June 08, 2012

Wary of China but leery of alliance, US and India go into third strategic dialogue

Chidanand Rajghatta
Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN | Jun 8, 2012, 09.31PM IST
WASHINGTON: The audience at the Carnegie Endowment event on US-India relations ahead of the strategic dialogue spilled out into an overflow room on Thursday evening. A key state department official working on the nuts and bolts of the relationship outlined the energy and intensity of the engagement between the two sides. ''We are not even into June and already five US cabinet officials have visit India this year,'' gushed deputy assistant secretary of state Alyssa Ayres, reeling off the names of secretary of state Hillary Clinton, defense secretary Leon Panetta, commerce secretary John Bryson, health secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and treasury secretary Tim Geithner (upcoming) who have been New Delhi-bound in recent weeks. 

India is set to reciprocate those visits over the next week during and around the third US-India Strategic Dialogue (SD) centered on external affairs minister SM Krishna's engagement with his counterpart Hillary Clinton, for whom it will be a finale of sorts before she demits office later this year. Human resources minister Kapil Sibal, science and technology minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, and man-for-all-seasons Sam Pitroda will back him in an endeavour that has resulted in incremental increase in the strength and potency of US-India ties after a giant leap during the Bush presidency. 

But policy wonks, regional analysts, and assorted enthusiasts for a greater US-India engagement are searching for the next big idea to express President Obama's vision of a ''defining partnership'' with India in the 21st century, something on the scale of the civilian nuclear deal. It's missing. Mandarins on both sides struggle to come up with an overarching theme, other than to echo the President's words. Asked to identify the focus of the 3rd SD, Indian officials said it's aimed a reaffirming faith and confidence in the relationship. ''Human development,'' one official proffered feebly. 

Minutes before Ayres launched into a rapid-fire checklist of the numerous items on the agenda for the dialogue her boss Robert Blake had left the room after yet another expansive speech on US-India ties in which he refuted recent narratives suggesting the relationship had been oversold, and maintained that the partnership is much more than a quest for the next big thing. But the growing sense in Washington is that New Delhi is leery of the biggest thing that the United States is seeking -- an alliance of the kind it has with other Asian powers such as Japan and South Korea. 

Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, Obama's senior cabinet principles, were both voluble about a more assertive Indian role in the region, both in East Asia and in Afghanistan. But whether it is an outcome of strategic timidity or diplomatic prudence, New Delhi is seen as being very circumspect in its response. American analysts and the media have recorded it. The headline in the Los Angeles Times following the Panetta visit said it all: ''India not sold on closer military ties with U.S,'' it noted, reporting that New Delhi ''appeared more interested in buying U.S. weapons than in aligning strategically with Washington.'' 

If US officials are miffed about Indian reticence, they are not showing it. They also insist that their courtship of India, expressions of greater presence in Pacific, and efforts to involve India in East Asia are not aimed at containing China. In fact, Washington is pressing for a trilateral dialogue process with India and China. ''India is going to maintain strategic autonomy, as we will as well,'' Assistant secretary of state Robert Blake said at Carnegie. ''But we do see opportunity to work ever more closely with India across a wide range of ideas.'' 

One such area is Afghanistan where Washington is now literally outsourcing -- to use that shopworn term -- the pacification of the country to India as it draws down from the region. It is a role New Delhi is starting to embrace with the usual circumspection. The loss is Pakistan's, a country that has now become marginal in the US-India scheme of things that factors in a broader global architecture. 

Whether or not New Delhi plays ball with Washington in the immediate present, interest in the region and the bilateral relationship is at an all-time high in the US Capital. The Carnegie event overflowed with attendees from think-tanks, academia, business, and Industry. On Friday, an event at another think-tank featuring Nancy Powell and Nirupama Rao, the U.S and Indian ambassadors in New Delhi and Washington respectively, was sold out. 

'US focus on Asia-Pacific will help India contain China'

New Delhi, June 8 ,2012 (IANS)

The US military's new focus on the Asia-Pacific region, as enunciated by Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, is welcome and will aid in India's efforts to contain China, security experts say, adding that this country's navy should develop the capacity to operate in areas afar as the Pacific Ocean.

"This was in the making for a long time. After the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the Atlantic is a dead duck and with the power centre shifting from the west to the east, the Asia-Pacific region is going to be the cockpit of power for the next 50 years," former Indian Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash told IANS.

"So, how should India react? Each country should react if its sovereignty and security is impinged. This not so in this case. Therefore, we should welcome it. We are worried about the rise of China. 

This will help us in the containment process in the long run," Adm. Prakash, who is a member of the National Security Advisory Board, added.

Speaking in New Delhi Wednesday, Panetta detailed the US' "rebalancing" itself toward the Asia-Pacific region.

"In particular, we will expand our military partnerships and our presence in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia," he said, adding that India would be a "lynchpin" in implementing this strategy.

In practical terms that means that the US would be moving 60 percent of its military assets - principally warships, aircraft and troops - to the Asia-Pacific-Indian Ocean region.

This would enable the US "confront more than one enemy at the same time. Let's say something happens in North Korea and simultaneously in the Strait of Hormuz. We have to be prepared to confront both," Panetta said.

Commodore (retd) C. Uday Bhaskar, advisor to the South Asia Monitor portal, echoed Adm. Prakash's views.

"If you have the capacity, then you operate in a certain area. We should acquire the capacity to operate in the Pacific Ocean. One shouldn't be surprised about the plans the US and China have for the Indian Ocean. 

Surprise would go against the rhythm of what world powers do," said Bhaskar, a former director of the National Maritime Foundation.

"Instead of saying 'Don't come here', you should show your ability to go outside your domain," Bhaskar added.

The Indian Navy has for long desired to transform itself into a blue water force. However, in spite of being the only navy in the region stretching from Israel in the west to Japan and China in the east to operate an aircraft carrier - with two more on the way - and a plethora of submarines - both nuclear and conventional - destroyers, frigates, corvettes and other vessels, it essentially remains a coastal force.

However, the Indian Navy does participate in bilateral and multilateral exercises as far away as off Japan - and once in the Atlantic. Its ships also regularly drop anchor at foreign ports on goodwill visits. 

Gulshan Luthra, editor of India Strategic defence journal, had another take on the issue, saying the US move would make India unhappy but there was little this country could do about it.

"It's bound to cause unhappiness in India but there's little we can do about it," Luthra.
What was now worrisome, he said were reports that the US was attempting to acquire berthing facilities in the Bangladesh port city of Chittagong.

"If that happens, India's strategic assets would be under constant observation," Luthra addded.

India enjoys strategic autonomy in ties: Blake

Washington, Jun 8, 2012, (PTI)
Despite a strategic engagement that has brought the two countries into closer convergence, the US does not always expect India to toe its line and recognises New Delhi's strategic autonomy, a top official has said.

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, said in his address to a Washington-based prestigious think-tank that the US and India can together will influence the course of the 21st century.

Blake said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that the third round of Indo-US Strategic Dialogue is scheduled to be held on June 13, which would be co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Minister of External Affairs S M Krishna.

Under the Strategic Dialogue, the two governments will have substantive exchanges in more than 20 distinct policy areas this year.

The Strategic Dialogue, he said, has resulted in greater convergence between the two countries and improved trade and business relationship.

Blake, however, acknowledged that America's strategic dialogue with India is different from others and conceded that the United States does not expect India to toe the American line all the time.

"Our strategic engagement with India has brought us into much closer strategic convergence on a range of important issues. We will not always agree and India will maintain its strategic autonomy.

"But our broadening consultations, our common values, and the bipartisan support for expanding our relations suggest that we are likely to work ever more closely in the years to come," Blake said."As countries willing to take responsibility for mobilising responses to the world's challenges, the US and India are likely together to influence the course of this new century before us," Blake said.

In his remarks 'The evolution of the US-India Strategic Dialogue' Blake, who has had previously served in New Delhi and was the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, refuted the recent narrative in some circles that India-US relationship has been oversold.
"If you believe that then you haven't been paying attention to the great strides we've been making over the past few years. This is a relationship that matters more than ever, and both governments are powerfully committed to meeting that challenge," he said.

