Battle of Two Museums …

Posted on September 20, 2017. Filed under: Light plus Weighty, Personalities, Uncategorized |

2017 is undoubtedly the year of the feud. As celebrities and corporations alike take to Twitter to hash things out, two of the UK’s most respected scientific institutions, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum, have got in on the action.


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Danger of a Jihadist Pakistan …

Posted on September 6, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

John Bolton in WSJ …

Almost certainly, the war in Afghanistan will be won or lost in Pakistan. President Trump’s announcement last week that he will send more U.S. troops—some sources say another 4,000—to Afghanistan represents a change in tactics from President Obama’s policy. But the ultimate objective is still opaque, and even once the specifics are articulated, what may ultimately matter more is the still-undeveloped “South Asia policy” promised by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

That means dealing with Pakistan. Islamabad has provided financial and military aid, including privileged sanctuaries, to the Taliban, the Haqqani network, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Islamic State, al Qaeda and other malefactors, allowing them not just to survive but flourish. President Trump rightly says this must stop and is encouraging Pakistan’s principal adversary, India, to increase its economic assistance to Afghanistan.

But the task isn’t so straightforward. The Bush and Obama administrations also criticized Pakistan’s support for terrorists, without effect. Putting too much pressure on Pakistan risks further destabilizing the already volatile country, tipping it into the hands of domestic radical Islamicists, who grow stronger by the day.

Peter Tomsen, a former State Department regional expert, once described Pakistan as the only government he knew consisting simultaneously of arsonists and firefighters—often the same people, depending on the situation. Pakistan has teetered on the edge of collapse ever since it was created in the 1947 partition of British India. Its civilian governments have too often been corrupt, incompetent or both. The ouster last month of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif —he stepped down after the Supreme Court disqualified him for not having been “honest”—is no reassurance. If anything, it shows the judiciary’s excessive politicization, which further weakens constitutional governance.

Islamabad’s military, sometimes called the country’s “steel skeleton,” is equally problematic. It recalls the old remark about Prussia: Whereas other countries have armies, Pakistan’s army has a country. The military is also becoming increasingly radicalized, with Islamicists already in control of its intelligence services and now working their way through the ranks of the combat branches.

In this unstable environment, blunt pressure by the U.S.—and, by inference, India—could backfire. Just as America must stay engaged in Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban and other terrorists from retaking control, it is also imperative to keep Islamabad from falling under the sway of radical Islamicists. Hence the danger of inadvertently strengthening their hand by supplying a convenient narrative of overt U.S. dominion. Such a blunder might help Pakistan’s radicals seize power even as the U.S. battles terrorists in Afghanistan.

Remember that Pakistan has been a nuclear state for nearly two decades. The gravest threat is that its arsenal of nuclear warheads, perhaps up to 100 of them, would fall into radical hands. The U.S. would instantly face many times the dangers posed by nuclear Iran or North Korea.

If American pressure were enough to compel Pakistan to act decisively against the terrorists within its borders, that would have happened long ago. What President Trump needs is a China component to his nascent South Asia policy, holding Beijing accountable for the misdeeds that helped create the current strategic dangers.

Of all the external actors, China bears primary responsibility for Pakistan’s and North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. For its own strategic reasons, China gave both countries direct financial, scientific and technological assistance and then flew political cover at the United Nations and elsewhere. Empowering Islamabad was a hedge against India, China’s biggest threat in South Asia. Helping Pyongyang was a play against the U.S. and its Asian allies. (And, increasingly, against the wider world, since North Korea appears to have sold its technology.)

In both cases China recklessly disregarded the risks of proliferation and breached its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. By comparison, Beijing’s flagrant violations of its World Trade Organization commitments are trifles. China was hardly unaware that Pakistan has fostered and aided Islamic terrorists in Kashmir, threatening Indian control. Yet Beijing has done nothing to stop it, thus indirectly keeping Indo-Pakistani relations tense.

China has also made Pakistan a considerable beneficiary of the massive transportation infrastructure and other projects related to its “One Belt, One Road” initiative. Clearly Beijing intends to bind Islamabad ever more tightly into its modern-day “co-prosperity sphere.”

It must, therefore, be core American policy to hold China to account, even belatedly. The U.S. can use its leverage to induce China to join the world in telling Pakistan it must sever ties with terrorists and close their sanctuaries. The Trump administration should make clear that Beijing will face consequences if it does not bring to bear its massive interests in support of this goal. Washington could also point out that this is in Beijing’s own interest, lest the terrorists rise next among the Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang province, what was once “East Turkestan.”

Whether Beijing truly intends to be a “responsible stakeholder” in international affairs, as its U.S. advocates insist, should be put to the test—and not merely on monetary and trade issues. Fighting international terrorism and nuclear proliferation requires determination and action, not the kind of smiling repetition of bumper-sticker phrases that the People’s Liberation Army and China’s political leadership blithely ignore.

Starting now in Afghanistan and Pakistan, China should be told its bona fides as a state engaging in a “peaceful rise” are on the line. If real proof of that conceit does not emerge, Washington will be entitled to draw the appropriate conclusions.

Mr. Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad” (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

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Merchant of Venice ………

Posted on August 25, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Antonio – a merchant of Venice in a melancholic mood
Bassanio – Antonio’s friend; suitor to Portia; later the husband of Portia.
Shylock – a miserly Jew; moneylender; father of Jessica
Jessica – daughter of Shylock, later the wife of Lorenzo
Lorenzo – friend of Antonio and Bassanio; in love with Jessica; later husband of Jessica
Portia – a rich heiress; later the wife of Bassanio
Nerissa – Portia’s waiting maid – in love with Gratiano; later the wife of Gratiano; disguises herself as Stephano
Balthazar – Portia’s servant, who Portia later disguises herself

Bassanio, a young Venetian of noble rank, wishes to woo the beautiful and wealthy heiress Portia. Having squandered his estate, he needs 3,000 ducats to subsidise his expenditures as a suitor.
Bassanio approaches his friend Antonio, a wealthy merchant of Venice who has previously and repeatedly bailed him out. Antonio agrees, but since he is cash-poor – his ships and merchandise are at sea – he promises to cover a bond if Bassanio can find a lender, so Bassanio turns to the Jewish moneylender Shylock and names Antonio as the loan’s guarantor.

Antonio has already antagonized Shylock through his outspoken antisemitism, and because Antonio’s habit of lending money without interest forces Shylock to charge lower rates.

Shylock is at first reluctant to grant the loan, citing abuse he has suffered at Antonio’s hand. He finally agrees to lend the sum to Bassanio without interest upon one condition ie if Bassanio is unable to repay it at the specified date, Shylock may take a “Pound (mass) of flesh from any part of the body of Antonio.

Bassanio does not want Antonio to accept such a risky condition but Antonio is surprised by what he sees as the moneylender’s generosity as no interest is asked and he signs the contract.

With money at hand, Bassanio leaves for Belmont with his friend Gratiano, who has asked to accompany him. Gratiano is a likeable young man but is often flippant, overly talkative and tactless. Bassanio warns his companion to exercise self-control and the two leave for Belmont.

Meanwhile in Belmont, Portia is awash with suitors. Her father left a will stipulating each of her suitors must choose correctly from one of three caskets – one each of gold, silver and lead. If he picks the right casket, he gets Portia.
The first suitor, the Prince of Morocco, chooses the gold casket, interpreting its slogan, “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire”, as referring to Portia.
The second suitor, the conceited Prince of Arragon, chooses the silver casket, which proclaims, “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves”, as he believes he is full of merit.
Both suitors leave empty-handed, having rejected the lead casket because of the baseness of its material and the uninviting nature of its slogan, “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath”.
The last suitor is Bassanio, whom Portia wishes to succeed, having met him before. As Bassanio ponders his choice, members of Portia’s household sing a song which says that “fancy” (not true love) is “engendered in the eyes, With gazing fed”
Bassanio chooses the lead casket and wins Portia’s hand.

At Venice, Antonio’s ships are reported lost at sea so the merchant cannot repay the bond. Shylock has become more determined to exact revenge from Christians because his daughter Jessica eloped with the Christian Lorenzo and converted. She took a substantial amount of Shylock’s wealth with her as well as a turquoise ring which Shylock had been given by his late wife, Leah. Shylock has Antonio brought before court.

At Belmont, Bassanio receives a letter telling him that Antonio has been unable to repay the loan from Shylock. Portia and Bassanio marry, as do Gratiano and Portia’s handmaid Nerissa. Bassanio and Gratiano leave for Venice With money from Portia, to save Antonio’s life by offering the money to Shylock.

Unknown to Bassanio and Gratiano, Portia sent her servant, Balthazar, to seek the counsel of Portia’s cousin, Bellario, a lawyer, at Padua.

