August 20, 2019
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South Africa is looking for a new leader As a nation, South Africa is losing its credibility in view current crisis in the African National Congress party and its impact on the government. South Africa’s socalled popular President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle has raised many eye brows recently which were followed by the shock of two financial ratings downgrades. It seems Jacob Zuma’s personal behavior is not liked by many South Africans who think Zuma does whatever he wishes, and neither Parliament nor his party will control him. Feeling out of control is profoundly stressful, and when combined with a sense of hopelessness and senselessness it can be deeply damaging to individuals and to society. Facing the facts is uncomfortable, but discomfort is sometimes necessary and productive, as long as South Africa makes sure it leads to productive action. In the same way, a fever or pain indicates that there is a problem which the ANC should not ignore. South Africa's ruling party recently faced one of its biggest challenges since the end of white minority rule in 1994, struggling to resolve a leadership crisis amid increasing calls for scandal-tainted President Jacob Zuma to resign. Top leaders of the ruling African National Congress met Zuma at his Pretoria residence recently for a discussion that one delegate had said would focus on the "best interests" of the party and the country. However, there was no public announcement ab
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Raging fire
Impact of Saudi-Iran rivalry in MENA region Diplomats and officials of Saudi Arabia are privately revealing that if the present Gulf crisis persists it may lead to a round of war where Iran may take side to spread its influence. In recent years, the foreign policies of the Gulf Arab states, namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain, have become increasingly bellicose and more openly sectarian towards Iran. Important drivers of this trend have been the rise to power of Islamist regimes in a number of Arab countries, the spread of terrorist groups, notably the Islamic State, as well as the changing geopolitical landscape of the region following the nuclear deal with Iran in July 2015. In particular, Iran’s return to the international fold is viewed in Riyadh and other regional capitals as a significant threat that alters the status quo. Since the wave of social and political unrest that swept the Arab world in 2011, Gulf Arab states have sought to safeguard their regimes from the dangers of popular revolt. But while the Gulf Arab states have endeavored to maintain the status quo in the region, Iran has instead attempted to exploit internal divisions within countries in order to strengthen the hand of pro-Shiite forces. In early February 2011, the Shia uprising in Bahrain (where Shiites constitute 80 percent of the population) was a wake-up call to the Gulf Arab regimes. Rightly or wrongly perceiving the hand of Iran in instigat
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Gambling perch
Chinese foreign policy towards Central Asia China has endeavored to build and strengthen its relations with the five Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. While originally the main focus of its political and diplomatic activities was to settle the Soviet legacy of disputed borders, its ties with Central Asia later started to reflect a growing desire to protect broader economic and security interests in the region. Today, a substantial network of roads, railways, air flights, communication, and oil and gas pipelines connects China to Central Asia. Just few years ago, carrying out almost $46 billion of trade with the region’s five states, China was the most prominent economic actor and main source of foreign investment in the region but today Beijing has increased its trade prospects to 124 billion USD. Since China forged diplomatic relations with the five Central Asian states in 1992, its overall trade with the region has increased 100-fold. Huge financing and foreign direct investment in energy, natural resource extraction, and commodities, such as the Central Asia gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China, the Atyrau-Alashankou oil pipeline from Kazakhstan to China, significant investments in energy transport and communication in Uzbekistan, the construction of new roads and tunnels in Tajikistan, and the expansion of road connections between Kyrgyzstan and China have generated many headlines.
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Growing threat
Piracy in Asia-Pacific may hit economies Piracy in Asia-Pacific region is growing and the pirates are graduating from mere bandit like organization to a full-fledged regular militia which is seizing commercial ships and demanding ransoms more frequently than ever before. There were not any incidents involving the abduction of crew from ships in the Sulu-Celebes Sea and waters off Eastern Sabah in October and there were no incidents involving the hijacking of ship for theft of oil cargo. However, there was an increase in the number of incidents occurring on board ships while underway in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS). The number of incidents occurring during January-October this year was 60, the lowest for the same period over the last 10 years. But suddenly it is increasing now due to a wide ranging factor. ReCAAP ISC attributes the improvement to, among other factors, improvement of the situation at certain ports and anchorages in Malaysia, India, Indonesia and Vietnam but experts believe now new outfits are entering into the game which may complicate the situation. Over the time, there was an increase in the number of incidents reported at ports and anchorages in Bangladesh (Chittagong), Philippines (Manila and Batangas) and on board ships while underway in the SOMS where all seven incidents occurred in the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) of the Singapore Strait. Mostly opportunistic in nature, the perpetrators boarded the ships
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Complicated vision
Concerns over China’s role in Africa China is venturing into Africa with lot of fanfare but there is an increasing worry in the minds of policy makers what could happen if China fails in its mission Africa. Right from Libya to South Sudan it is taking China nowhere. In fact, six years after independence, the world’s newest country South Sudan is still struggling to find its footing. Fighting in 2013 between government forces under president Silva Kiir and those loyal to his rival and former vice president Reik Machar turned into a many-sided civil war that engulfed much of the country. A peace deal, mediated with Chinese help, between president Kiir’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) government in Juba and Machar, head of the SPLA in opposition, fell apart last July. The two sides fought in Juba, killing hundreds of civilians over the course of four days. Today, the only major Chinese-funded infrastructure going ahead is a renovation of the runway, navigation system, and parking lots of Juba International Airport, a contract worth about $160 million. South Sudan, a country the size of France, has only around 200 kilometers of paved road. Economically South Sudan has not benefitted a lot from China, says a South Sudanese diplomat who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to media. We are talking about roads, schools, hospitals, agriculture, and power—these are the most important for the developme