Observing that the India-US partnership is much more than a quest for "the next big thing" – or in diplomatic-speak "the next big deliverable," Blake said the two countries have proven year after year that their annual dialogue has produced a widening record of cooperation and dividends.

The objective of the Strategic Dialogue, he said, is to leverage all aspects of bilateral cooperation, in order to improve the lives of the nearly 1.6 billion citizens in the countries; and to push the envelope in already thriving areas of cooperation, like exceptional S&T partnerships and defence trade, and to set ambitious benchmarks for trade and economic relationship including progress on the ambitious Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) negotiations.

Commenting on the much talked about China angle in the India-US relationship, Blake said both New Delhi and Washington agree that "a zero-sum relationship" with Beijing will have negative results, and will only dampen the opportunity for a stronger, more prosperous Asia.

To this end, the US and India have called for a new trilateral dialogue with China to increase their understanding and cooperation in areas of mutual interest, he said.
Praising India's policy on Myanmar, Blake said India is not only looking east, but also assuming a larger role in the broader Asia-Pacific.

Both India and the US, he said, recognise the international significance of the waterways that connect the Indian Ocean through to the Pacific, the necessity of defending freedom of navigation, and the importance of cooperating on transnational issues that threaten the free flow of commerce, such as piracy, illegal trafficking, and terrorism.

Blake said the US is very supportive of India's Look East Strategy, and is working together in the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum to build a regional architecture that strengthens regional norms and behaviors, upholds universal rights, and supports the peaceful settlement of disputes.

US military seeks greater engagement with India

Washington, June 8, 2012, (IANS)
The United States aspires to have greater engagement with India sitting on an enormously important geostrategic location on the sea lines of communication from the Mideast into Pacific, according to a top US military officer.

"We have for some time said that we aspired to a closer relationship and greater engagement with India," General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told foreign media Thursday.

"I mean, they are currently the second and soon, you know, depending on who you believe, soon to be the largest country in the world," he said in response to a question asking him to compare Washington's relationship with India and Pakistan.
"They sit at an enormously important geostrategic location on the sea lines of communication from the Mideast into Pacific.  And they're the world's largest democracy," Dempsey said.

"So sure, we have, for as long as I can remember, been seeking greater  engagement with them," he said.

On the other hand, Washington's relationship with Pakistan was "always surprising" and often "frustrating", said Dempsey, who has "been working the US-Pakistan relationship in earnest since about 2005."

"So I'm seven years deep in it and I would venture to say that it's always surprising to me," he said noting that they cooperated on some issues, but were unable to find common ground on many other issues like the presence of Taliban in its tribal belt.
"we do some things very well. We have some interests on which we cooperate  almost without question, and then there are other issues where we just have not been able to find common ground," Dempsey said.

"The presence of Afghan Taliban in the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas ) is one of those areas," he said pointing specifically to the Haqqani network.

In Washington's view "the Haqqani network, is as big a threat to Pakistan as it is to Afghanistan and to us, but we haven't been able to find common ground on that point.  So that's been very frustrating," Dempsey said.

While, there are "friction points in our relationship with Pakistan, and those activities are one of those friction points," he said, " we just have to keep at it, because Pakistan's an important partner."

Let IMF manage eurozone restructuring, urges think-tank

07 June 2012 http://www.publicservice.co.uk/feature_story.asp?id=19927

With European leadership severely lacking - only the IMF has the 'necessary detachment and economic credibility' to sort out the eurozone crisis, claims Ryan Bourne

The structural flaws of the eurozone as currently configured have long been identified. A Centre for Policy Studies paper published today reviews the three options open to the European Union in trying to solve the crisis. The first, which the EU has so far tried to pursue, entails eliminating the competitiveness differentials between northern and southern countries through domestic price adjustments. So far, Germany has been unwilling to accept inflation of its own production costs as part of this, meaning that the burden has been expected to fall on the southern European countries through internal devaluation. This is clearly not working. 

An unpublished compliance report, which found its way onto the web recently concluded that Greece - for example - will have to impose a further fiscal squeeze next year amounting to 5.5 per cent of gross domestic product. But without growth, this settlement will never gain political support within Greece, as evidenced by the recent election results. The supply-side measures necessary take time to bed-in and should have been undertaken in benign conditions. But the people's tolerance for austerity within southern Europe is clearly waning. Coupled with Germany's aversion to inflation and the huge scale of the adjustment required, this solution is looking highly unlikely.

The second option is for a full system of transfer payments from areas of high to low productivity through grants. Some large transfers of this kind have already taken place – we have seen the bail-outs of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, for example. And over recent months the weaker countries in the single currency area have been increasingly dependent on the European Central Bank for financing. But without a full fiscal union, and German taxpayer support for a permanent system, this again is a sticking plaster solution. What is more, Germany is only likely to ever accept this if the reforms it thinks the southern states must undertake are upheld.

Given that this looks very difficult to achieve, our paper argues that we should now be prepared for a euro break-up - in particular, for a Greek exit. This requires careful planning, both to enable an orderly exit and to prevent contagion across the continent. In the paper, we set out why we think that the International Monetary Fund is the only fire brigade in town. The report argues that only the IMF has the "necessary detachment and economic credibility" to help sort out this crisis. The eurozone institutions are blinded by ideology and each country has their own interests to represent. Only the IMF is in a position to highlight the options available to the single currency economies and to set out the advantages and disadvantages of each. 

With the Spanish banking system in deep trouble and most probably in need of a bailout, the markets severely doubt the government will be able to service its debts – particularly, with the structural reforms needed to improve productivity and internally devalue. The time has, therefore, come for the EU to choose one of the three options outlined above and to stick to it. The lack of action in the single currency area is feeding uncertainty and worsening the outlook for other non-eurozone economies. But the IMF is well-placed both to represent the interests of non-eurozone members and to give independent advice to the European leaders. Without clear leadership, currently lacking at a European level, the eurozone crisis has the capacity to engulf us all. Though many might say we should back off and let the eurozone deal with its problems, it is clear that decision-making at that level is flawed. The solutions so far have delayed the reckoning, but this delay must be now used effectively to present a lasting solution.

Ryan Bourne is head of economic research at the Centre for Policy Studies – a British think-tank

This article first appeared on publicserviceeurope.comLet IMF manage eurozone restructuring, urges think-tank

Still seriously unmatched

Teresita, Howard Schaffer

India is taken more seriously now in China than before, but is still not seen as an equal

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna's visit to China is emphasising the prospects for India-China cooperation, in the aura of good feeling that high-level visits usually generate. A well-connected academic, Wang Dehua, in an interview about the visit, refers to India and China as "a rising and an emerging power." He concludes that "India's interests lie in wider economic and cultural cooperation with China. This is China's opportunity to break up the U.S. intention to contain China."

A recent visit to Beijing and Shanghai after a long absence gave us a more complicated picture of how the rise of India and China, so central to U.S. strategic thinking, looks from the east.The India-China relationship is still asymmetrical. This theme ran through a dozen or so meetings with Chinese and some Indians who follow the relationship closely. One Chinese observer commented that neither country was top priority for the other. The disparity in their trade relations tells the story: China is India's largest partner for merchandise trade; India is China's 10th partner.
Respect and condescension

Despite this imbalance, Chinese thinkers, and apparently the Chinese government, take India far more seriously than they once did. Several observers commented that China had recently upgraded the rank of its ambassador in Delhi to the Vice-Minister level. India now ranks among China's largest economic partners, even if it is not at the top of that list. Reflecting on India's foreign policy, one Chinese veteran of India-China ties commented that its best feature was its independence. Another made an impassioned plea for China to "seize the moment" to work closely with India and together reshape the working of global institutions, an enterprise for which he clearly believed that India's participation was important. At least one observer spoke with real warmth about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whom he said the Chinese leadership admired for his realistic approach to India's economy and for his "kindness."