The climax of the play takes place in the court of the Duke of Venice. Shylock refuses Bassanio’s offer of 6,000 ducats, twice the amount of the loan. He demands his pound of flesh from Antonio. The Duke, wishing to save Antonio but unable to nullify a contract, refers the case to a visitor who identifies himself as Balthazar, a young male “doctor of the law”, bearing a letter of recommendation to the Duke from the learned lawyer Bellario.

The doctor is Portia in disguise and the law clerk who accompanies her is Nerissa also disguised as a man. As Balthazar, Portia repeatedly asks Shylock to show mercy in a famous speech, advising him that mercy “is twice blessed – It blesseth him that gives and him that takes” However, Shylock adamantly refuses any compensations and insists on the pound of flesh.

As the court grants Shylock his bond and Antonio prepares for Shylock’s knife, Portia deftly appropriates Shylock’s argument for “specific performance”. She says that the contract allows Shylock only to remove the flesh, not the “blood”, of Antonio.

Thus, if Shylock were to shed any drop of Antonio’s blood, his “lands and goods” would be forfeited under Venetian laws. She tells him that he must cut precisely one pound of flesh, no more, no less. She advises him that “if the scale do turn, But in the estimation of a hair, Thou diest and all thy goods are confiscate.”

Defeated, Shylock concedes to accepting Bassanio’s offer of money for the defaulted bond – first his offer to pay “the bond thrice”, which Portia rebuffs, telling him to take his bond, and then merely the principal, which Portia also prevents him from doing on the ground that he has already refused it “in the open court”.

She cites a law under which Shylock, as a Jew and therefore an “alien”, having attempted to take the life of a citizen, has forfeited his property, half to the government and half to Antonio, leaving his life at the mercy of the Duke. The Duke pardons Shylock’s life. Antonio asks for his share “in use” until Shylock’s death, when the principal will be given to Lorenzo and Jessica.

At Antonio’s request, the Duke grants remission of the state’s half of forfeiture, but on the condition that Shylock convert to Christianity and bequeath his entire estate to Lorenzo and Jessica.

Bassanio does not recognise his disguised wife, but offers to give a present to the supposed lawyer. First she declines, but after he insists, Portia requests his ring and Antonio’s gloves. Antonio parts with his gloves without a second though but Bassanio gives the ring only after much persuasion from Antonio, as earlier in the play he promised his wife never to lose, sell or give it.

Nerissa, as the lawyer’s clerk, succeeds in likewise retrieving her ring from Gratiano, who does not see through her disguise.

At Belmont, Portia and Nerissa taunt and pretend to accuse their husbands before revealing they were really the lawyer and his clerk in disguise.
After all the other characters make amends, Antonio learns from Portia that three of his ships were not stranded and have returned safely after all.

Shylock and the antisemitism debate.

The play is frequently staged today, but is potentially troubling to modern audiences due to its central themes, which can easily appear antisemitic. Critics today still continue to argue over the play’s stance on the Jews and Judaism.

English society in the Elizabethan era has been described as “judeophobic” English Jews had been expelled under Edward I in 1290 and were not permitted to return until 1656 under the rule of Oliver Cromwell. In Venice and in some other places, Jews were required to wear a red hat at all times in public to make sure that they were easily identified, and had to live in a ghetto protected by Christian guards.

Shakespeare’s play may be seen as a continuation of this tradition. The title page indicates that the play was sometimes known as The Jew of Venice in its day, which suggests that it was seen as similar to Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta.

One interpretation of the play’s structure is that Shakespeare meant to contrast the mercy of the main Christian characters with the vengefulness of a Jew. Similarly, it is possible that Shakespeare meant Shylock’s “Forced conversion” to Christianity to be a “happy ending” for the character, as, to a Christian audience, it saves his soul and allows him to enter Heaven.

Regardless of what Shakespeare’s authorial intent may have been, the play has been made use of by anti semites throughout the play’s history. The Nazis used the usurious Shylock for their propaganda. Shortly after Kristallnacht in 1938, The Merchant of Venice was broadcast for propagandistic ends over the German airwaves.

Depiction of Jews in literature throughout the centuries bears the close imprint of Shylock. With slight variations much of English literature up until the 20th century depicts the Jew as “a monied, cruel, lecherous, avaricious outsider tolerated only because of his golden hoard”.

Shylock and Portia by Thomas Sully
Many modern readers and theatregoers have read the play as a plea for tolerance, noting that Shylock is a sympathetic character. They cite as evidence that Shylock’s “trial” at the end of the play is a mockery of justice, with Portia acting as a judge when she has no right to do so. The characters who berated Shylock for dishonesty resort to trickery in order to win. In addition, Shakespeare gives Shylock one of his most eloquent speeches –

“Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not take his flesh. What’s that good for? To bait fish withal; if it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies – and what’s his reason? I am a Jew.

Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.

If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction”.

It is difficult to know whether the sympathetic reading of Shylock is entirely due to changing sensibilities among readers, or whether Shakespeare, a writer who created complex, multi-faceted characters, deliberately intended this reading.

One of the reasons for this interpretation is that Shylock’s painful status in Venetian society is emphasised. To some critics, Shylock’s celebrated “Hath not a Jew eyes?” speech redeems him and even makes him into something of a tragic figure; in the speech, Shylock argues that he is no different from the Christian characters.

Detractors note that Shylock ends the speech with a tone of revenge: “if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” Those who see the speech as sympathetic point out that Shylock says he learned the desire for revenge from the Christian characters: “If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”

Even if Shakespeare did not intend the play to be read this way, the fact that it retains its power on stage for audiences who may perceive its central conflicts in radically different terms is an illustration of the subtlety of Shakespeare’s characterisations.

In the trial Shylock represents what Elizabethan Christians believed to be the Jewish desire for “justice”, contrasted with their obviously superior Christian value of mercy. The Christians in the courtroom urge Shylock to love his enemies, although they themselves have failed in the past.

Jewish critic Harold Bloom” suggests that, although the play gives merit to both cases, the portraits are not even-handed: “Shylock’s shrewd indictment of Christian hypocrisy delights us, but … Shakespeare’s intimations do not alleviate the savagery of his portrait of the Jew.

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China ‘n’ India – 2017 …

Posted on August 6, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Andrew Small is a prominent expert on China and its relations with Pakistan, the US and the European Union. He has a nuanced and deliberate take on developments inside the Middle Kingdom and its compulsions outside. His thoughts on the current Doklam standoff at the Bhutan, India, China tri-junction form part of this piece.

It’s not clear that India is militarily in a weaker position at the border – if anything, its relative position has been strengthening over time. India is also increasingly embedded in a network of relationships with other powers that can expect to maintain significant military, economic and technological advantages over China if they are able to operate in concert. That is precisely Beijing’s concern.

The difficulty India faces, however, is that there are some spheres where the ground is shifting in China’s favour and where there isn’t really any form of collective response. The Belt and Road initiative is probably the most striking case, where India doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to compete in a like-for-like fashion and where other partners who share India’s concerns are at best operating at a more modest scale than China – such as Japan – and at worst, not at all.

Over time, China does face the nagging question that India is one of its few potential peer competitors and well before that, it will most likely face the problem of how to deal with relative decline vis-à-vis India and growing Indian capacity to influence China’s strategic environment. Even now, Indian GDP growth has been outpacing China’s. Evidently, as long as China continues to add an economy the size of India’s every few years, that’s not going to cause any sleepless nights in Zhongnanhai but it does change the long game: in most relationships, China believes that over time, the balance of power will continue to shift inexorably to its advantage; with India, it can’t be so confident. And China knows very well how much leverage a rising competitor can gain, even in a highly asymmetric overall power balance – all the more so when operating with other major power partners.

Xi himself is more willing to take on the nationalist mantle than his more cautious predecessor but the broader dynamics predate him, whether one is talking about the general population or the shifts in views among Chinese foreign and security policy elites that have been such a contributing factor in China’s growing assertiveness. Xi embraces the notion of China acting as a great power, where Hu Jintao was in the transition between Deng’s strategy – keep a low profile, build your capabilities, never show leadership – and what we see today.

This also predates Xi – even if he has pushed the strategy forward with gusto and taken some bolder steps, it’s recognisably consistent with the trajectory on which China has been heading since at least 2008. He has certainly owned and directed it.

China’s approach is still carefully calibrated though – Beijing generally has a sense of what it can get away with and you haven’t seen risk taking comparable to, say, Moscow. The discussions in the region, and globally, would look very different if we were talking about a Chinese invasion of Taiwan rather than the militarisation of the South China Sea. Neither is it all stick – there are pay-offs for countries that are willing to be accommodating.

Re the current stand off. China often has longer-term negotiating positions in mind with steps of this sort, which include the Sino-Bhutanese border – a frustrating lacuna among Chinese land border settlements – and the wider question of infrastructure development in these areas. There are also elements of miscalculation – India undoubtedly acted more forcefully than China had expected and Beijing likely thought this was far enough into the grey zone that it wouldn’t elicit such a response.

