the most mysterious fugitive in Pakistan, Iqbal is an officer in the ISI who helped plan the 2008 Mumbai attacks, according to testimony from David Headley, who claimed that he provided money and helped choose targets. He's named as Headley's ISI handler in a Justice Department indictment. But very little is known about him--including his real identity and how high up in the ISI he was.
Dawood Ibrahim
In 2009, Forbes Magazine named. Ibrahim the 50th most powerful person in the world. The head of the Mumbai-based crime syndicate D-Company, he is also India's most wanted man, believed to be involved in everything from drug and weapons trafficking to terrorism (he's suspected of organizing attacks in Bombay in 1993 that killed 257 people and the U.S. says he has links to al Qaeda). He's reportedly hiding out in Pakistan, using plastic surgery to help avoid detection--as well as his connections in the ISI.

Spy vs. spy (CIA Vs. ISI)

From the Newspaper

THE ongoing saga of deteriorating relations between the CIA and the Pakistan Army and ISI has been developing one new twist after another, and is now increa-singly being played out in the public eye. The latest development — western media reports that Pakistan has arrested local CIA informants, allegedly including an army officer, who passed on information about Osama bin Laden`s hideout to the American spy agency — has raised far more questions than it has answered. Disapproval of the arrests by the American media and some government officials is not particularly fair: any country has the right to interrogate citizens informing a foreign intelligence agency, even if it is about Osama bin Laden. But for Pakistan, this is yet another moment for self-examination. The CIA created a network of local informants who succeeding in putting together enough clues to make a case for raiding the compound of the house where Bin Laden was staying. That the Americans were able to carry out this process from thousands of miles away begs the question of why Pakistan`s own intelligence apparatus was unable to do so in its own backyard, using its own people. And while informants are being detained, what progress has been made in arresting those who enabled Bin Laden to survive inside Pakistan?

Additionally, while ISPR has denied in a press statement that an army officer is among those arrested, a statement given to the media said the detentions were part of a “cleansing process”, a phrase that suggests that members of the armed forces might also be under investigation. Like other aspects of this story, though, the truth remains far from clear. But if the American version is to be believed, it raises concerns about morale and loyalty in the Pakistan Army: why would an officer not feel the need to aid his own institution in tracking down one of the world`s most wanted terrorists?

The last few days also point to how frequently both sides are using the media to publicly shame each other into cooperation. The story about the informants` arrest followed another in the American media about Pakistani security officials having tipped off militants at bomb-making facilities after receiving information from the CIA. Meanwhile, there is no shortage of anti-American conspiracy theories circulating in the Pakistani media. Private discussions are clearly failing, and the media is perhaps being used as a last resort. But it is no substitute for honest dialogue and a sincere desire to work towards the common goal of making both countries safer, and its continued use will simply increase animosity between the two sides.



India, Australia and Asia-Pacific Security in the context of the latest Shangri-La Dialogue

Dr John Lee

C3S Paper No 812

June 14, 2011

Thank you (Australian High Commission in India, especially David Holly – Consul-General, and Tim Huggins.)Thank you also to my hosts at the Centre for Contemporary China Studies, Centre for Asia Studies, and the University of Madras.

I have been asked to speak about regional security, especially as it relates to India and Australia in the context of the Shangri-La Dialogue that was just held in Singapore two weeks ago. This is a wonderfully broad and important topic and I’ll try my best to do justice to it.

For those of you who might not know about the Dialogue, it is the annual meeting of Defence Ministers from almost 30 countries. Importantly, the Dialogue draws the Defence Ministers from all the major regional players – the US, India, Japan, Russia, the UK, Indonesia, Australia, and China. For the first time in the ten year history of the Summit, China sent a ministerial level official in Minister of National Defence, General Liang Guanglie (also a member of the Central Military Commission and a State Councilor.)

I was invited to attend as a member of the four-person non-governmental Australian delegation.