But with this increased respect for India came more than a whiff of condescension. Several observers used phrases like "China is the big brother." All argued that India's ambitions for a greater global role were "understandable," in light of its improved economic performance, but in the end unrealistic. They felt India was not yet ready for a major global role. Almost all argued that China's Comprehensive National Power (CNP) exceeded India's by a factor of three or four, and that the gap was widening. Chinese commentators often cite this metric, which combines economic strength and military power and, in some versions, measures of cultural or other "soft" power. One observer argued that India's missile programme was 10 years behind China's.
Reaction from the U.S.

A particularly dismissive attitude was reserved for India's practice of equating itself with China — both its quest for an international status that matched China's and its reference to India and China as a matched pair, whether as the "two rising powers" or in other ways. One Indian observer commented that Chinese India-watchers were conscious that a few decades ago, Chinese and Indian per capita incomes were the same, whereas today, China's exceeds India's by a factor of between three and four. The Indian practice of bracketing the two countries, he felt, struck Chinese observers as "a B-plus student presenting himself as the equal of a straight-A student."

This slightly jaundiced view dovetailed with a widespread comment that India routinely tried to negotiate outcomes beyond what its national power could justify. Some people referred to India's "arrogance," or to the "unilateralism" or "self-righteousness" of Indian foreign policy. Commenting more specifically on India's negotiating style, the most common word was "tough." Those we spoke to had considerable respect for India's diplomats, both for their diplomatic talents and for their linguistic skills and knowledge of China. They felt that the need to do business in English put China at a disadvantage.

For two visitors from the United States, perhaps the most arresting observation concerned the balance among bilateral, regional and global issues in the relationship. For the U.S., bilateral ties are the biggest success story, and this matches India's priorities. For China, on the other hand, the easiest arena for India-China collaboration is global, both their interactions at the United Nations and on such issues as climate change. Bilateral issues are much more difficult, and regional cooperation almost non-existent.
Bilateral, regional issues

In India-China bilateral relations, the oldest issue, and the one that still has pride of place, is the border. We found no one who expected this issue to be resolved within his professional lifetime; the best that could be hoped for was to manage it. We were given a succession of presentations on 1960s-era opportunities for solving the border that had been squandered by India's "excessive" ambitions. Solutions that might have worked in the 1960s, we heard repeatedly, were no longer possible in light of the two nations' power gap. On the growing list of other bilateral issues, notably trade, energy and water, Chinese observers often cited India's "toughness" in defending its interests.
The dialogue on regional issues is even more difficult, and is highly selective. The most obvious problem area is Pakistan, which China does not discuss with India. Chinese scholars either deflected our questions about the reported Chinese role in Gilgit and Baltistan, or dismissed the reports of a Chinese military role as misinterpretations of "workers who had military-like uniforms." Nuclear questions are another no-no — whether or not they involve Pakistan. China is unwilling to enter into any discussion or multilateral forum that involves an implication of equal nuclear status between China and India.
Discussions on East Asia are also difficult. One observer noted that India treated China as an outsider in South Asia and the Indian Ocean; China did the same to India in East Asia. It was clear that China's India-watchers had noted India's "look East" policy but did not particularly welcome it. They predictably dismissed India's fears of Chinese military bases on the Indian Ocean rim. The South China Sea was a major preoccupation, and our Chinese interlocutors pointedly dismissed any notion that India (or indeed the U.S.) had legitimate interests there.

On global issues, the people we spoke with felt that India's and China's interests were much closer, and they had little difficulty agreeing on broad principles to guide their desired outcome in multilateral discussions. As a result, negotiations were much easier — although we heard from both Chinese and Indian observers that once one got into details, reaching agreement was harder. Both countries started from the premise that they needed to defend the rights of "large developing countries," a phrase the Chinese seemed to prefer to "rising powers." India often finds it easier to make common cause with China in forums like the United Nations Security Council. But one retired diplomat conceded that China had made good use of ambiguous but positive-sounding statements on such issues as India's quest for a permanent seat on the Security Council and its Nuclear Suppliers' Group waiver. They succeeded in sending visitors away with a warm feeling, without actually undertaking any real commitment on China's part.
Little about Delhi-Washington

We heard little about China's attitude toward India's relations with the United States, and were asked surprisingly few questions about this. China's apparent misgivings about Delhi-Washington ties, however, surfaced in one retired diplomat's comment that the U.S. was reinforcing India's unrealistic ambitions. The case he cited in particular was the statement by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2005 that the U.S. wanted to help India "become a great power in the 21st Century."

It is noteworthy that Mr. Krishna's visit to Beijing coincided with U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta's visit to Delhi, and preceded by a week his own trip to Washington for the Strategic Dialogue. The U.S. believes that India will be one of the powers that shape the next century, and that its contribution to Asian security and prosperity will be vital. The bilateral U.S.-India relationship is vibrant and growing, with some predictable speed bumps reflecting both India's internal challenges and the difficulty of meshing two stubborn bureaucratic systems and our different foreign policy traditions. India-U.S. consultations on East Asia have become a dynamic part of this relationship in the last two years, and other regional dialogues are getting started; global cooperation, on the other hand, has lagged. China has not yet accepted India's global role, and has kept India at arm's length when it comes to regional issues. Cooperation on multilateral global issues is valued both in Beijing and in Delhi, but does not seem to touch the core issues of India's role as a world power.

(Teresita and Howard Schaffer are former U.S. ambassadors, with long years of service in South Asia. They are co-founders of southasiahand.com. Howard Schaffer teaches at Georgetown University; Teresita Schaffer is a non-resident senior fellow at Brookings Institution.)

June 07, 2012




President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan was in Beijing from June 5 to 7,2012, to attend the summit of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) of which Pakistan, like India, Iran and Afghanistan, is an observer.It has sought regular membership of the SCO on which no decision has so far been taken.

2. Zardari combined his visit for the SCO summit with a bilateral visit for talks with Chinese leaders and businessmen on bilateral relations. Among the Chinese leaders he met for bilateral discussions were President Hu Jintao and Vice-President Xi Jinping.

3. The official Xinhua news agency reported that during his meeting with  Zardari on June 7, Husaid  that China encouraged and supported its enterprises to participate in energy and electric power projects in Pakistan.He hoped that the two countrieswould deepen pragmatic cooperation, especially in the sectors of trade, energy, transportation infrastructure construction, agriculture, telecommunications, aerospace and technology. Xinhua quoted Hu as saying: "China will continue to provide assistance for Pakistan's economic and social development within our capacity."

4.According to the Agency, Hu called on the two countries to improve law-enforcement and security cooperation, and jointly fight the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism.

5.Zardari thanked China for its support of Pakistan's maintenance of domestic stability and development as well as China's assistance to Pakistan when the country was affected by floods and earthquakes.He invited  Chinese enterprises to expand their investments in Pakistan, especially in infrastructure construction and the energy sector.

6.As Pakistani leaders normally do during their interactions with their Chinese counterparts, Zardari was reported to have re-affirmed continued Pakistani support to China's core interests without specifying what those interests are. The Associated Press of Pakistan reported that during his meeting with Hu, Zardari proposed the creation of an Energy Fund to finance energy-related projects in Pakistan to be undertaken by Chinese companies.

7.During Zardari's stay in Beijing, officials of the two countries signed three  memoranda of understanding (MoUs) covering supply of water from Tarbela to Islamabad, the establishment of a Special Economic Zone in the proposed new city Zulfikarabad in Sindh and the building there of 6,000 flats   on private public partnership basis. They also signed  an agreement for Chinese assistance in the  de-silting of canals and barrages in the Sindh province.

8.The APP reported that during his meeting with Vice-President Xi, Zardari conveyed  the gratitude of the people and the Government of Pakistan for China's unflinching support to Pakistan's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

9.During the previous visits of Zardari to China, the focus of the discussions was on Chinese assistance to Pakistan for infrastructure development in Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan and for the construction of oil-gas pipelines and a railway line connecting   Xinjiang with the Chinese-constructed Gwadar port on the Mekran coast of Balochistan.