Meanwhile, the political environment in China leaves it more boxed-in than usual: the PLA’s 90th anniversary celebrations and the run-up to party Congress are not an ideal context in which to show flexibility. That combination – China’s underestimation of India’s response and a domestic context that limits its room for manoeuvre – can partly explain the unusually escalated tensions.

It’s hard to get away from the timing issue, though. While it’s always possible to lay out an overall guiding logic for China’s behaviour, that doesn’t answer the question: Why now? In that respect, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US has to be seen as providing immediate context while the general deterioration in Sino-Indian relations is the wider one.

That’s increasingly the prism through which Beijing looks at relations with India too – inaccurately, I think, in this instance, but China’s proclivity is still to believe that, in the absence of US backing, its neighbours would take a more accommodating stance. With the present turmoil in Washington, China is putting this to the test by means of both inducements and pressure. In that sense, the lessons that Beijing will take from Doklam extend well beyond the border issues.

Evidently this incident has a very different flavour from previous border altercations, from the involvement of a third country to the strength of Chinese language at both official and unofficial levels. If there is ultimately a de-escalation, I think it will be seen as an adroit response on India and Bhutan’s part. But this can’t be assessed on a one-off basis – the concern is that if we are heading into a more difficult phase of Sino-Indian relations, there will be more such occurrences at the border, dealt in an atmosphere of deepening mutual hostility. That would be costly to both sides.

There are dynamics underway at the moment – not just in the bilateral relationship but in dealings with other parties too – that are tending to reinforce conflictual factors, with the consequent danger of a slide into something that starts to resemble outright rivalry. This is an important juncture at which to try to place the relationship on a footing that ensures that the inevitable elements of strategic competition between the two sides are managed within some predictable parameters and that there is a shared understanding of the rules. That has generally been true in recent decades – this has been an essentially well-managed relationship – but it is facing a different set of pressures now.

The rhetoric can be seen partly to reflect the domestic political context in China – these really are a delicate few months. But it also reflects the fact that China genuinely believes that India’s actions are of a qualitatively different nature to prior border incidents and necessitate a stronger pushback. This is the reason that so many analysts have been concerned that there is a real risk of escalation this time, even if I tend to side with those who think the parties will come up with a mutually acceptable way out.

The willingness on Beijing’s part to elevate disputes with India in the broader political discourse at home is worrying in a different way. Typically, there is an asymmetry in these Sino-Indian altercations, with the Chinese media and blogosphere paying very little attention to them, in clear contrast to the Indian side. In this case, Beijing has clearly opened the space for more strident voices and given far more prominence to the issue. We’ll see whether this is a one-off – essentially a product of the other factors – or if it turns into a standing feature of the relationship.

Global Times evidently isn’t Xinhua, but it has been a platform for arguments that also reflect elements of the Chinese debate. One has to look at the commentators in question and the specifics of what they’re saying.

Re the current domestic situation in China – the impending party Congress, the elimination of at least a potential rival and Xi’s attempt to project power? Does it have anything to do with the border situation?
It provides a context for the border situation: there is always less room for compromise or manoeuvre during this phase. I’m not inclined to see it as a driver of China’s behavior in the first place though – I don’t think you get to Doklam via Sun Zhengcai.

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China Arrives – the U S Fades …

Posted on July 21, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, Searching for Success, Uncategorized |

From the WSJ …..

Last October, satellite images captured the distinctive outlines of some powerful new weaponry at a Saudi runway used for military strikes in Yemen. Three Wing Loong drones had appeared, Chinese-made replicas of the U.S. Predator with a similar ability to stay aloft for hours carrying missiles and bombs.

The same month, another Chinese military drone, the CH-4 Rainbow, appeared in a photo of an airstrip in Jordan near the Syrian border. Other commercial satellite images have since revealed Chinese strike and surveillance drones at bases used by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

These images and others now being scrutinized in international defense circles add to growing evidence that military drones exported by China have recently been deployed in conflicts in the Mideast and Africa by several countries, including U.S. allies that the U.S. blocked from buying American models.

For the U.S., that is a strategic and commercial blow.

The U.S. has long refused to sell the most powerful U.S.-made drones to most countries, fearing they might fall into hostile hands, be used to suppress civil unrest or, in the Mideast, erode Israel’s military dominance. The U.K. is the only foreign country that has operated armed Predators and Reapers, the most potent U.S. systems for offensive drone strikes, according to people familiar with U.S. sales.

The Obama administration, while seeking to facilitate exports under close regulation, led efforts to forge a global “drone code” that would curb proliferation and keep the weapons from misuse.

But China is filling the void. State companies are selling aircraft resembling General Atomics’s Predator and Reaper drones at a fraction of the cost to U.S. allies and partners, and to other buyers.

China’s sales have enabled multiple countries—including some with weak legal systems and scant public oversight of the military—to use unmanned aerial vehicles to spy and kill remotely as the U.S. has done on a large scale since 9/11.

Among the Pentagon’s concerns is that advanced drones could be used against American forces. In Syria, U.S. pilots have shot down two Iranian-made armed drones threatening members of the U.S.-led coalition.

U.S. export policy that is driving partners to buy Chinese “hurts U.S. strategic interests in so many ways,” said Paul Scharre, a former Pentagon official at the nonpartisan Center for a New American Security. “It damages the U.S. relationship with a close partner. It increases that partner’s relationship with a competitor nation, China. It hurts U.S. companies trying to compete.”

China’s drone exports are now starting to influence U.S. policy, as American manufacturers and politicians lobby the Trump administration to relax export controls to stop China from expanding market share and undermining U.S. alliances.

The White House National Security Council is reviewing the drone-export process with the goal to “wherever possible” remove obstacles to American companies’ ability to compete, a senior Trump administration official said.“We are attuned to what China is doing,” the official said.

Thomas Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, emphasized the effort to balance economics and security. The administration seeks to help U.S. industry while advancing strategic objectives, he said, including “a deliberate approach to our technology sales policy and the protections we put in place to avoid imperiling innocent lives.”

China, meanwhile, has its sights on another milestone: building military drones in the Mideast. In March, Chinese and Saudi officials agreed to jointly produce as many as 100 Rainbow drones in Saudi Arabia, including a larger, longer-range version called the CH-5, according to people involved.

Shi Wen, the chief designer of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.’s Rainbow, said earlier versions of the aircraft had been exported to the Mideast, Africa and Asia and were proved “on the battlefield,” hitting 300 targets in the previous year or so with Chinese laser-guided missiles.

“Our main competitors? The Americans, of course,” Li Yidong, chief designer of the Wing Loong, which is built by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, said in November at China’s biggest air and defense show, in the southern city of Zhuhai.

Behind him, a video screen played animated clips depicting a drone strike on a terrorist base, set to a thumping soundtrack. Nearby, miniskirted models posed with laser-guided missiles.

Beijing used to sell mainly low-tech arms to poorer countries; now it is marketing sophisticated items including stealth fighters, and targeting markets once dominated by Russia and the U.S. Sales help Beijing gain leverage in areas where its economic interests are expanding, adding muscle to President Xi Jinping’s drive to establish his country as a global power.

China is now the world’s third-biggest arms seller by value, behind the U.S. at No. 1 and Russia, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI.

Maintaining such a ranking depends in large part on demand for China’s armed drones, which China has sold to countries including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the U.A.E., the Pentagon said in a report in June.

“China faces little competition for sale of such systems, as most countries that produce them are restricted in selling the technology” by international agreements, it said.

Key among those agreements limiting American sales is the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime, signed by 35 nations including the U.S., but not China. The MTCR limits exports based on an unmanned system’s range and how much it can carry—putting tight restrictions on the most powerful American drones.

In 2015, the Obama administration issued new export rules that tried to enable drone exports if buyers agreed to use them in line with international human-rights law.

The rules grew in part from the administration’s expansion of drone operations in places such as Afghanistan. The growth spurred concerns about the lawfulness of killings outside combat areas and the ethics of remote-control warfare—including the targeting of Americans, such as al Qaeda’s Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011.

In an effort to address legal uncertainty and the global precedent it was setting, the Obama administration sought to develop a framework for how governments use such weapons.

In October, after months of U.S. lobbying, 45 countries signed the world’s first joint declaration on the export and use of armed or strike-enabled aerial drones. The declaration said misuse of such drones could “fuel conflict and instability” and urged exporters to be transparent about sales and ensure buyers observed laws of war.

In the Mideast, only Jordan and Iraq endorsed the statement.

China didn’t sign. Its foreign ministry said the issue was “complicated” and related to “cross-border strikes” as well as exports. It noted that other drone producers didn’t sign last year’s declaration and deeper talks were needed.