When your Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju addressed the Dialogue, he spoke about military and especially naval modernization, the uneven spread of military and strategic transparency in the region, the possibility of an emerging Asian arms race, and the importance of freedom of navigation for all trading nations from the Gulf of Aden, through the Indian Ocean, past the Malacca Straits and through the South China Sea.

Minister Pallam Raju also spoke highly about regional multilateral initiatives such as the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus initiative, and of course the Shangri-La Dialogue. Showing that New Delhi is quickly learning how to speak ASEAN, phrases such as ‘consensual decision making’, ‘cooperation against common threats’, ‘shared security’ and ‘shared decision-making’ was used.

None of this would be any surprise to you. But not once did Minister of State for Defence Raju mention the word ‘China’ – despite the fact that Chinese military modernization and doctrine, Chinese in-transparency, and also its behavior in land and maritime disputes with India, Japan and in the South China Sea is the single collection of factors creating concern in the region.

In fact, the Ministers from Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and South Korea all only made reference to China in very banal and unexceptional terms. Only Secretary Gates from America and the Vietnamese Defence Minister addressed the issues and concerns of China’s rise explicitly.

Now, there is obviously an element of protocol here – it is not good diplomacy or diplomatic etiquette to single out one country – especially one as big and important as China.

Instead, as you all know, every major country in the region are all trying to reap as much economic benefit from China’s rise, but hedging against China. This is a reflection of the fact that China is both an economic partner, and strategic competitor and potential threat of all key capitals in the region.

It is also a reflection of geo-politics in the region. The major barriers against future Chinese dominance (assuming that China continues to rise as rapidly as it is) in East and Southeast Asia are an engaged America and a still powerful Japan. Secretary Gates went to great lengths in his Keynote at the Dialogue to reaffirm that American engagement and interest in the region is bi-partisan, genuine, robust and unchanging.

The point is that no one knows the extent of relative American decline and whether time is on China’s side or not. In the absence of such information, everyone is hedging against China but no one explicitly wants to admit that they are doing so. That is just the way East and Southeast Asians do strategy.

This widespread hedging activity is no secret. But the interesting question is the different ways countries such as India and Australia (but also some other key players) are attempting to implement this hedging strategy. And this is what I want to spend the next 15 minutes talking about.

I will break it up into two parts:

1. Looking at what the big powers in the region are doing: Japan, South Korea and India;

2. Looking at what the smaller powers – especially in SE Asia and also Australia – are doing.

You can go to just about any capital in the world and if you ask its leaders and strategists what they are hoping to achieve, they all will say the same thing:

è - “a stable, prosperous Asia focused on economic development rather than big power conflict.”

If you ask them how they will try to help manage China’s rise, they will also all say the same thing:

è - “maintain good relations with the US, promote increased regionalism and multilateralism, and security cooperation on transnational issues such as piracy and terrorism.”

Well, I do not doubt any of this but while all countries agree on want they ultimately want – a prosperous and stable Asia – their tactics will be different.

So in my mind, if we want to know how these countries will do, we need the kind of limitations they face and therefore what they are trying to achieve.

Japan, South Korea & India

I think all three countries want the same strategic outcomes but are coming at it from different historical positions and mindset – so the security processes will be a little different. Let me explain.

All hold immense suspicions about Chinese longer-term intentions, have serious ongoing disputes with the Chinese, and both want continued American primacy in Asia into the long-term. I won’t speak too much more about South Korea.

Seoul will mirror many of the tactics used by Japan and will be preoccupied in the foreseeable future with the North Korean issue. Instead, I will focus a little more on Japan and India.

Japan has used both bilateral and multilateral soft strategic containment policies to preserve a geostrategic hierarchy where America remains preeminent even if it is in relative decline.There is early evidence that India is catching on to this game-plan – even if the language in New Delhi is still very much about maintaining strategic independence.

But if the aims are similar, the mindsets in Tokyo and Seoul, compared to New Delhi are very different.

There is currently strategic confusion in Japan – not just because of the enduring paralysis in government and pressing priorities such as its stagnant economy and responding to disasters such as the recent tsunami and nuclear disaster – but because the prospect of American unipolarity – which Tokyo has relied on to protect it and act as a check against the Chinese – is possibly coming to an end.