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Vanishing hope
Libya turning into a failed state again Libya is again turning into a failed state and rule of law may evade the tiny North African nation for another decade or so as hundreds of Islamic fighters are entering into the country without any verification. Indeed, it is far from surprising that Libya is still ravaged by violence. The country has been a failing state since its revolution in 2011. It was long host to two rival governments, one based in Tripoli consisting of Islamic hardliners, and a more moderate one based in the eastern city of Tobruk, comprising moderates who were elected to the UN-backed House of Representatives in June 2014. In March 2016 the House of Representatives was able to move back to Tripoli as part of a plan to create an internationally recognised “unity government”, but the security situation is still incredibly weak. Relatively free and fair elections have been held before, and further ones are set for 2018, but Libya is still is awash with militias and terrorist groups some of which date back to the fall of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. When Gaddafi was killed, thousands of militias popped up to carve out their own territory. They were joined by various other terrorist groups keen to make Libya their base. The country is ideal for their purposes: to this day, it has porous borders, no working unified security force, an abundance of loose weapons, and various things that can be smuggled to finance te
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Unending violence
Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis A fresh outbreak of violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state has caused hundreds of thousands of Rohingya civilians to flee to Bangladesh. Tens of thousands of Rohingya are fleeing for their lives after an escalation of violence against them in Rakhine, the poorest state of Myanmar. A tide of displaced people are seeking refuge from atrocities-they are fleeing both on foot and by boat to Bangladesh. Rejected by the country they call home and unwanted by its neighbours, the Rohingya are virtually stateless and have been fleeing Myanmar for decades. More than 400,000 have fled from Rakhine to neighbouring Bangladesh amid a military crackdown, launched shortly after attack on police posts by Rohingya militants in the last week of August this year. The military says its operations are aimed at rooting out terrorists and has repeatedly denied targeting civilians. However, the Burmese military is widely accused of committing atrocities amounting to ethnic cleansing. They are accused of rapes, killings and house burnings, which the government of Myanmar has claimed are "false" and "distorted". Rohingya people are trying to escape violence, following a military counter-offensive against Rohingya militants who attacked police posts. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) operates in Rakhine state in northern Myanmar, where the mostly-Muslim Rohingya people have faced persecution. The Myanmar government has
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Strategic goals
Chinese naval base in Djibouti and its implications With the opening of its first overseas military base in Djibouti, China has clearly sent a message that its role in the world is changing. The implications for the Middle East and Africa are immediate, but the larger message is clear that China no longer intends to be an exclusively Asian power. China had always maintained the stance that it did not have major international ambitions beyond serving its own economic growth. Quietly, however, it has been building its capacity in many areas including in terms of expanding its blue-water navy and building a substantial space programme. As China’s economic interests have grown in far flung, it has begun to recognise the need to be able to protect those interests should the need arise. Support base While the world is looking at the new facility as a military base, China instead calls it a “support base,” which will ensure China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peace-keeping, and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia. China started building the base in 2016, the country’s first naval base aboard. China’s agreement with Djibouti ensures its military presence in the country till 2026, with a contingent upto 10,000 soldiers, where it will pay USD 20 million per year in rent. Djibouti, a tiny country with almost no natural resources, high unemployment rate, and vast stretches of semi-arid desert, has been see
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Assertive approach
The growing tension in Korean Peninsula Tensions have continued to rise around the Korean peninsula since Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear test, prompting a new round of UN sanctions. North Korea's tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles and an alleged hydrogen bomb have escalated tensions over the nuclear nation's military ambitions. North Korea has launched dozens of missiles this year, several of them flying over Japan, as it accelerates a weapons programme aimed at enabling it to target the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile. North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) earlier reported on a new miniaturized thermonuclear device developed by country’s Nuclear Weapons Institute. The shape of the instrument indicates the typical tandem design of a thermonuclear weapon, placed adjacent to an aerodynamic object likely to be the nose cone of Hwasong-14 ICBM, showing the new H-Bomb is sized to fit the country’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Thermonuclear weapon KCNA statement added the device is designed for adjustable yield, from tens kiloton to hundreds kiloton. By adjusting its yield this ‘multi purpose’ nuclear device can be used against specific targets or set to explode high in the atmosphere, causing an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) that devastates electronic circuits and electrical power grids over a large area. Previous tests of North Korean thermonuclear devices developed yields up
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Sliding posture