Some of the declaration’s proponents worry that several states could relax export rules to compete with China. “This would be a drone-against-drone world driven by profits, not protection of civilians,” said Wim Zwijnenburg, a disarmament campaigner for the Dutch group PAX who participated in negotiations on enhancing the declaration. He said China’s sales could fuel regional tensions as states act across borders—which can be done with drones at lower cost and less risk to personnel.

The Pentagon estimates China could produce almost 42,000 aerial drones—sale value more than $10 billion—in the decade up to 2023.

Beijing’s drone program began with old Soviet designs; more recently, U.S. officials say, China used espionage and open-source material to reverse-engineer U.S. drones. Beijing denies that.

U.S. armed drones are still overwhelmingly considered the most capable, in part because the U.S. satellite infrastructure that controls them is superior. Israel has been the top military-drone exporter for years, according to SIPRI. But Israel has largely avoided selling them in its own Mideast neighborhood.

A Wing Loong, meanwhile, costs about $1 million compared with about $5 million for its U.S.-made counterpart, the Predator, and about $15 million for a Reaper, whose Chinese competition is the CH-5.

Buyers welcome the chance to buy relatively cheap weapons that they say come with fewer restrictions than Western equivalents. Promotional materials from China suggest it has sold Rainbows or Wing Loongs to at least 10 countries.

Satellite imagery viewed by The Wall Street Journal shows Chinese strike and surveillance drones have been used by Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. in the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.

After the Obama administration rebuffed a request from the U.A.E. for shoot-to-kill drones, the Emiratis bought Chinese surveillance drones and equipped them with South African laser targeting systems, according to Danny Sebright, a former Pentagon official and president of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council. The U.A.E. has used them to guide missiles from planes for strikes in Yemen, he said.

In Libya, the U.A.E. is using Chinese drones to help support a general who opposes the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli, satellite images indicate. They also show that Egypt’s military is deploying Chinese drones in the Sinai Peninsula in its campaign against Islamist militants.

A North Korean drone that crashed in South Korea in 2014 was Chinese-made, according to a U.N. report. Iraq last year published video of its missile attacks on Islamic State from a Chinese drone, and Nigeria issued footage of a strike by a Chinese drone on the Boko Haram insurgency. An official with Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said Iraq has used the Chinese-made CH-4 Rainbow. A Nigerian Air Force spokesman said Nigeria was using CH-3 Rainbows procured from China.

U.S. manufacturers, and their political backers, argue that Washington can no longer prevent drone proliferation.

Weapons makers have been buoyed by President Donald Trump’s statements of support for U.S. manufacturing and for a $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia that includes some items that were blocked by the Obama administration. The administration in June approved the sale to India of 22 Guardian drones, an unarmed maritime version of the Reaper.

Bart Roper, executive vice president of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., said the U.S. is ceding the drone market to Chinese and others “due to obsolete and arbitrary restrictions.”

He expressed hope the Trump administration would revise policy to better promote U.S. industry.

In April, 22 members of Congress—led by Rep. Duncan Hunter, who represents the San Diego district not far from where General Atomics is based—asked the administration to approve Reaper exports to Jordan and the U.A.E. They argued that the Arab allies in the fight against Islamic State are buying Chinese drones instead, and that export approval would save U.S. jobs.

In recent months, China has unveiled larger, longer-range drones and tested radar-evading stealth models, according to state media. It has also expanded its marketing, displaying its drones for the first time in Mexico in April and in France in June.

At the Chinese air show in November, two uniformed Saudi officers inspected a CH-5 Rainbow—the model most similar to the Reaper—displayed publicly for the first time. “It’s amazing,” said one. “This thing can stay up for more than 24 hours.”

The CH-5 can in fact operate for up to 40 hours, its manufacturer says—about 50% longer than its American competition.


President Xi Jinping’s Most Dangerous Venture Yet: Remaking China’s Military
China Eases Foot Off Gas on Military Spending
China’s government and drone manufacturers declined to reveal who bought the aircraft. The foreign ministry said Beijing requires strict user agreements—offering no details—and ensures that its arms sales do no harm to regional peace and stability.
“China is paying high attention to the question of the use and export of armed drones,” it said. Authorities from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the U.A.E. and Jordan declined to comment.
China began exporting strike-enabled drones around 2014-2015, heralding a new phase in its arms industry as a global competitor that can influence conflicts and alliances world-wide.

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Dokala in the 1990s …

Posted on July 20, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Searching for Success, Uncategorized |

Brig Jasbir Singh Bawa when Company Commander at Dokala Beg in early 1990s

There was a time when hostilities had not marred the pristine beauty of the landscape. With the recent month-long India-China impasse, the areas of Doklam plateau, Dokala, trijunction in east Sikkim and the Chicken’s neck-Siliguri corridor have been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Once upon a time there were in this area friendly Chinese patrols once every quarter or so. There was tension free peace that let you enjoy the sheer beauty of Dokala. It was the abode of an exceptionally happy family on the eastern-most tip of east Sikkim that descended sharply to the Jaldhaka wildlife sanctuary thence to the Siliguri corridor.

Dokala, the most beautiful area in all of east Sikkim, is a lush green meadow in sharp contrast to the surrounding countryside that is characterised by jagged, rocky ridge lines without a blade of grass for miles together.

Significantly lower in altitude than the Batang la/Nathula ridge line, Dokala is approximately a two-km-long pass with a width varying from 150 to about 400 m.

We were deployed at its north-western base. The meadow is green except during the four winter months. Almost through the year, the green turf of the meadow is interspersed with clumps of wild flowers – wild blue poppy, small rhododendrons and numerous tubulars add to the kaleidoscope of daisies in white, yellow, shades of red and blue.

I have enjoyed many a walk with my trusted buddy and radio operator on the soft surface of Dokala, on our way up and down the formidable Gamochin Peak which dominates the pass from the South.

Gamochin, a huge rocky feature, towers over the neighbouring heights and Dokala. The climb to Gamochin is a sheer wall and can only be negotiated by fixed rope — a challenge even for seasoned climbers. Troops deployed on the feature would welcome us with hot pakoras to be downed with a drink of warm jam water and glucose. As you regain your breath after the gruelling climb, the reality of scaling an impossible-looking massif sinks in.

The view from its top is mesmerising. On a clear day you could catch the Kanchenjunga in all its glory – with just a speck of cloud covering the summit. Come winter and the ascent on snow and ice walls gets tougher. Coming down is sheer ecstasy thanks to the innovative snow sledges that the boys would make.

The Company Commander’s hut at Dokala is designed to host senior visiting officers – should they get stuck due to the weather. It has huge perplex glass windows on three sides, with a breathtaking view of the mother of all Himalayan peaks – the Kanchenjunga.

At day break on clear winter mornings would be the crimson glow that drapes the eastern slope of this Mountain – a sight transports you to another world. The colours gradually change from a riveting deep crimson to orange to golden yellow, seamlessly meshing into each other as dawn gives way to a fresh bright day.

The full moon nights at Dokala were also special. The Kanchenjunga would look more glorious while the snowy shine of the majestic Gamochin would be complemented by a seemingly endless silver sheen on Dokala.

Many such sights were enjoyed around a bonfire – memories of which refuse to fade. We would send a routine patrol to the trijunction then down to the Jaldhaka, circuit the base of our deployment, eventually emerging at the northern entrance of Dokala.

This meant climbing about 1,000 feet from the post, going down a steep descent of about 4,000 feet and again climbing up to 11,500 ft or so and getting back to Dokala. The distance covered approx 15 kilometre. The bulk of the area fell within the Jaldhaka wildlife sanctuary.

In keeping with a compulsive tribal trait, a large number of animal traps were set up by us in this area before it was declared a sanctuary. There would always be a rush of volunteers for this tri-weekly patrol and understandably so — the boys would reap the fruits of their labour returning with plenty of small game caught in the traps.

These patrols would generally get back in the late afternoon to a hero’s welcome, particularly so on Saturdays for that meant a big bonfire, generous drinking and endless kahanis, singing and a guitar and makeshift degchi drums. All followed by a feast.

Of course all the while we were driven on training, keeping watch, patrolling and negotiating tough climbs to fetch stores and rations throughout the week.

Those were the days.

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Loving Tribute to a Soldier by a Lover of Soldiering …

Posted on July 20, 2017. Filed under: Pakistan, Uncategorized |

Brigadier ® Jafar Khan (18 August 1939 – 11 May 2017) – Hamid Hussain

Brigadier ® Jafar Khan passed away in May 2017. Jafar belonged to a family with long association with the army. His grandfather was Khan Bahadur Risaldar Major Malik Muhammad Gulsher Khan Gheba. Born in 1860, young Gulsher was an expert horseman. In 1880, he rode into Mardan with his horse and servant to join legendary Guides (then a mixed regiment of cavalry & infantry).