At the same time, Japan is grappling with a situation where its strategic elites recognize that Japan needs to take more responsibility for its own security while its social elites, some political elites and general population are not enthusiastic about accepting much more of a security burden.

So this means that Japan will deepen its military relationships with the US and India as much as domestic political pressures allow. But interestingly it is trying to take a much more active role in multilateral forums for the following reasons:

  1. 1. Multilateral forums are one way Japan and South Korea compete with China for influence without causing instability. Given that Japan is an entrenched leader within the various forums in East and Southeast Asia, it will not want to risk being out-maneuvered or isolated by China within these platforms. Bear in mind that other smaller Asian countries will want Japan’s involvement so that China cannot over-whelm these smaller countries in any multilateral context.
  2. And this is quite interesting – given the domestic social/political constraints, multilateralism is a way for Japan to exercise leadership and ‘compete’ with China without looking like it is ‘being too assertive’, thereby incurring the anger of domestic sources. In most Asian countries, exercising leadership in a multilateral context is always much more applauded amongst social and economic elites than unilateral or bilateral maneuvers.

But Japan and South Korea has to walk a fine line. It will want security multilateral forums to remain weak (in the sense that hard security matters are excluded and that there are no firm security obligations on signatories) because (unlike China) it has strong bilateral security relationships with a number of countries and will not want any multilateral forum to inadvertently dilute these.

Bear in mind that any significant multilateral forum in Asia has to include China. Tokyo and Seoul would therefore not want to offer Beijing a greater security role and voice than it currently has under a multilateral process.


India shares very similar strategic goals with Japan and South Korea but comes to it from a different position and mindset to Japan.

India is only just beginning to see itself as not just a great power but also a relevant and engaged great power in the Asia-Pacific. Your strategic elites appear to be still attempting to build a lasting foreign policy consensus amongst political, social and economic elites when it comes to Asia-Pacific policy.

Unlike Japan, India is not in as strong a position to exercise leadership within any existing or future East and Southeast Asian security institutions for several reasons:

  1. 1. Unlike Japan, India has no tradition or strategic culture of exercising leadership within multilateral institutions, let alone existing ones in Asia. Indians are nowhere near as confident, patient or tactically astute as say China in working through multilateral processes.
  2. 2. India has only relatively recently began to view itself as a East Asian and Southeast Asian power rather than just a South Asian one. Therefore, unlike China for example, it is starting from a much lower base in terms of establishing its strategic leadership credentials in the region.
  3. 3. Even though India is one of the two great and defining civilizations in Asia, Indian culture and the Indian diaspora do not play the same eminent role that Chinese culture and diasporas have played in Asia over the past one hundred years – even when China was weak. India generates much less inherent interest amongst social elites throughout Asia. Although political and strategic elites throughout Asia appreciate the potentially critical security role India might play, there are few social or economic elitespushing India’s leadership cause in most Asian countries – especially compared to China.
  4. 4. Even though the Indian economy has been growing at a China like pace since the early 1990s, there is still doubt (within India and in the region) whether India can continue to rise at such a pace. Because of this perception, very few smaller countries if any will explicitly stand behind the Indian banner in any multilateral context.

For these reasons, India will ‘tolerate’ multilateral forums as a necessary but sometimes annoying or frustrating process that one must go through to build its image as a constructive and engaged Asian power.

But I have very little doubt that the way ahead will be to prioritize bilateral and mini-lateral security relationships to preserve a strategic and tactical balance of power with China very much in mind. This is very much India’s mindset at the moment.

So I expect India to be very resourceful and energetic in building bilateral security relationships with the US, Japan and countries such as Singapore and Indonesia (especially with respect to naval cooperation in the East Indian Ocean.) This is helped by the fact that these countries are all quite happy to give India naval hegemony in the waters immediately hugging its landmass.