10.During the present visit, the focus was on possible Chinese assistance for infrastructure and development projects in Sindh. Due to the deteriorating  security situation in Balochistan, the proposed projects to connect Gwadar with Xinjiang seem to be held up. The Chinese appear to be going ahead only with the upgradation of the Karakoram Highway across Gilgit-Baltistan and construction of roads to improve connectivity inside Gilgit-Baltistan.

11.Due to the continuing activities of the Uighur separatists in Xinjiang from sanctuaries in Pakistan's Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the Chinese have restrained their enthusiasm for projects to improve connectivity between Xinjiang and the jihadi belt in Pakistan. ( 8-6-12)


( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: seventyone2@gmail.com . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

Tensions and Operational Challenges in Pakistan

June 7, 2012 | 0900 GMT

By Scott Stewart

On June 4, four U.S. diplomats assigned to the Consulate General of the United States in Peshawar, Pakistan, were stopped at a military checkpoint and temporarily detained after refusing to allow their two vehicles to be searched. The diplomats -- including a vice consul -- were traveling in a two-vehicle motorcade and were accompanied by three Pakistani Foreign Service National (FSN) security officers. 

According to media reports, the Pakistani military has charged that the diplomats had traveled to Malakand without first obtaining permission from the Pakistani government. Malakand is a city located about 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of Peshawar in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, formerly known as the Northwest Frontier Province. Because of the problems Pakistan has had with foreign jihadists in its border badlands, all foreigners are required to obtain something called a No Objection Certificate from Pakistan's Interior Ministry before visiting areas in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the adjacent Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Furthermore, the Pakistani press noted that the Pakistani military also objected to the Americans and their Pakistani FSNs' being armed and operating vehicles with fake license plates to disguise the diplomatic vehicles.

At its core, though, this incident is not about these small infractions. Indeed, Peshawar is the capital of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and diplomats stationed there already have received host country permission to be in the province. Additionally, U.S. diplomats assigned to Peshawar rarely venture outside of their secure compounds without a protective detail because of the extreme security threat in the city. Rather, this incident is a product of the strain in U.S.-Pakistani relations.

Motorcade Operations

The threat against U.S. diplomats in Peshawar is quite acute. In August 2008, American Consul General in Peshawar Lynne Tracy survived a small-arms attack against her motorcade. In November 2008, the director of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Peshawar, Stephen Vance, was assassinated in an attack on his vehicle. In June 2009, Peshawar's Pearl Continental Hotel, which housed many foreign diplomats and U.N. personnel, was attacked with a massive vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), and in April 2010 the American Consulate building was the target of an elaborate VBIED plot. In May 2011, a U.S. diplomatic motorcade was attacked in Peshawar using a remotely detonated VBIED that was activated as the motorcade drove past. Jihadists also have attacked numerous Pakistani targets inside the city, including military, police and other government officials. 

Given the threat in Peshawar, it makes sense that the vice consul would travel in an armed motorcade to attend a meeting -- especially in Malakand, which is even more remote than Peshawar and even more dangerous for a U.S. government employee. The use of fake vehicle tags is also logical. There are places where it is beneficial to announce one's diplomatic status, but in Peshawar, diplomatic vehicles and premises are targeted specifically for attacks. It is also an environment in which the militants possess the weaponry to engage a fully armored vehicle, so it is much better to attempt to be low key than to maintain a high-profile protective detail. American and other diplomats frequently do this in Pakistan, so it was somewhat disingenuous of the Pakistani military to raise it as a point of contention in this case.

From the configuration of the motorcade as shown on Pakistani television, it appears that it was intended to safeguard the vice consul, who was presumably riding in the rear seat of the first vehicle with a U.S. driver and the agent in charge of his protective detail riding in the vehicle's front passenger seat. The security follow-car appears to have been staffed by a U.S. shift leader riding in the front passenger seat and a Pakistani FSN driver and two FSN security officers in the rear of the vehicle.

It is not clear if the three U.S. security officers are full-time government employees or contractors. They reportedly were carrying U.S. diplomatic passports at the time of the incident, but not everyone who holds a diplomatic passport is afforded full diplomatic immunity. Still, it is likely they were at the very least members of the administrative and technical staff and that they would be afforded functional diplomatic immunity for activities related to their official duties.

This case is quite unlike the January 2011 Raymond Davis case, in which a contract security officer assigned to the U.S. Consulate General in Lahore shot and killed two men who he claims attempted to rob him. In the June 4 incident, the security officers were with the diplomat they were protecting and clearly were performing their assigned duties. This means they would be immune from prosecution for any violations the Pakistanis can cite in this incident. However, the FSN security officers could find themselves in a much worse position if the Pakistani government decides to pursue charges against them.

U.S.-Pakistani Tensions

While the June 4 incident is unlike the Davis case, it certainly is related to the growing tension between the United States and Pakistan exacerbated by the Davis shootings. The countries' relationship deteriorated further after the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan. Relations between the two countries reached an all-time low in November 2011 after U.S. airstrikes against a Pakistani military post along the country's northwestern border with Afghanistan resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers. In response, the Pakistani government shut down NATO's supply route into Afghanistan, asked U.S. forces to vacate an air base used to fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and suspended military and intelligence cooperation.

After the November 2011 airstrike, the United States noticeably scaled back its UAV strikes in Pakistan. From Jan. 1 to May 21, the United States conducted just 13 UAV strikes while it sought to persuade the Pakistanis to reopen the NATO supply lines. However, since the conclusion of the NATO summit May 21, there have been eight U.S. airstrikes, including three strikes on June 2, 3 and 4. The June 4 strike reportedly resulted in the death of al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi.

Considering this dynamic, it was no coincidence that the U.S. diplomatic motorcade was stopped the evening of June 4. The incident was meant to send a message to the Americans -- and perhaps even more important, a message to the Pakistani public, which has been full of anti-American sentiment since well before the Davis case. In fact, the Pakistani government has used anti-American sentiment as a tool for many years now, spanning several military administrations and now a civilian administration. The presence of a television crew at the scene also raises the possibility that the Pakistani military staged the entire incident.

The video shot by the television crew revealed another interesting point aside from the continuing tensions between the Americans and Pakistanis. Based on the footage, it is apparent that even though it has been two-and-a-half years since the suicide bombing against the CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan, and a year and a half since the Davis case, Washington continues to send Caucasian-looking men to work in this very hostile region rather than recruiting officers who could blend in on the street. The presence of Caucasians in a city like Malakand would draw even more attention than diplomatic vehicle plates.

Following 9/11, there was a rapid increase in the number of case officers assigned to collect information pertaining to al Qaeda and bin Laden, and the CIA was assigned to be the lead agency in the hunt. According to government sources, one big problem with this was that most of the case officers hired were young, inexperienced and ill suited to the mission. The CIA was simply unable to recruit case officers who understood the region's culture, issues and actors and who could move imperceptibly within the local milieu. Instead, the case officers are obviously foreigners. Along with the threat level in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan, this ensures that these officers, like other U.S. government employees in the region, receive protection when they leave secure compounds.

Not only does the United States lack officers who can blend in within the region, but also the Americans' operational security is typically worse than al Qaeda's. The areas where the remaining al Qaeda leadership is hiding are remote and insular. Visitors to the area are quickly recognized and identified -- especially if they happen to be Caucasian. Local residents who spend too much time talking to such outsiders often are labeled as spies and killed. These conditions have helped the jihadists maintain a superior human intelligence (and counterintelligence) network in the area.

The June 4 incident highlights the persistence of these organizational problems as they continue hampering U.S. efforts to collect intelligence in Pakistan.