As far as regimental pride and reputation was concerned Guides was ‘it’. Eager young Pathan, Punjabi Muslim, Sikhs, Afghan, Gurkha and even men from Persia and Turkistan showed up at Guides headquarters in Mardan. Discipline was not maintained by regulations but a simple threat of being discharged from Guides was shameful enough for any man to show slackness. Guides were never short of funds and raised money from willing recruits. Some were willing to pay the princely sum of 300 rupees to join the regiment. At any given time, as many as thirty would be recruits attached themselves with Guides without pay and bringing their own horse and servant. They accompanied the regiment in the battle with the hope that if a man became casualty they would be enlisted on the spot.

This was the Guides that Gulsher joined. After eleven years of service with the regiment, he retired in 1891 at the rank of Daffadar. This short service was norm for some young men of landed aristocracy as they went back to administer their agricultural lands. His close friend and regimental buddy was Malik Muzzafar Khan Tiwana of Shahpur. Muzzafar retired as Jamadar of Guides. Gulsher accompanied his friend to Shahpur to manage the land. Muzzafar recommended Gulsher to British authorities when a remount depot was established at Sargodha. Gulsher was recalled and appointed Viceroy Commissioned Officer (VCO) Risaldar of the depot. He remained at the depot as Chief Native Officer until his death.

Gulsher was an expert horseman and given the title of “Shahsawar-e-Hind” (Horseman of India). He attended coronation Durbar in Delhi on 09 December 1911. A young English woman Ethel Grace Smith; wife of Sergeant Major Fred Killburn of 2nd Regiment Royal Artillery was in the audience at Delhi Durbar. She remembered the ‘tattoo’ in the evening and it was a scene from a fairy tale. A handsome Indian on his horse appeared against the night sky. Gulsher riding his favorite mare ‘Gul-e-Mahboob’ climbed about hundred stairs lit by lamps on both sides of the main platform and then climbed down with the same grace. The man and the horse performed like a symphony to a dazzled audience and this was Gulsher at his best. Little did she know that her family will be linked with the family of this Indian? Ethel’s grand-daughter Rosemary Young married grandson of Gulsher; Muhammad Sarfaraz Khan in 1955. Gulsher died suddenly from possibly a brain hemorrhage in 1913 at the age of fifty three.

Gulsher named his son Malik Muzzafar Khan Gheba (1901-1989) after his close friend. On the recommendation of another Tiwana stalwart Malik Omar Hayat Khan, Muzzafar was appointed Jamadar of Remount, Veterinary & Farm Corps (RVF&C). In 1941, he was commissioned as an officer and retired in 1956 at the rank of Captain. He was recalled during 1965 war and promoted Major. Muzzafar’s three sons joined army and all were PIFFERS. Brigadier Muhammad Sarfaraz Khan was from 8 Frontier Force Regiment (8 FF), Colonel Muhammad Mumtaz Khan was from 5 FF and Jafar joined his grandfather’s regiment Guides Cavalry.

Jafar was educated at Lawrence College at Ghora Gali (Peak House 1949-57). College’s alumni are known as Gallians. He joined 21st Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) course and commissioned on 23 April 1960. He excelled at PMA and passed out on top of merit list winning coveted sword of honor.

He joined his grandfather’s legendary Guides Cavalry. Later, he was appointed Adjutant of President’s Body Guards (PBG) in 1964 and he proceeded to command PBG in 1967-68. He reverted back to his regiment in 1968 and attended 1970 staff college course at Quetta. In 1971, he was appointed Brigade Major (BM) of Dacca based 57th Infantry Brigade commanded by Brigadier (later Lieutenant General) Muhammad Jahanzeb “Bobby” Arbab.

Jafar was with his brigade commander Bobby Arbab on 20 March 1971 when 2nd East Bengal Regiment refused to open fire on the crowd blocking the railway crossing at Joydevpur. They fired 62 rounds over the heads of the mob and managed to clear the obstacle without killing anybody. However Brigadier Arbab took their action of refusing to fire into the civilian crowd as “disobedience of lawful command” on their part, the CO 2 East Bengal was removed two/three days later. After the fall of East Pakistan, Jafar was Prisoner of War (POW) in India. Jafar’s brother Sarfaraz after command of 31st Punjab in Sylhet was commanding a Mujahid battalion in East Pakistan theatre and also became POW. To my knowledge, this is the only case of two real brothers who became POWs in 1971 Indo-Pakistan war.

Major Jafar Khan (right) Commandant of President’s Body Guards and Captain Badruddin (left) Adjutant. Badruddin is also sword of honor winner and commissioned in Guides Cavalry.

Jafar was repatriated in 1973 and he raised 52nd Cavalry in Kharian. He commanded his parent Guides Cavalry in Quetta. In 1977, he was appointed Directing Staff (DS) at Staff College Quetta. In 1979, he was promoted Brigadier and appointed Chief Instructor at Staff College. In 1980, he briefly commanded 2nd Independent Armored Brigade at Malir before proceeding to Royal College for Defence Studies (RCDS) course in London. On his return, he commanded 5th Armored Brigade based in Multan. After he was superseded, he served at Personnel and Administration (PA) directorate and then appointed instructor at National Defense College (NDC); now National Defense University (NDU). He retired on 17 August 1992 after thirty two years of distinguished career in the army.

It is not the rank but personality of an officer that is remembered long after they fade away.

Jafar performed very well at RCDS course and came back with the report that ‘an officer destined for highest ranks in Pakistan army’. This was not to be and there were several factors responsible for it. Old regiments have many godfathers and senior officers of the regiment have a major say in appointments and promotions. Command of an old regiment is a very difficult task. If Commanding Officer (CO) is too strict or refuse favors, he is labeled as a ‘difficult’ person and if he is lenient, he is accused by rival regiments for favoring regimental buddies and succumbing to the regimental ‘bhai bandi’ (regimental brotherhood).

Jafar’s command of Guides Cavalry was not an easy one. Officers who have family connection with the regiment are known as ‘claimants’. Jafar himself had a claim on the regiment but there were several ‘claimants’ serving under him. Lieutenant General Fazl-e-Haq ‘Fazli’ was a close friend and confidant of General Zia ul Haq. Jafar had served under Fazli in Guides as well as PBG. Both were very strong headed personalities and relationship was not always smooth. Sons of several former officers of Guides including Colonel ® Pir Abdullah Shah (ex 14th Scinde Horse, Colonel ® Muhammad Umar Khan, Colonel Abbas Durrani and Major General ® Jahanzeb Khan had followed their fathers to Guides. Jafar commanded the regiment without any favor or prejudice.

He was also a strict disciplinarian and this may have resulted in some friction. When Jafar came back from London with an excellent report, General Zia ul Haq told some people that he would like to meet Jafar but a formal official invitation was not sent. Jafar was encouraged by his friends and family members to contact Chief’s office but he refused. He said that the invitation for the meeting has not come from General Head Quarters (GHQ) therefore he will not seek it.

It was also communicated to him that he was being considered for the Military Secretary (MS) to the President position but he informed that he was not interested in the post. The final straw was his relationship with his GOC Major General (later Lieutenant General) Raja Saroop Khan when he was commanding 5th Armored Brigade in Multan. Saroop gave him a very weak Annual Confidential Report (ACR) and Corps Commander Lieutenant General (later General) Rahimuddin Khan concurred with it.

In 1968, Jafar married daughter of Major General Shahid Hamid (ex 3rd Cavalry & RIASC) resulting in linking of two military families. Jafar was a horse lover and inherited this love for horses from his grandfather. He was great polo player and after retirement retreated to his sanctuary; a farm house named ‘spurs’. He enjoyed his sunset years surrounded by his loved ones and soothing is soul with poetry, bird watching and above all the company of his horses.

Brigadier Jafar was a fine officer and a gentleman. He is remembered with fond memories by many who came in contact with him in professional and personal life. Major General Charles Vyvyan of British army who attended National Defence College (NDC) where Jafar was his instructor had these words for him, “We were in awe of him at NDC – of his unprecedented range of personal qualities and professional abilities, of his huge reserves of moral courage and physical stamina, of his intellectual curiosity, of his integrity, and of his humanity which few could match. There was a craze amongst the younger generation at the end of the last century, to wear bracelets with ‘WWJD’ engraved on them: ‘what would Jesus do’. To me, it always asked ‘what would Jafar do’ – for me, Jafar was someone who’s wisdom, whose advice and guidance, and whose generosity was always a lone star!”