But interestingly, I also expect India to focus seriously on building strong political and security relationships with those countries that (like itself) are not yet skilled at the multilateral game. Here I’m talking about Vietnam in particular and perhaps also Thailand – especially given that they share similar suspicions about China.

Before I continue, let me make just a few brief comments about the emerging US-India security partnership.

As you all know, the US-India nuclear deal did much to pave the way for deepening cooperation between the two countries, especially between the two navies. Both countries have the obvious common interest of keeping China in check. Although I think the term ‘security partnership’ is an appropriate phrase to describe the relationship between the two countries, there are significant barriers moving forward.

In my mind, one of the most significant is the growing problem of mismatched expectations. From the American perspective, American will grow increasingly impatient for tangible Indian security and economic commitments, cooperation and even concessions – written down explicitly in documents, declarations and the like. This is the American way, and what Washington expects in its genuine commitment to ‘help India rise as a great power’ in Condi Rice’s words.

But from the Indian point of view, they never entered into any such grand agreement. As far as India is concerned, by merely rising – and therefore providing a natural balance and check against China, and by providing a massive economic market for global firms – New Delhi is fulfilling its side of the bargain. Yes, it was America that paved the way for the Indian waiver for the Nuclear Suppliers Group but that doesn’t mean the Indian nuclear industry should have to buy from American firms. It also doesn’t mean that Indian arms procurement should look to America first, and past its traditional ally Russia, for military hardware. And even if the military-to-military relationship continues to improve, New Delhi will not want to formalize any commitments in order to retain as much strategic independence as possible.

The emerging US-India partnership is one of the big strategic events over the past decade as far as I’m concerned but these mismatched expectations will have to be narrowed.

SE Asia

Let me now move to SE Asia. Yes, these countries are busy hedging. But ‘hedging’ is taking different forms. Let me separate countries into two categories: Those countries with a big-power mentality – namely Indonesia and Vietnam – and those who see themselves as the small fish existing in a world of giants.

I will first move on to the smaller SE Asian countries. There are a small number of countries that are not so much hedging but really looking to cash in on China in the short-term – with little thought about any longer term strategy.

Here, I am talking about Cambodia and Sri Lanka.

For other small countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, and possibly the Philippines to a lesser extent, they will base the hedging strategy not just on preserving a strategic relationship with the US but also on using ASEAN to create the appearance of strategic weight and size in order to enhance their relevance – in other words, they are trying to pull off a clever magician’s trick in their dealing with larger powers. In this context, insisting that multilateral forums should be hosted by ASEAN is an attempt to ensure:

  1. 1. They can engage China economically and also strategically from an apparent position of greater collective strength
  2. 2. Through the appearance of collective strength, they keep Washington interested and engaged in the region on ASEAN’s terms
  3. 3. They retain some control over their destiny in a world of giants.

Because American power is needed more than ever – especially after the year of assertive behavior by China in 2010 – we are also seeing countries such as Singapore and Malaysia put a lot of behind the scenes effort to ensure that America is as engaged and effective within these institutions as possible. In other words, where once the hedging strategy was based almost exclusively on deepening bilateral and military ties with the Americans, it is now also based on ensuring that America rather than China is the dominant player in multilateral forums in the region.

Note that ASEAN states can only be successful as long as the big powers – US, China & Japan are prepare to play along. Currently, it is convenient for the big powers to play the ASEAN game for a number of reasons (and I can talk about that in discussion if you like), so the status quo suits these smaller SE Asian powers for the moment.

The larger SE Asian powers such as Indonesia and Vietnam are content to play along with the other ASEAN members for the moment. But they are different to the smaller ASEAN countries in a number of respects.

First, even though they do not want to provoke any argument with China, they will not be bullied by a bigger power. In this sense, they have a ‘big power’ mentality, see themselves as significant powers in SE Asia, and are more willing to directly stand-up to or even confront China (not now) but in the future.

Second, they are not going to put too many eggs in the ASEAN basket. Sure, they want ASEAN to exist and to continue to play the role that it does; but both countries have a more self-help (rather than multilateral) view of security hedging – particularly in light of ASEAN’s continued reluctance to speak openly and squarely about security competition and tension in the region.