Read more: Tensions and Operational Challenges in Pakistan | Stratfor 

In Syria; Fierce Battle for Strategic Space & Energy Resources

A great geo-political strategic struggle is now underway in Syria, with balance slightly tilted in favor of Syria and Iran with full support from Russia along with China. My assessment is that if peace is not brought to Syria and a political settlement sought, destruction of this crucial strategic key stone in Middle East will have very serious repercussions and strategic consequences not only for the region but also for the strategic balance and the economic and strategic health of the world for a long time.
Apart from other contentious issues including US led Western attempt to ignite the Shia-Sunni conflict as in Iraq , a link up of territories from the East of Caspian via Iran, Shia ruled Iraq, Alwaite ruled Syria and Hezbollah dominated Lebanon will provide routes to carry oil and gas bypassing US led projects over Azeri and Turkish territories.
A major actor in the struggle is Russia's newly re-elected and invigorated Vladimir Putin, who saw how his motherland, former USSR was broken into pieces and up to US$ 1 trillion worth of Russian wealth transferred to Western banks and institutions .He has declared that enough is enough. Moscow has almost full support from China in this regard because weakening or breakup of Syria would very adversely impact Iran, which when feeling cornered or worse if invaded will hit out at NATO and its Arab allies in GCC led by Saudi Arabia. It would be then be a war with no holds barred, almost.
India which is pussy footing on this vital issue wrongly believes that the West plus Sunni Arab countries would come up trumps. New Delhi has 6 million Indians working in the region and billions of dollars are sent as remittances to India. The whole area would be in turmoil for long and borders would be rearranged.
If Syria feels that the regime is being destabilized , then its 10-12% ruling Alawaite elite, it's Sunni supporters including so far security forces and the merchants, more than 10% Christian population and same percentage of Syrian Kurds would fight back ferociously.
Ankara has been following a very dubious foreign policy under the sway of Saudi money and influence encouraged by Washington .Turkey's border province of Hatay known as Antakya or Antioch in history, has a large Alwaite population. This was perhaps one of the reasons why the ruling Sunni regime before World War II did not protest as much as it would now, when under a dubious referendum the province was transferred to Turkey by European powers hoping that Ankara would join them in World War II. But heeding Kemal Ataturk's sane advice before his demise, Ankara stayed neutral during the War .In Turkey, the Shia Alevis comprise 15% of the population and are mostly the original Turkic migrants from Central Asia.
Syria and its Kurds provided a fertile soil for PKK, the Turkish Kurdish Marxist organisation which has been fighting for autonomy in south-east of Turkey since 1980s, a rebellion in which over 40,000 Turkish citizens including 5000 soldiers have been killed. PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan now imprisoned near Istanbul was based in Syria with PKK training camps till 1999. Already PKK is restive again and both sides have indulged in violence, killings and reprisals. The Kurds comprise nearly 20% of Turkey's population.
The ruling Islamist Justice and Development party (AKP) is beholden financially and supported by money from Saudi Arabia, where President Abdullah Gul worked in a Jeddah bank for seven years before returning to Ankara to join politics in 1992. Located at the interface of Europe, Central Asia, Middle East and Africa, if Turkey can influence its neighborhood, events and powers in its neighborhood can also influence Turkey. Additionally, under AKP, Turkey's secular armed forces, a stakeholder in the nation's emergence out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire and its modernization and secularization, have been insulted and humiliated .So a colonel's coup cannot be ruled out sometimes in future.
It is true that in Syria, the majority Sunni population is ruled by minority Alawaite elite, but the Arab Spring, actually was and hopefully remains Arabs revolt against US propped up the dictators like Hosni Mubarak and others. USA with its influence and Saudi Arabia with its petrodollars worried that the Arab Spring might flower in the mediaeval Kingdom ruled by Saud dynasty might lead to overthrow of the regime .So Riyadh and other kingdoms and sheikdoms in the Gulf have joined hands along with European and NATO states and Sunni Turkey with their military muscle to divert attention away from the peoples revolt , with obscurantist and extreme Muslim organizations like Muslim brotherhood Salafis , Al Qaeda and their kind being shoved and pushed into positions of power . For how long.
Since the re-inauguration of Putin's presidency, the Russian president has shown clear intentions of resisting U.S.-led Western encroachment on Russian space in Central Asia and in the Middle East where also its strategic interests lie. In this it has substantial support from China, which needs energy from Iran where it is investing heavily. The encroachment by NATO and the West right into the heart of central Asia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan was stopped by energizing the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (in which Iran has Observer status)
A Reinvigorated Putin
After declining to attend the G8 meeting at Camp David, Putin after visiting Belarus, an important piece in restoring the old core Russian order, went to France and Germany. Paris now under a socialist president Hollande is inclined to move away from the US hegemony which has been France's policy since the days of Charles de Gaulle. Germany under a Conservative Angela Merkel would be more difficult to persuade, although her two predecessors Schroeder and Kohl had tried to move away from American strangle hold with US troops still stationed in the country even though World War II ended in 1944. Both of them paid the price of Washington's anger and lost elections and power.
Intervention by NATO forces and some Arab and Muslim countries like Turkey in Libya after a blatant misinterpretation of the UN Security Council resolution has brought catastrophe on the people of Libya ( Western corporate media is stunningly silent on the ongoing tragedy with Al Jazeera joining with gang of BBC, CNN and Fox News).While reportedly 5 to 10,000 Libyans were killed before the NATO's shock and awe intervention, since then upto 100,000 people have been reportedly killed, it's ruler Qadhafi killed like a dog much to the glee of the West and its supporters. The country lies in ruins and people are being killed daily ,with Al Qaeda, Salafi and other extremist elements taking over power .In spite of this horrible example the West and Sunni Muslim countries are determined to do an encore in Syria.
There are Syrian groups supported and even infiltrated from outsiders under various names which have refused to negotiate with the Syrian regime and the West and some of its allies are asking for open intervention. But the situation is quite different from Libya. Syrian ports are the only ones in Mediterranean where Russian naval ships can dock and refuel. The Russians have supplied to Syria top-quality missiles and other equipment to defend the country. The Russian presence itself should act as a deterrent to any foolhardy adventure which if it goes wrong like the simple attempt to rescue American Embassy hostages from Iran in 1980 could boomerang on Obama's re-election chances as that fiasco had on Jimmy Carter's
India's Changing Stance on Syria

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar wrote recently that India buckled under the combined pressure from Washington and the alluring charm of the oil monarchs of the Persian Gulf.  India's Syria policy took a circle last week to return to where it all began at the 'Friends of Syria' meet in Tunis on February 24 , notwithstanding a visit by Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi . The 'Friends of Syria' is a coalition of western countries and Saudi Arabia and Qatar that roots for 'regime change' in Syria. South Block had abstained on the resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 1 over alleged human rights violations by the Syrian government. India came out strongly supportive of the mission by the joint UN envoy Kofi Annan. An 'inclusive' Syrian-led, Syrian-owned dialogue. This phase ended last week with India voting in favor of the resolution sponsored by the United States and Turkey at the UNHRC demanding an international inquiry into the recent violence in Houla. India effectively rejoined the 'Friends of Syria'.