The author of the history of the Guides wrote about the shrine of Guides in Mardan ‘a little kingdom barely a mile square, but full of happy associations for all who have lived there. It is a quiet, unassuming spot, which year by year has bred, and sent forth to fight, many a gallant officer and brave soldier; and which in future years hopes to keep bright the shining record of great deeds that have gone before’. Jafar was a link in that chain. Jafar has now joined his fellow PIFFERS gone before him and I’m sure he is happy in the company of officers, VCOs/JCOs and Other Ranks (ORs) reminiscing about the deeds of valor done over one hundred and sixty years history of the regiment.

Old Soldiers Never Die – They just Fade Away

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Defence Minister Needed …

Posted on July 18, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

From the Wire -By Sudhansu Mohanty who worked as Controller General of Defence Accounts and then as Financial Adviser, Defence Services before retiring on May 31, 2016.

Amongst India’s ministries, defence, finance, home and external affairs occupy a particularly special place. They are housed in the imperial and imposing North and South Blocks – finance and home in the North and defence and external affairs, along with the all-powerful PMO, in the South.

The state of these ministries – in particular defence – are an indicator of how well the nation is being served and consequently exude the state of India’s overall wellness.

Sadly, of the 38 months that the present government has been in power, it has been without a full-time raksha mantri (defence minister) for close to ten months – more than 25% of its tenancy. Surreal, but that’s how it has been. The government started its innings without a full-time defence minister in May 2014. The finance minister at the time held the additional charge for the first five-and-a-half months, and now continues to hold charge for more than four months since March. The clock keeps ticking and is likely to tick some more.

Changing face of Indian defence establishment

This is rather unfortunate. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is among the larger ministries of the Indian government, both in terms of manpower and budgetary outlay. Historically, it goes back to the military department of the East India Company at Kolkata created in 1776. Through the Charter Act of 1833 to the unification of Bengal, Bombay and Madras presidencies in 1895, to creation of two separate departments (army department and military supply department) in 1906 and to the subsequent merging of the two into one army department in 1909, the face of the Indian defence establishment has changed over time.

The army department was rechristened as the defence department in 1938 and became the MoD in August 1947, with each service placed under its own commander-in-chief, topped by a cabinet minister. Sardar Baldev Singh was the first defence minister of independent India. The government of India is responsible for ensuring the defence of India through the cabinet. The defence minister heads the defence ministry; and the president is the supreme commander of the armed forces.

This is one ministry that is truly gargantuan in size, literally and metaphorically sprawled across the country’s territorial soil, air and water. It is responsible for framing government policy on defence and security issues for effective implementation of these programmes by the services headquarters, inter-service organisations, production units and defence research within the allocated budgetary outlay.

Scope of defence ministry

The sheer range of responsibility can be appreciated from the fact that the integrated defence staff, the three services (of more than 1.5 million strong) and various inter-service organisations, the defence budget (FY 2017-18: Rs 3.6 lakh crore), establishment matters, defence policy, defence co-operation with foreign countries, defence production activities of ordnance factories and defence PSUs come within the ministry’s mandate, as do issues of welfare, resettlement and pension of ex-servicemen.

While the range of activities, impressive in its reach and spread is one thing, so too are its personnel. The civilian bureaucracy and the services headquarters (with their panoply of commanders, in the level of secretary) make this ministry singularly top-heavy.

Not just that. Truth be said, there is an unspoken but palpable undercurrent of difference in approach and perception between the civil and defence bureaucracy. Often the dialectics are resolved by the political master. These two, naturally, meet courtesy the raksha mantri.

There are many such areas in this brick-and-mortar ministry where the raksha mantri remains the lynchpin of all governmental actions and activities.

Ministry’s fund requirement

On budget, setting aside committed expenditure on salary, pension and maintenance of the forces and of the support departments/organisations, what essentially remains is the modernisation budget – the current fiscal year outlay of Rs 86,488 crore rupees. This is the area of high visibility, and loud debates, within the ministry and without. How futile and atmospheric the issue of outlay is can be gauged from a simple example of a roll-on plan.

The parliamentary standing committees have over the years, beginning April 2003, been impressing upon the defence ministry to set up a non-lapsable defence modernisation fund or a roll-on plan to take care of the inevitable fund lapse on capital acquisition at the end of every fiscal. Even the finance minister in the interim budget speech of 2004-05 went ahead and announced creation of the non-lapsable defence modernisation fund with a corpus of Rs 25,000 crore. Someone seemed to have wisened up and gotten real thereafter and the general budget of 2004-05 carried no provision for the same. Yet, committee after committee, year after year, has persisted to buzz with this bee in its bonnet. Last year in April 2016, when the parliamentary standing committee got too insanely persistent for inadequate funds on modernisation, I could hold myself no further. I explained that notwithstanding the general impression of paucity of funds available for modernisation, the truth is just the contrary: the MoD isn’t in a position to spend the funds allocated.

The revised estimate for 2015-16 had been reduced in the wake of non-materialisation of contract for Rafale aircrafts. This frankly wasn’t a new trend but the reality – the way it had panned out over the past many years. So where was the need to create a non-lapsable modernisation fund keeping a certain quantum of funds aside, especially when we resort to deficit budgeting and borrow some more at a far too higher rate to keep the roll-on plan going? But no, they persisted: the fund must be in place. I remember getting back and exasperatingly briefing former defence minister Manohar Parrikar about the whole raft of logic adduced to persevere with the idea. He smiled, exhaled a snort of laughter and said he rather expatiate on capital acquisition in the parliament. And he did in great detail the nuts and bolts and nuances of defence capital acquisition.

Interestingly – and this hasn’t been highlighted in the media for lack of appreciation for what it entails – shortly before Parrikar resigned and moved back to Goa, the financial powers of the raksha mantri were enhanced in February from Rs 500 crore to Rs 2000 crore for services capital annual acquisition plan proposals, and corresponding raise in the financial power of the finance minister from Rs 1,000 crore to Rs 3,000 crore. Contracts above Rs 3,000 crore are to be approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). On a personal note, I must confess I was stupefied that the proposal was agreed to by the ministry of finance before seeking cabinet approval when under the extant delegation more than 88% of cases of capital acquisition were within the MoD’s delegated power.

The reality is processing of cases in finance ministry had not only instilled greater diligence and discipline but also benefited the MoD in every which way of procurement. In my vision, I saw apparitions of the exacting standards diluted in seeking exemption from the purview of the Ministry of Finance (MoF) for such huge sums up to Rs 2000 crore on individual cases – more than the entire budget of most civil ministries.

The ministry of defence had always been rooting for higher powers on capital procurement – power that is untrammelled, and without scrutiny and due diligence of any external body like the MoF or the CCS. The rationale and refrain for such a dispensation was the due diligence exercised by MoD (finance), headed by a secretary-level financial advisor, as part of the integrated financial adviser system.

Acquisition proposals are but based on future cash liabilities, much beyond the current fiscal year’s sanctioned budget and often going into many future years. To suggest architecture without examination of an independent body as the MoF on financial issues or on the likely budgetary support is hard to commend. In the space department, while the Space Commission includes cabinet secretary, principal secretary to the prime minister and the expenditure secretary amongst others as members of the commission, it does not approve cases of capital nature beyond Rs 1,000 crore. Similar too in the Atomic Energy Commission, projects beyond Rs 1,000 crore are submitted to the CCS despite the member finance of the commission being a secretary-level officer like the financial adviser of defence services.

It also militates against the very basis of checks and balances that is the hallmark of an arm’s length system and is the bedrock for due diligence in cases of humongous expenditure from the consolidated fund of India, that is often fraught with the risk of abuse and the scandal of corruption. The quality and fidelity of processes ought to be the gold standard for expenditure from public funds rather than mere speed in according approval on unceasing operational demands drummed up unremittingly by the services; it may likely turn out to be worse than the disease it seeks to cure, and will be hard to reverse in future.

Again does it not also preempt cross-pollination and cross-fertilisation of ideas and approaches from other sectors and lead to inbreeding of practices/processes in MoD, which doubtless will impact on openness and transparency? In effect, the onus today is greater than ever before on the defence minister on issues of capital acquisition.

Unfinished business

Another important concern, as onerous as the one before, is to see through the implementation of the Shekatkar committee’s recommendations that have been accepted by the government: reviewing training, administrative and logistics to optimise defence forces manpower and increase ‘teeth to tail’ ratio; suggesting “redeployment, repositioning and restructuring of manpower and resources” to improve combat capability; suggesting integration of civil infrastructure and resources into the logistic system of the defence forces in war and peace to “avoid duplication and reduce expenditure” and suggesting measures to “correct the bias of defence budget towards revenue expenditure”.

There are many suggestions that are implementable: optimal use and integration of manpower and resources by re-deploying ex-servicemen including retired officers and JCOs in various organisations; increased financial powers to all three service chiefs; restructuring and downsizing of ongoing expenditure by trimming the existing manpower and even closing down certain organisations under the MoD; a joint services war college running a one-year combined course for the three forces to impart jointness; creation of a tri-service intelligence training establishment and a four-star chief of defence staff as the chief single-point adviser to the defence minister on matters military, and generating saving of Rs 25,000 crore annually to fund modernisation.