Therefore, if these countries continue to rise economically, they will become significant strategic players in their own right – meaning they will very conspicuously increase their regional military capacities and pursue increasingly meaningful and robust security alliances with countries such as the US, India and Japan.

But if their reforms falter, then they will grudgingly revert to the ASEAN-based strategy of the smaller powers.


Australia is an interesting country in the context of emerging security strategies in the region.

For the past one hundred years, we have had a pretty simply grand strategy: as an island, we attach ourselves to the dominant naval power of the day which was Britain prior to WWII and America after WWII. It was also a happy coincidence for us that the dominant naval power of the day was both Anglo-Saxon (so we shared similar values) and also our largest trading partner. In this sense, trade and security priorities were generally in alignment.

Well, for the first time in our history, our most important strategic ally (in America) is no longer our most important trading partner (which is now China.)

To make matters more complicated, our most important security ally is a strategic competitor of our most important trading partner.

Like everyone else, we are hedging – managing the economic relationship with China, generally downplaying strategic competition, but working hard to ensure that we remain the closest ally of the Americans. Remember that Australia has joined America in every major war undertaken by Washington since WWII – the only country that has done so. Much of the reason behind this is alliance management – and ensuring that America remains willing to sacrifice blood and treasure on our behalf.

Yet, with the perception of American relative decline, our strategists and leaders are forced to understand and engage Asia in a way, and with much more depth, than we have had to in the past.

While we are also following the hedging blueprint of every other major country in the region, there are some differences in style and also substance.

For one, because we remain America’s closest ally in the region, we are much more explicit about whose side we are ultimately on – as our Prime Minister Julia Gillard reaffirmed in Washington several months ago. Moreover, we are quite explicit about the belief – perhaps more so than any other country in the region – that deepening our comprehensive security relationship with America is much more important to our future well-being than improving our bilateral relationship with China. Indeed, our bilateral relationship with China is all about seeking economic opportunities while retreating into issue-avoidance platitudes in the discussion of security matters.

Second, like most countries in the region, we seek to entrench the informal American-led hub-and-spokes strategic model – that is, with security and order being based on America’s formal and informal network of security relations and partnerships with countries such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Malaysiaand increasingly India.

However, for the first time, we are looking at comprehensive security partnerships and improving inter-operability platforms with other spokes. It is no coincidence that the Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith reminded the room at the Dialogue that “the enduring strengths of Japan and South Korea should be acknowledged.”

This is the thinking behind the 2007 Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation between Japan and Australia with foreign affairs and defence ministers meeting regularly (Singapore is the only other country where we have this 2+2 ministerial level meetings.) The Japan-Australia Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement might sound bureaucratic but it is a huge step toward achieving significant operational and logistical coordination between the two militaries. America is the only other country that Japan has such an agreement with.

Likewise, the Joint Statement on Enhanced Global and Security Cooperation between Australia and South Korea is seeking a similar result. This was South Korea’s first such bilateral security declaration with a country other than the United States.

Significantly, the Declaration is explicitly placed in the context of strengthening tactical and operational cooperation between the spokes of the San Francisco hub-and-spokes system.

Currently, security and operational cooperation is publicly premised on joint efforts against threats such as proliferation (eg., Proliferation Security Initiative which involves naval exercises between US, Japan, South Korea and Australia), humanitarian relief, piracy and international crime. But no one is in any doubt that countering the capabilities of the Chinese PLA Navy is at the forefront of thinking.

More generally, Australia will take the lead from the US: and this brings us to the Australia-India relationship.

Whenever there is significant deepening of strategic and military cooperation between America and another country, Australia will not be far behind. In an environment where the inevitable move towards burden-sharing essentially means inter-operability between American militaries and its allies and partners, this is one way to entrench and deepen the US-led security structure in Asia, further Australian interests, and enhance our relevance.

This is behind the Australian applications to take part in the US-India Malabar naval exercises.