The Indian vote is based on political expediency insofar as the US-Turkish resolution presumes that the Syrian government is responsible for the Houla massacre, and in spirit it contravenes the Security Council resolution on Syria.
India saw many exchanges with Gulf nations ; a Joint Commission meeting with Saudi Arabia (January 6); travel advisory on Syria (January 7); foreign-office consultations with UAE (February 8); defense minister visits Saudi Arabia (February 13); EAM's visit to Cairo (March 2); visit by MOS for external affairs E Ahamed to Saudi Arabia (March 13); visit of deputy foreign minister of Saudi Arabia (March 30); state visit by emir of Qatar (April 4); joint visit by EAM and MOS Ahamed to the UAE (April 14); visit by UAE foreign minister (May 16); visit by crown prince of Bahrain (May 29) and travel advisory on Syria (May 30). India appears like a camp follower. Storm clouds are gathering over Syria. The systematic assault by the US and its Saudi and Qatari allies on Annan's mission, debilitating and discrediting it at every point, is entering a crucial phase and an overt intervention in Syria is likely. Indeed, top US officials have spoken of intervention even without UN mandate. The specter that haunts the region is a Syria plunging into protracted civil war that could be far more catastrophic for regional security and stability than the bloodbath Lebanon went through for over a decade.
Writing in Lebanon's Al Akhbar of June 5 As'ad AbuKhalil raised "Some Questions on the Houla Massacre...and Beyond,"
He said,"It is not known who perpetrated the Houla massacre. It is certain though that both sides (the Syrian regime army and the gangs operating under the banner of the Free Syrian Army) have a record of brutality and disregard for human lives to qualify them to do the job.
"What is certain is that Houla was a propaganda blitz that dominated Western as well as Arab (Saudi-funded and Qatari-funded) media. The romanticizing of the so-called "Syrian Revolution" (the deeds of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Syrian National Council and the Muslim Brotherhood deserve the label of revolution as much as George W. Bush deserves the Nobel Peace Prize and as much as Bashar Assad deserves to serve as president of Syria) clashes with the actual record of the armed groups operating under the umbrella of the FSA.
"But it is time that we raise questions and we expose lies surrounding the Syrian uprising. Let us first remember that Western media basically surrender control of their editorial policies to their governments when they decide to go against a developing country. We remember that few raised questions about the wisdom of forming an army of militant Muslims in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
The cause of what later produced al-Qaeda was championed. I remember Dan Rather in Afghan clothes riding a horse and reporting on the "heroes" of the fight against communism. Lies and fabrications and exaggerations were the symptom of the coverage of Afghanistan at the time. And when the communist regime fell and was later replaced by the Taliban, there were no demands for accountability and no one asked Dan Rather if he ever met Bin Laden during his media stunt in Afghanistan.
"When Western governments were preparing for the invasion of Libya (you were led to believe that only Qatari forces were on the grounds in Libya by the way, given their battle-tested experience), the West's media yet again published unsubstantiated reports and claims about what was happening in Libya.
"The same media that stood silent when all Western leaders groveled before Gaddafi suddenly woke up to the reality of dictatorship in Libya. All sorts of claims were made: the number of 100,000 dead was thrown about casually (of course, it later proved to be untrue), and reports of foreign mercenary armies were a staple of the coverage (that was also untrue and the reports themselves fueled a racist anti-black campaign by the Libyan fighters after "liberation").
"Whatever happened to that woman who made that claim about being raped by Gaddafi's soldiers? Why was she deported from Qatar and what became of her? No one asked, and the media turned the page and started another campaign.
"It should be mentioned that some decent journalists may feel pressured to toe the line not only by the conventional wisdom of the establishment around them but also because the regime (whether in Libya or in Syria) is an awful dictatorial regime that does not deserve to last one day longer.But it should be stressed that the well-funded (mostly by Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia) press offices of the exile Syrian opposition constantly and daily feed the Western media a large supply of lies, exaggerations, fabrications, and wild scenarios. These media offices (like the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – and for everything else that propaganda requires) never have to account for their information or claims.
"They provide names of people inside Syria and Western correspondents merely Skype with them. Those whose names are provided by the press offices of the Syrian exile opposition merely confirm or reiterate or repeat verbatim whatever is being said by the exile offices. There have been videos shown on YouTube (since YouTube is the favorite source for Western media on Syria) in which injuries are faked and children are coached to speak about their experiences. All that never makes it into Western media.
"Even the obvious lies never get challenged. From very early on, there were many lies spread that have yet to be exposed. For months, Syrian opposition exile groups insisted that there were no armed opposition groups and they stressed that their movement is purely peaceful (and when pictures of armed men were displayed, they were dismissed as enemy propaganda).Yet, suddenly and without explanation, the same groups started to brag about and praise the armed opposition groups who ostensibly were leading a purely peaceful revolution. The propaganda agenda was clearly exhibited with the various statements (especially by exile opposition figures in Western and Saudi media) to the effect that the Syrian regime is being assisted by fighters from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah, and the Mahdi Army.
"Similarly, the Syrian exile opposition also duped the Western press (and Western audiences in workshops, conferences, and panels) to think that the Syrian uprising is led by liberal peaceful feminists (and they would often name a woman or two), and would insist that the Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with the uprising in Syria. Of course, now we know better. Various leading figures in the Syrian National Council admitted belatedly that indeed the Muslim Brotherhood is running the show, and only after a year of the uprising did some in the Western press publish articles about the influence and clout of the Muslim Brotherhood.
"The Houla story is still murky. No one knows what happened. We know that there are innocent civilians who were killed. We know that both sides are exchanging accusations and we know that both sides are habitual liars. But we can raise some questions:--This does not settle it. We still don't know what happened in Houla. But a healthy dosage of skepticism is in order in the case of Syria especially as Western governments seem to pushing in the direction of military intervention.
There are many sides of the story but the Western media is only covering one side. (Neil Mac Farquhar flat out lied when he claimed twice in the New York Times that Syrian TV does not mention the armed clashes in Syria). To be sure, both sides can't be believed and their claims can't be taken at face value, but it is high time that real investigation of the Syrian story be undertaken by people who are not beholden to governments – East or West."
For Syrian Peace mission led by former UNSG Kofi Annan and its current fate and counter action against Western powers and Sunni allies being planned by SCO in Beijing watch this space.
K.Gajendra Singh, June 7, 2012 .Mayur Vihar, Delhi.

June 06, 2012

Worried over US’ defence focus on Asia, India tells Panetta to re-calibrate strategy

Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, June 6
Worried over United States' new defence focus on Asia, New Delhi today told Washington to re-calibrate its strategy, as India fears that it could lead to increased militarisation of its neighbourhood.
The two sides also reached an understanding that will enable transfer of cutting edge defence technology to India. At a bilateral meeting, Defence Minister AK Antony today told his US counterpart, Secretary Defence Leon Panetta "to move at a pace (in implementing the new military strategy) which is comfortable to all countries concerned." India was concerned at the eastward swing of the US, officials said.
Under its new strategy, termed as 're-balancing', the US wants 60 per cent of its naval assets, including six sea-borne aircraft carriers, under its Pacific Area Command (PACOM). India is under the area of influence of the PACOM, the US perceives.

China has already termed the new US policy as "untimely."

Sources explained that India's worry is Bay of Bengal turning into a volatile zone. China already has a naval base in Hangyyi Myanmar, the US is seeking berthing right at Chittagong port in Bangladesh while India is based in good numbers at Port Blair (Andaman Nicobar Islands).
In the hour-long meeting, Panetta appreciated India's move to maintain ties with Pakistan while terming the Indo-Pak and US-Pak relations as 'complicated'. "India and the US will need to continue to engage Pakistan, overcoming our respective - and often deep - differences with Pakistan", Panetta said. Washington made it clear that it does not seek Indian troops in Afghanistan. However, it wants New Delhi to continue supporting the country through "trade investments, reconstruction and help for Afghan security forces" beyond the December 2014 deadline when international forces start withdrawing.

In a major policy shift, the US dropped its demand that India must sign two umbrella defence agreements. The Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) and the Communications, Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), which had been the irritants, were not discussed today. Panetta made it clear "these are not issues anymore".
During the discussion, Antony wanted both countries to move beyond the buyer-seller transactions and focus on transfer of technologies and partnerships. Panetta assured the Indian side that the US will facilitate technology access and sharing. 

US, China woo India for control over Asia-Pacific

Rajat Pandit & Sachin Parashar, TNN | Jun 7, 2012, 02.37AM IST

While visiting US secretary of defence Leon Panetta said India would be a linchpin in America's new defence strategy, the Chinese vice premier Li Keqiang told foreign minister SM Krishna that Sino-Indian ties would be the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century.

NEW DELHI: With the Asia-Pacific region emerging as the theatre of escalating US-China rivalry, India on Wednesday found itself in a rare and enviable situation: of being wooed by the competing giants. 

Visiting US defence secretary Leon Panetta said India would be "a linchpin" in America's unfolding new defence strategy that revolves around "re-balancing" its forces "towards" Asia-Pacific, while Chinese vice premier Li Keqiangtold foreign minister SM Krishna that Sino-Indian ties would be the most important bilateral relationship in the 21st Century. 

Li's remark to Krishna, on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Beijing, is significant not just because he is slated to take over as China's premier from Wen Jiabao after the transition process starting July this year is over. But also since it virtually echoed US President Barack Obama's statement earlier to Indian Parliament terming the ties between the two democracies as the "defining partnership of 21st century". 