No less significant is the strategic partnership issue – recently approved by the Union cabinet permitting domestic private companies to form joint ventures with foreign defence equipment manufacturers – on the defence minister’s table waiting to take shape and flight. If it pans out the way it is envisaged, it will open up the hugely lucrative defence industry business to Indian private sector and shoot up India’s self-reliance index in defence procurement. If carried through successfully and transparently, it’ll help whittling down MoD’s fund requirement.

But it’s a big “if” that stares MoD on its face, given that in the past, the ‘make’ and ‘buy and make (Indian)’ template hasn’t really taken off. Though the selection of strategic partnerships is initially confined to four segments – fighter aircraft, helicopters, submarines and armoured fighting vehicles/main battle tanks – it has the potential to change the grammar and syntax of Indian as well as global defence equipment industry. But it requires pigeon eyes to discern deficits, plug weaknesses and close monitoring, to ensure that the trajectory’s path lain with countless imponderables is not shambolic.

That said, it would be apt to say that the MoD is on the cusp of a paradigm shift and inevitable action. One wonders how all these important issues are to be handled without a full-time defence minister. The MoD is far too big and complex a ministry to be managed part-time as an additional charge by another minister, no matter how competent and cerebral he is.

With all due regard to the criticisms and reservations articulated by defence experts and commentators on Parrikar’s efficacy as the defence minister, it must be granted that he tried cleaning up the Augean stables and triggered many moves that have fructified or will likely fructify in the foreseeable future. Effacing a legacy of complete inaction isn’t easy, and reinvigorating the sundry cogs is truly an unenviable task.

Today, we live in difficult times: heightened militancy in Kashmir, terrorism and infiltration from across the border, the much hyped and trumped-up “surgical strikes”, accusation of human rights violation in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir under AFSPA and “the General Dyer moment”. The services are a very proud organisation, very obsessed and finicky with their tradition and legacy that they value dearly, and wouldn’t like to forsake. Ironically, even wrong practices that hegemonised during colonial rule and should’ve been long discarded in independent India sadly continue to persist and haemorrhage. But that’s another story and for another day.

Conflict of interest

Yet, more than anything put out here, what’s troubling is that India’s finance minister is holding additional charge of defence. In effect, he who approves as administrative head accords concurrence of a higher order. For the finance minister to double up as the defence minister ex facie impugns the very concept of checks and balances, not to speak of the in-built institutional conflict of interest in according financial concurrence and according due diligence for the CCS. In fact, a 2006 finance ministry order invokes an arm’s length system in processing of cases and captures the essence of the principle of check and balance.

To wit, financial advisers will in no case be assigned any routine administrative functions of the ministry. It is pretty much an incongruity that the finance minister, whose mandate, as per the Allocation of Business Rules, is to appraise and approve plan investment/expenditure of central ministries/CPUs has been mandated to grant administrative and financial approval up to Rs 2,000 crore on capital acquisition qua defence minister, while at the same time he accords enhanced financial approval up to Rs 3000 crore qua finance minister.

And yet, 292 (167+125) out of a total of 1,148 days of the BJP government without a full-time raksha mantri – that is 25.43% of its time in power – isn’t surely what we Indians and the armed forces deserve as a nation.

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Hamid Hussein’s Second Post on the ‘Arab’ World …

Posted on July 1, 2017. Filed under: Pakistan, Uncategorized |

On June 05, 2017, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates (UAE) severed diplomatic relations with Qatar and also placed land and air embargo. The simmering differences between Qatar and its Arab neighbors reached the boiling point.

Qatar is a small country but in the last two decades it has shown its presence on the international scene. Qatar began as a broker of negotiations and mediator of conflicts. This combined with humanitarian and cultural interactions earned recognition and respect. However its recent involvement in armed conflicts had negative fallout. Its policies clashed with interests of Saudi Arabia and Egypt – two heavy weights of the Middle East.

Older generations of Saudi royal family worked on the Bedouin traditions and avoided public clashes with fellow Arabs. The new generation is removed from the traditions of their fathers, are more ambitious and at times reckless.

There are three main players in the current showdown and include the 37 year old Emir of Qatar Shaikh Tamim bin Hammad al Thani, 31 year old son of King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Muhammad Bin Salman (known in western circles as Mr. Everything) and 56 year old Crown Prince of UAE Shaikh Muhammad Bin Zayed al Nahiyan. Their interests are a complex set of ideology, opportunism, ambition, tribal, clan and family dynamics.

The Q – How did Qatar embark on an ambitious foreign policy agenda that ran afoul of these powerful countries?

The 1868 treaty with Britain ensured Qatar’s territorial integrity especially against the expanding power of al Saud – next door big brother. British guarantee came with control of its foreign policy. In 1971, Britain departed and Qatar’s territorial integrity was guaranteed by the United States but Qatar now controlled its own foreign policy. And Qatar hosted a U.S. Air Force base (al-Udeid base near Doha).

Internally, Qatari population is more cohesive with majority Sunni. Qatar is the only other country apart from Saudi Arabia that adheres to Wahhabi school albeit a softer version and ruled by a Sunni Arab tribal family al-Thani considered first among equals (this is in contrast to neighboring Bahrain where a Sunni family rules a disenfranchised Shia majority).

Native Qatari population of a little over 300’000 out of a total of about 2.2 million and with a sovereign wealth of over $240 billion makes the job of rulers easy. They provide cradle to grave benefits to all native Qataris. Natives are content with free education, overseas education scholarships, first rate healthcare, secure lucrative jobs and a worry free future. This ensures legitimacy of al-Thani ruling family and there is no threat from a disgruntled population.

It is in this background that Qatar felt confident and embarked on policies that ran contrary to the policies of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Qatar also hosts Arab satellite channel al-Jazeera that gives coverage to dissidents of many Arab countries. This has been a bone of contention between Qatar and several Arab countries. However, major irritant is Qatar’s support for Islamist groups of the Arab world especially Muslim Brotherhood branch of Egypt.

Initially, Qatar tried to mediate between Islamist opposition groups and ruling Arab regimes.

The Arab spring of 2011 changed Qatar’s calculus. Qatar saw it as an emerging trend and tried to ride the wave. It openly supported President Muhammad Morsi of Egypt and provided $12 billion to prop up his government amidst economic crisis. But a year later, Morsi was overthrown by strongman Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sissi . Saudi Arabia and EAE rushed to his aid provided financial support worth of several billion dollars.

Sissi cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood and several leaders found refuge in Qatar. Now Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE are in one corner and Qatar is in the other.

In 2011, Libya erupted and Qatar supported Libyan Islamists with arms and money. Qatar’s two main armed proxies in Libya were Ali al-Sallabi and Abdul Hakim Belhaj. After Gaddafi’s removal and death, the country fractured into militia fiefdoms. Two main rival umbrella groups are now involved in civil war of Libya between Islamist controlled General National Congress (GNC) and secular Libyan House of Representatives (LHR).

Different armed groups and militias have joined these rival groups for control of the country. Qatar is supporting armed groups of GNC and rival armed groups of LHR are supported by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Field Marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar is the head of Libyan National Army; the name given to LHR armed groups.

Qatar replicated the Libyan template when protests started in Syria against President Bashar al Assad in 2011. Shaikh Hammad (Tamim’s father) was a personal friend of Bashar and their wives were also close friends. Hammad dumped his friend and provided arms and money to opposition groups – mainly Islamists.

Muslim Brotherhood played a major role in Syrian National Congress (SNC); an umbrella group of different opposition groups. Qatar had significant influence over SNC in view of general support of the Brotherhood. However, when Iran and Hezbollah openly sided with Bashar and early military gains of the opposition groups were reversed, Qatar also hedged its bet.

It now embarked on a dangerous journey in search for a more effective armed proxy and found itself in bed with Jabhat al-Nusra (an al-Qaeda affiliate). This was followed by support for Ahrar al Sham al Islamiyyah; a salafist militant group that became most effective in the military campaign against Assad.

In the byzantine world of Middle East conflicts, Saudi Arabia was initially supporting salafist militant groups but later Qatar and Turkey became main supporters of Ahrar al-Sham. Saudi Arabia is now supporting Ahmad al Jarba whose fighters are trained by U.S. Special Forces.

In Palestine and occupied territories, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also supporting opposing groups. Qatar has been supporting Hamas in Gaza strip while Saudi Arabia and Egypt support Palestinian Authority (PA) in West Bank. Qatar’s financial support to Hamas and residence of some Hamas leaders in Qatar is resented by PA. They are of the view that Hamas rule in Gaza would have collapsed long time ago without Qatar’s help.