In the last few minutes, I want to address something which has been missing from my presentation: how does China feel about all of this, and what are their prospects?

Well, the Chinese are far from stupid. They know exactly what is going on. In his address at the Dialogue, for example, Minister of Defence Liang spoke out against the persistent ‘Cold War’ mentality in the region. He is of course referring to the existence of alliances and security partnerships with the US and between other security partners, and more broadly to the hedging strategy designed to inhibit China’s options.

Now, size and capability matters – and China is already a more than formidable presence in the region. Nothing I am about to say is to deny this fact. The Chinese plan has always been to ease America out of Asia. But my suspicion is that the more China rises economically, the more frustrated a strategic power it will become.

There are several reasons why I think this will be the case.

The record shows that the more China rises, the more intensely key states hedge against its rise, and the more likely they are to balance and bandwagon in order to ensure that America remains the pre-eminent strategic actor in the region.

True, being the second largest economy in the world and an indispensable economic player means that it is now unthinkable to want to contain China in the Cold War sense of the term.

But without hyperbole, I would say that China remains the loneliest rising great power in history. It’s only genuine allies are Burma, North Korea and Pakistan – even Russia cannot be counted amongst its true friends. Every major power in Asia is moving closer to Washington – and taking on a greater security burden and improving cooperation with the American military – even as China’s economic importance deepens.

Why this preference for America over China?

The first, obvious reason is that China has outstanding land and maritime disputes with almost all major powers in Asia. America doesn’t.

Second, free and open trade (which is the lifeblood of growing prosperity in the region) has depended on American naval power and the hub-and-spokes structure for over five decades. In contrast, China quite correctly sees this security structure as a ready-made one to inhibit its strategic options. Therefore, even though it has benefitted from it, it wants to eventually revise and dismantle such a security structure. Other states fear the revisionist tendencies of China in this context, and fear the implications of a Chinese-led region.

Third, the fact that America is not geographically based in Asia works to its advantage. As a foreign leader, it requires greater levels of acquiescence from Asian partners to retain its presence in the region (such as basing rights.) If asked to shift its base – as occurred in the Philippines in 1991 – America will do so peacefully, even if it is resentful. In contrast, a dominant Asian power would not need the same level of regional acquiescence to maintain its military footholds. America has to constantly negotiate the terms of its presence in Asia – China would not.

Well, what about the argument that Chinese economic leverage will eventually force key Asian states to realign their allegiances away from America and towards China?

Well, China cannot truly dominate economic activity and exercise strategic leverage proportionate to its economic size until it becomes the dominant centre for domestic consumption in Asia. Until that happens, it cannot use the carrot of market access and stick of market denial to demand strategic compliance. But China’s domestically driven fixed investment and export-led model of growth is preventing that from happening – and will do so for the foreseeable future.

Being the dominant processing-trade hub, rather than the end consumer of products and services, does not give you enormous leverage. For political reasons that won’t change, Beijing does not grant significant access to foreign companies in the best and most lucrative sectors of the economy. Instead, China will have to rely on pure bulk, economic size and military muscle to get its way and fundamentally change the regional strategic structure and environment. For a number of reasons, and as formidable as it already is and could be, it will lack the economic weight and military resources needed to compel Asian neighbours to accept a Chinese-led order and reject a US-led one. I’m happy to talk about why this is the case in the time for discussion if there is interest.


If I am correct, the challenge ahead will be to manage a profoundly frustrated and dissatisfied rising Chinese power.

But that is a whole new topic.

I have covered a lot of territory so am happy to talk further about anything I have said over the time we have now for questions…

(Given above is the full text of a speech delivered by Dr John Lee, Visiting Fellow, Hudson Institute Washington and Research Fellow, Centre for Independent Studies, Sydney, Australia, at a lecture discussion, organized jointly by The Chennai Centre for China Studies, Center for Asia Studies, and the University of Madras (Dept. of Politics and Public Administration, in association with Australian Consulate General in Chennai, at Chennai on 13 June 2011. )

Dr John Lee can be reached at email: jlee@hudson.org