Panetta said, "America is at a turning point. After a decade of war, we are developing the new defence strategy. In particular, we will expand our military partnerships and our presence in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and South Asia. Defence cooperation with India is a linchpin in this strategy." 

China, which after the over 5,000-km Agni-V missile's test had sniggered at India for harbouring super-power ambitions, seems to have switched to a conciliatory tone and, suddenly, respectful of New Delhi's strategic autonomy. 

The tactic found expression in the People's Daily which gushingly proclaimed that India with an independent foreign policy could not be manipulated, even as it slammed the new US strategy that includes progressively shifting 60% of the formidable American naval combat fleet to Asia-Pacific. 

Recognizing Asia-Pacific's emergence as the new economic hub, the US has decided to focus on the region as part of what they call the pivot towards Asia. The new strategic posture has been welcomed by the countries in the region which have been at the receiving end of the muscle flexing by China that claims the entire South China Sea as its exclusive domain. 

Caught between? 

The unfolding rivalry creates problems for India. It is uneasy about China's aggrandizement and wants unhindered access to and through the South China Sea. Yet, it does not want to be seen as being part of any American grand design to contain China, already miffed with the new strategy being enunciated by the US. 

India wants to further step up its defence cooperation with the US on a bilateral basis but clearly does not want additional naval forces in an already-militarized IOR and surrounding regions. 

Defence minister AK Antony indirectly conveyed to Panetta that the US needed to recalibrate or rethink the policy. He emphasized there was a "need to strengthen the multilateral security architecture" in the Asia Pacific and that it must "move at a pace comfortable to all countries concerned". 

Antony, however, did say India fully supported "unhindered freedom of navigation in international waters for all", given its own bitter experience of being needled by China in the contentious South China Sea. 

But in another indication of India not being supportive of US actively jumping into the fray in South China Sea, where China is jostling with countries like the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore on territorial claims, Antony said it was "desirable" that the "parties concerned themselves should settle contentious matters in accordance with international laws". 

Panetta, after earlier ruffling the prickly Chinese feathers, on Wednesday also struck a conciliatory note. Delivering a lecture, he said that even as India and the US "deepen" their bilateral defence partnership, the two would also seek to strengthen their ties with China. 

"We recognise China has a critical role to play in advancing security and prosperity in this region. The US welcomes the rise of a strong, prosperous and a successful China that plays a greater role in global affairs - and respects and enforces the international norms that have governed this region for six decades," he said. 

India was pleased with the outcome of the Krishna-Li meeting, making the Indian foreign minister one of the first leaders to have any substantial interaction with next generation of Chinese leaders. 

Xi Jinping, who has been anointed successor to President Hu Jintao, was scheduled to visit India last year but it never materialized. Many described it as a missed opportunity for India in engaging the leader who would be president. 

But on Wednesday, India had reason to be happy. "Repeatedly emphasizing how important ties were between the two countries, Li told the foreign minister that he looked upon the ties between the two nations as the most significant bilateral relationship of the 21st century," said an official. 

Krishna, who will also meet Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi on Thursday, had on his way to Beijing said there were no contentious issues between the two countries apart from the border dispute.

Panetta defends Pak strikes, seeks ‘deep’ security ties with India

Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 07, 2012
First Published: 00:18 IST(7/6/2012)
Last Updated: 02:18 IST(7/6/2012)

US defence secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday pitched for deepening security and defence ties with India while defending America's drone strikes in Pakistan.

Panetta said the US had made it "very clear that we are going to continue to defend ourselves". However, he termed 

US-Pakistan ties a "necessary relationship".

Terming the defence partnership with India "strategic, practical and collaborative", US defence secretary Leon Panetta underlined his country's commitment to a greater role in the region, extending "all the way to the Indian Ocean".
Washington sees New Delhi as central to its new doctrine of re-balancing in the Asia-Pacific region. Though the Chinese assertion of military power is an important reason for the new doctrine, Panetta said with India and the US deepening their military ties, they also "seek to strengthen" their relations with Beijing.

"We must move beyond a focus on individual arms sales to regular cooperation that increases the quantity and quality of our defence trade," he said, delivering a lecture on India-US defence ties as part of concluding his eight-day trip to the Asia-Pacific on Wednesday.

The defence secretary wanted India to "modernise regulations in areas like defence procurement and nuclear liability legislation".
He said both countries should work together to make defence and trade ties simple, responsive and effective. India has imported arms worth $8 billion from the US over the last 10 years.

Panetta also noted India and the US felt China had "a critical role to play advancing security and prosperity in this region".
"The United States welcomes the rise of a strong, prosperous and a successful China that plays a greater role in global affairs — and respects and enforces the international norms that have governed this region for six decades," he said.
The new strategy, which was announced in January, calls for a shift in US strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific.




According to JPAC (Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command)   of the US, 78,000 Americans are still missing from World War II, 1,632 of them in the China/Burma/India theatre. It is believed that about 430 of these, mainly World War II pilots of the US Air Force, died in plane crashes in India's Arunachal Pradesh while carrying out air-drops in the Kachin State of North Burma and ferrying supplies to the KMT troops in Yunnan.

2.In the beginning of 2008, when Mr.George Bush was the President of the US, the BBC reported that a US team was visiting  Arunachal Pradesh  to search for the remains of the US pilots. It quoted the then US Consul-General in Kolkata, Mr.HenryJardine, as saying that the mission  "was in its preliminary stages". He added: "We are just going to Arunachal Pradesh to speak to various people in the government who could help in the search." The BBC reported that the groundwork for the investigation mission to Arunachal Pradesh was done during a meeting between US and Indian officials in New Delhi in March, 2008.

3.JPAC spokesman Major Brian DeSantis  was quoted by the BBC as saying thatduring the New Delhi meeting, the officials of the two countries discussed a tentative timeline for future investigations and identification of aircraft crash sites. He added: "Now our team is going to Arunachal Pradesh to discuss details of future operations with Ministry of Defence and Arunachal Pradesh officials.This will be followed by site visits in early fall [autumn] to determine the scope of debris fields and evaluate unique logistical requirements associated with each site. This process sets the groundwork for future recovery teams."

4.These developments caused concern in Beijing which interpreted them as implying  US recognition of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as its territory and describes as southern Tibet, as Indian territory.

5.A commentary broadcast on March 25,2008, by the China Radio International  criticised the US for its plans to search for American airmen missing in action during the Second World War, in "Arunachal Pradesh, the so-called Province set up forcibly and illegally by India in Chinese territory". Declaring that the  'Chinese Government has never recognised the legality of this province', it alleged that after a change in its  stand ( of allowing the US to undertake searches) in January 2008, India was cooperating with US in this regard, scheduling a meeting between the two sides in New Delhi in March 2008.

6.The commentary claimed that the Indian Intelligence Bureau had opposed the US idea from the point of view of the region's sensitivity, particularly in respect of entry of foreigners, but the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India had rejected the IB's reservations. 

7.The Commentary described New Delhi's motivations in this regard as attempting to strengthen military ties with Washington and legalise the status of Arunachal Pradesh as an Indian province, expecting that this would  contribute to an increase in India's weight in the ongoing negotiations with China on the disputed border. The US motivations, according to the Commentary, were to further develop its military relations with India and use the Arunachal issue as means to restrain China's intentions.

8.An Indian news agency report of February 25,2010, quoted US Consular officials in India as appreciating the cooperation of the Indian government, the Indian Air Force and the state government of Arunachal Pradesh with US defence teams searching for the remains of US  pilots  in Arunchal Pradesh.

9.The agency report said that the searches under the Joint POW/missing-in-action Accounting Command were being conducted in different parts of Arunachal Pradesh as a humanitarian mission. The report further quoted a US Consular official as saying: "No remains have so far been found, but we will continue the search."