Qatar and Iran have shared economic interests and Qatar kept economic, diplomatic and security channels open with Tehran despite hostility of Saudi Arabia and UAE towards Iran. Qatar tried to walk a fine line to avoid open hostility of both Saudi Arabia and Iran. If one policy ran afoul, Qatar tried to compensate with other gestures.

For example in Syria, Qatar was openly supporting armed groups fighting Iranian and Hezbollah fighters but softening the friction by directly signing security and economic treaties with Tehran. Qatar also supported U.S.-Iran nuclear deal that all other Arab countries opposed. It cooperated with Saudi Arabia in many areas to allay their anxieties.

The biggest unknown is unpredictability of new US president Donald Trump. The most serious concern will be if President Trump throws his lot with Saudi Arabia. In that case a simple threat of moving the U.S. troops from al-Udeid base in Qatar to neighboring UAE will take out the life insurance policy of Qatar. This will force Qatar to make concessions.

This move may also embolden Saudis and end up in more reckless decisions. Qatar on its own part will try to appease the new American administration by another American weapons purchase binge.

Kuwait is the preferred mediator as it understands local dynamics. There are several concessions that Qatar will likely offer especially in areas not directly affecting Qatar’s vital interests. The list will include asking Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood members as well as Hamas leaders to find a new home most likely in Turkey and pulling some support from its proxies in Syria and Libya.

It will also ask Al Jazeerah to tone down criticism of neighboring countries. Qatar’s relations with Iran will be kept at current levels with no new agreements in the short term.

If these concessions satisfy Saudi Arabia and Egypt then de-escalation process can start. However, it must be remembered that Shaikh Tamim is also an Arab and he will need some face saving to maintain his dignity and not be seen as capitulating.

A side show of the side show will be the impact on occupied territories in Palestine. PA is taking advantage of the precarious situation of its main backer of Hamas. It has decreased payment to Israel for electricity supply to Gaza and increased tariffs on diesel fuel that may result in forty percent cut down of electricity supply to Gaza. PA has already stopped medicine and medical equipment supply to Gaza. This is complemented by complete blockade of Gaza by Egypt. The hope is that this squeeze of Gaza population will force them to re-think about their support of Hamas.

Thoe new Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar was summoned to Egypt and read the riot act. He was bluntly asked to start thinking about rolling back Hamas rule in Gaza and allow some space for Muhammad Dahlan – an old PA hand in Gaza and potential successor of Mahmud Abbas. Dahlan is based in Dubai and close friend of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed and Egyptian President al-Sissi.

Hamas is already feeling the heat from several directions and considering concessions on many grounds. The clear and present danger is that this multi-faceted conflict between Palestinians and worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza will provide the perfect breeding ground for Daesh to get a foothold in the fertile terrain of hopelessness, misery, anger and resentment.

Thanks to Palestinian infighting and changed ground realities, if ever a deal is reached it will not be a two state but a three state solution.

The price of brinkmanship is usually paid by subjects and ripple effect goes beyond the borders of their countries. Leaders surrounded by court jesters and with modus operandi of making decisions on whims and in fits of anger without serious thought and without informed counsel usually end up in blind alleys.

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Hamid Hussein’s First of Two Posts on the Arab World …

Posted on July 1, 2017. Filed under: Pakistan, Uncategorized |

Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS) has upped the ante with a soft coup of his own securing the Crown Prince seat by breaking tradition and family agreement – that a sovereign will not appoint his own son as heir.

Let’s see how Qatar reacts. If it stands its ground then its only external support from Turkey will take the conflict into Arab – Non Arab within the Sunni community.

However, Turkey is on shaky ground. In addition to diving head first into the Syrian civil war with all its negative fallout, Erdogan is also fighting his own rearguard action with a whole lot of angry jobless, police, intelligence and military personnel.

In addition, the Kurdish genie is trying to get out of the bottle. Iran is another potential supporter of Qatar but there is vigorous internal debate within Iran between moderates and hardliners. Hardliners in the forefront of the war in Syria with a number of fighters killed fighting against the very forces financed and armed by Qatar are happy to see Qatar biting the dust. They are advocating a hands off policy and let the Arabs stew in their own juice even if not pouring kerosene on the fire.

Moderates are arguing that there is golden opportunity provided by internal Arab conflict to weaken the coalition against Tehran. They advocate using this back door to Qatar to divide Arab camp. So far Tehran has only provided some food supplies to Qatar and at least earned some goodwill of Qataris.

Media is another weapon of war and in Arab world only Qatar has this weapon. Qatar has the widely watched and respected al-Jazeerah which they can unleash on their foes.

Saudi Arabia has provided bad optics to Arabs by fawning over the most unpopular U.S. President in Muslim world and who is embroiled in his own ‘twitter tantrums’ and a cloud of investigations.

On this landscape, Qatar is just a blimp. Al-Jazeerah can tap into this discontent in the Arab street by beaming into their homes unpalatable truths about naughty and reckless princes.

If this escalation scenario unfolds then both Qatar and Saudi Arabia will question the very legitimacy of the ruling family and support the dissidents. Not a pleasant scenario with each prince retreating into his own tribal, clan or family.

This may open the ‘mother of all mayhem’ which Arab rulers and societies are oblivious of despite watching on their television screens every day. There is fertile ideological ground for Daesh in Arab societies especially in Saudi Arabia. In many Arab countries, societies fearful of Daesh accepted the lesser evil of autocracy with significant restriction on their freedom and participation in the affairs of their country.

Whenever there was a call from civil society for more freedom or participation in the decision making process, the rulers quickly pointed that look at Iraq – this is what democracy looks like. Do you want that? If not then take this check, enjoy yourself and leave the dirty business of governance to us.

Nation states ruled by autocrats are artificial states and as soon as the ‘man with the longest knife’ is removed either by outside forces or internal revolt, the society collapses from its own weight. One need not look too far – Iraq, Libya, Syria are good examples.

If legitimacy of rulers is severely compromised by their own ill-conceived policies in context of oncoming battlefield defeat of Daesh on the killing fields of Syria and adjacent Iraq then all surviving members will retreat to their native lands. And just like a rabid dog rapidly spread the disease to other healthy dogs, there could be exponential growth of Daesh.

The Arabs returning from the killing fields of Afghanistan called Aghansi returned to Egypt and Algeria and perpetrated horrendous atrocities. Not too many people know but this culture of slaughtering humans like sheep was first performed by these Afghansi in Algeria.

The theological stance of Daesh is very clear and they have repeatedly articulated in their publications. They consider all Arab ruling regimes as apostate and hence deserving the treatment worse than that afforded to an infidel. Bombing of the most holy Muslim sites is as fair as bombinga on the streets of Manchester, Berlin and Brussels.

These societies are sleep walking towards the gates of hell and they don’t know it. A thoughtful citizenry and even a half witted leadership should be able to grasp this and change course.

I may be totally off the mark, but I have come to a bizarre conclusion. Real degradation of Daesh will most likely come from a very unexpected source and that is Israel.

Daesh already has a strong presence in Syria and Sinai in Egypt, rising its profile in Jordan and now if it is able to get a foothold in Gaza (less favorable terrain for it in West Bank) then Israel will be surrounded on four sides with the threat of Daesh. If Israeli strategic community perceives it as a strategic threat to its own well being, then only Israel has clear thought process, necessary skills, competence and ruthlessness on the operational plane.

These are the essential elements of a policy to degrade the threat to a level where it becomes more a nuisance rather than affecting the social and economic health of a nation. If this happens, this will be the second most prized gift of Jews to Muslims after contribution of Jewish philosophers and physicians of Muslim Spain.

Former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al Faisal once said to a CIA operative, ‘ we don’t do operations, we only write checks’. These suckers are going to write many more checks to strangers but see their own people die in most miserable conditions. Just one example; Yemen is facing famine and cholera epidemic and UN has sent an urgent appeal for merely $ 2 billion. Major chunk has been contributed by non-Muslim countries.

On the other hand Saudis are buying ships for littoral seas worth several billion dollars for which they don’t have any Saudi sailors to man. They don’t realize that the real threat is from a Saudi who puts explosives in his own ass and come to meet interior minister to blow him up (this actually happened but small amount of explosive that can be deposited in one’s own rectum meant that only the creative operator died without harming anyone else).

A fancy ship and slick, shiny F-16 will not work against this threat. Qatar will be spending $500 million per MONTH (it is month and not a year) for the next two years to prepare for soccer world cup. Qatar’s Emir Shaikh Tamim’s mother has bought a 200 million sterling pound property in London to convert into her palace. At least this is a better fall back plan so that in case ruling family loses or the country collapses, they will have a comfortable exile. Arab societies consist of some of the most charming people one can meet, thoughtful men and women, poets and artists and they deserve much better.

“The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of our adversities”. Sophocles

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