10.The weekly "India Today" reported on July 22,2011, that President Barack Obama  had suspended search and recovery expeditions into Arunachal Pradesh after complaints from the Chinese. The "India Today" reported as follows: "Chinese concerns over what it sees as American "intrusion" into Arunachal Pradesh have prompted the Obama administration to suspend plans for recovering bodies of crewmen who went missing there during the Second World War. Two expeditions planned in 2010 and 2011 were cancelled ostensibly because of the Chinese claiming that this was disputed territory. China considers the whole of Arunachal Pradesh as 'South Tibet' and protested expeditions by India and the US to recover the bodies of over 400 US aircrew who died in crashes while flying resupply missions between Assam and Kunming, China, during the war."

11.It added: "After pressure from the families of those who perished, joint operations to recover the remains of servicemen were started by the US and India in late 2008. The operations were, however, inexplicably cancelled by both governments in 2010 and 2011. The US has also put on hold joint military exercises in Arunachal Pradesh."

12. Coinciding with the two-day visit of Mr.Leon Panetta, US Defence Secretary, to New Delhi that concluded on June 6,2012, sections of the media in India and the US have reported that the Obama Administration has made a fresh request to New Delhi for permission to resume the searches in Arunachal Pradesh.

13.They have quoted  Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India, as saying as follows: " (There has been )a request by the US, in the North East they perhaps would like to visit some places where there are remains of perhaps  what they feel   pilots who were involved in WWII.This is not a new request. We have had a similar request several years ago and at that stage we did permit some officials to visit there. They did not find anything at that time. Perhaps they have some further information (now).It is a humanitarian cause and it is dealt as humanitarian issue not only by us but by several neighbours. We need to respond in a humanitarian manner."

14.There has been no official announcement on this so far, but the reported media briefing by the spokesperson confirms the receipt of a request from the Obama Administration for permission to resume the searches and indicates that the Government of India's response would be positive.

15.This is a significant development indicating that the Obama Administration has overcome  its reservations of the last two years because of the Chinese sensitivities  in this matter and decided to send US search teams back into Arunachal Pradesh. It would be interesting to see how China reacts to it. ( 7-6-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: seventyone2@gmail.com . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

Is Greece European? By Robert D. Kaplan

June 6, 2012 | 0900 GMT


By Robert D. Kaplan

Greece is where the West both begins and ends. The West -- as a humanist ideal -- began in ancient Athens where compassion for the individual began to replace the crushing brutality of the nearby civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. The war that Herodotus chronicles between Greece and Persia in the 5th century B.C. established a contrast between West and East that has persisted for millennia. Greece is Christian, but it is also Eastern Orthodox, as spiritually close to Russia as it is to the West, and geographically equidistant between Brussels and Moscow. Greece may have invented the West with the democratic innovations of the Age of Pericles, but for more than a thousand years it was a child of Byzantine and Turkish despotism. And while Greece was the northwestern bastion of the anciently civilized Near East, ever since history moved north into colder climates following the collapse of Rome, the inhabitants of Peninsular Greece have found themselves at the poor, southeastern extremity of Europe.

Modern Greece in particular has struggled against this bifurcated legacy. In an early 20th century replay of the Greco-Persian Wars, Greece's post-World War I military struggle with Turkey led to a signal Greek defeat and as a consequence, more than a million ethnic Greeks from Asia Minor escaped to Greece proper, further impoverishing the country. (This Greek diaspora in Asia Minor was a massive source of revenue until the Greeks were expelled.) Not only did World War I have a bloody and epic coda in Greece, so did World War II, which was followed by a civil war between rightists and communists. Greece's ultimate escape from the Warsaw Pact was a rather close-run affair: again, the effect of Greece's unstable geographical location between East and West.

Greece struggled on. As recently as the mid-1970s it was governed by a particularly brutal military dictatorship (led by colonels from the backwater of the Peloponnese), which lasted for seven years, and fear of another coup persisted during the initial stage of its reborn democracy. Even though the Olympic tradition began in Greece in antiquity and the first modern Olympics were held in Greece in 1896, Greece was denied the right to host the centenary modern Olympics in 1996 owing to the country's lack of preparedness in organization and infrastructure. Greece did host the 2004 Olympics, but the financial strain that the games put on Greece contributed to the country's economic fragility in the run-up to the current debt crisis.

It is not entirely an accident that Greece is the most economically troubled country in the European Union. The fact that it is located at Europe's southeastern back door also has something to do with it. For Greece's economic and political development bear marks of a legacy not wholly in the modern West.

Roughly three-quarters of Greek businesses are family-owned and rely on family labor, making meritocratic promotion difficult for those outside the family. Tax cheating is rampant. The economy suffers from a profound lack of competitiveness, even as Greece is mainly a service economy, relying on tourism, in which manufacturing constitutes a weak sector. Of course, these features have much to do with bad policies enacted over the years and decades, but they are also products of history and culture, which are, in turn, products of geography. Indeed, Greece lacks enough productive land to be an agricultural power.

Then there is political underdevelopment. Long into the 20th century, Greek political parties had a paternalistic, coffeehouse quality, centered on big personalities -- chieftains in all but name -- with little formal organizational support. George Papandreou, the grandfather of the recent prime minister of the same name, actually headed a party called the "George Papandreou Party." Political parties have been family businesses to a greater extent in Greece than in other Western democracies. The party in power not only dominated the highest echelons of the bureaucracy, as is normal and proper in a democracy, but the middle- and lower-echelons, too. State institutions from top to bottom were often overly politicized.

Moreover, rather than having a moderate left-wing party and a modern conservative one, as is common throughout Western Europe, in Greece through the early 1990s there was a hard-left party, the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), which during the Cold War openly sympathized with radical Arab regimes like Hafez al Assad's Syria and Moammar Gadhafi's Libya, and a somewhat reactionary right-wing party, New Democracy. The drift of both those leading parties toward the center is a relatively recent affair.

And so the creation of late of a hard-left party, SYRIZA, and a hard-right neo-Nazi movement, Golden Dawn (vaguely reminiscent of the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974), both harbor distant echoes of Greece's mid-20th century past. Ironically, while Greece's extreme economic crisis created these radical groupings in the first place, if these new parties fare badly in the upcoming poll it might indicate a firm rejection of extremism by Greek voters and a permanent turn toward the center -- toward political modernity, that is.

There is a tendency in all of this to throw one's hands up at the specter of the Greeks and declare them too much trouble than they're worth, at least for Europe. But such an attitude reeks of hypocrisy, even as it denies Western self-interest. When Greece joined the European Union in 1981, its economy was manifestly not ready; Brussels had made a rank political decision, not an economic one -- just as it would in admitting Greece to the eurozone in 2002. In both cases, the ground-level, domestic reality of the Greek economy was swept aside in favor of an abstract quasi-historical vision of Europe stretching from Iberia to the eastern Mediterranean.

Of course, Greece, during the 1980s -- when I lived there for seven years -- might have used the influx of cash from the European Union in order to discipline and reform its economy. Instead, then PASOK Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou used the money to swell the ranks of the bureaucracy. Thus, did Greece remain underdeveloped, and the dream-gamble of Brussels failed. The saddest irony is that the sins of the hard-left Andreas Papandreou were visited upon his well-meaning, center-left son, George, who had his short tenure as prime minister from 2009 to 2011 poisoned by his father's economic legacy.

But Western self-interest now demands that even if Greece leaves the eurozone -- and that is a big "if" -- it nevertheless remains anchored in the European Union and NATO. For whether Greece drops the euro or not, it faces years of severe economic hardship. That means, given its geographic location, Greece's political orientation should never be taken for granted. For example, the Chinese have invested heavily in developing part of the port of Piraeus, adjacent to Athens, even as Russia's economic and intelligence ties to the Greek area of Cyprus are extremely close. It has been speculated in the media that with Greece short of cash and Russia enjoying a surplus, were the Russians ejected from ports in Syria in the wake of a regime change there, Moscow would find a way to eventually make use of Greek naval facilities. Remember that Greece and Cyprus both have modern European histories mainly because they were claimed by Western powers for strategic reasons.

In other words, from the point of geography and geopolitics, Greece will be in play for years to come.

Read more: Is Greece European? By Robert D. Kaplan | Stratfor