Japan-China relation is stagnant yet military buildup continues Japan and China have series of disputes at political level, military sphere and economic challenges but Japan is catching up with its massive investment into steady military buildup and technological superiority against a formidable China. China’s belligerence against Japan is not new, it has a sense of leftover of history as Japan had humiliated China for decades and ruled China during the Second World War period. The Senkaku islands dispute between the two Asian giant is slowly taking shape of a massive military crisis like situation in future if China plays its brinkmanship card too closely.        Sino-Japanese relations have been deteriorating since 2010. What started as adust-up over a Chinese fisherman arrested for fishing in Japanese waters has escalated into a series of unpleasant incidents between the two countries, mostly in and around the uninhabited, and largely unappealing Senkaku Islands. For now, incidents have largely been restricted to demonstrations by the coast guards of both sides and military aircraft encounters. Yet with each year, relations between China and Japan have steadily deteriorated. Unchecked, someday what may seem like routine unpleasantness could spiral into military action. Listed below are five Japanese weapons of war that Beijing should think carefully about if the unthinkable ever occurred. Advanced weapons Japan&rs
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Regrouping virus
War may be won in Mosul but Sunni Jihadis may come back The ISIS may have fought the battle of Waterloo in Mosul but it is now fast reorganizing itself in Syria and northern parts of Iraq to set up its headquarters and rehabilitate some of the remaining battle hardened guerrillas who are keen to fight like a typical infantry style to snatch back the victory of Iraqi forces.          The battle of Mosul was launched on 17 October by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. His forces had liberated other Sunni cities from ISIS closer to Baghdad, such as Ramadi, Fallujah and Tikrit. But Mosul is the real prize. It has been the centre of ISIS operations since the Jihadis swept into it in June 2014. Up until the ISIS conquest it was Iraq’s second largest city; a vast metropolis spread out on two sides of the Tigris River. On the western bank, called the ‘right bank’ by locals, was the old city. There was also an airport and urban sprawl from the Saddam Hussein era. On the eastern side were the ruins of ancient Nineveh, a university and newer neighbourhoods, connected by wide avenues. The city had always been a centre of trade and was the heart of an Ottoman province. Historically, it was a diverse city with many Kurds, Assyrian Christians, Jews and Yazidi minorities. Jewish travellers remarked on its wealth and the relative security they enjoyed there. However, the decline of the Ottoman Empire changed
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Family connections
China’s falling conglomerates and economic squabble China’s red princelings have jumped into running vast business empires due to their right connections with right links but their entrepreneur skills have failed to pass the litmus test after they climbed certain heights. There are now hundreds of examples where families or past leaders belonging to Communist Party of China and People’s Liberation Army have mustered huge profits and large business empires without any problem. But a clash interest is fast brewing among the princelings who are getting into party squabbling in public to score their point and knock out possible or existing opponents. In fact, Chairman and President Xi Jinping has been propogating about red brotherhood to unite these prinelings to work for the advancement of Chinese state and for themselves but within a just limit in which they do not interfere in other activities. So far that approach has failed to produce tangible result. Jinping’s sister Jia Qiaoqiao is the mediator in many red family associations mainly in Guangdong region. She is the contact for Jinping and a go between the powerful Ye family of the province which belongs to Hakka tribes. For example, General Ye Xuanning of Ye clan is a good friend of Weng Zhenjie who is the Chongquing mafia Group. Both are good friends of Xi’s Yuanping the younger brother of Jinping. The Ye family is also asserting its influence within Xi’s in
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Tapping nectar
China’s focus on Russian Far East can be a long term threat Russia is fast tracking a Chinese proposal to pump water from Lake Baikal, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and carry it across two borders to help alleviate water shortages which seem to be a problem solver but some Russian environmentalists have started opposing this plan. Now Russia is not only confused but wants to go slow on the plan as the Lake is unhealthy in terms of massive climate change impact and too much Chinese focus on Russian resources could be bad as both nations have their legacy of problems in history.    Russian Far East region is receiving too much Chinese attention in mining and other population related issues which is making Russia nervous about future Chinese plans. The Lake Baikal holds roughly 20 per cent of the world's total unfrozen freshwater which as per Chinese plans can be carried to northwestern China and Mongolia, helping agriculture as well as thirsty people and industries along the way. For Russia, selling this water could strengthen the country's economic presence in China and Mongolia. For last five years, Chinese authorities in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province in northwestern China, are now considering a 1,000km pipeline that would transport the water and China has granted 27 million US dollar for laying down the project. But the lake itself appears to be in trouble. Draining much of what is also known as "the Pearl of Siberia&q
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Succumbing to wish
Chinese dominance in Cambodia beginning to unfold China is in full flow in Cambodia and every footprint of foreign looks what the Chinese government would like to see. China has pushed US, Japan and Singapore and Taiwan as Cambodia’s prime investors. It is all China but there is a simmering crisis fast emerging as per IMF data Cambodia could very soon be a defaulter under the burden of Chinese debt which has got high interest rates and go bankrupt like Greece.      Chinese investment in Cambodia has created a lot of employment opportunities. The Council for the Development of Cambodia says China has been the biggest source of foreign direct investment since 2011, with the cumulative total during the period until early December reaching $4.9 billion. New buildings are going up seemingly everywhere, and the bulk are being funded with Chinese money. One of the most notable projects is One Park, or Phnom Penh No. 1, as the commercial and residential complex is called in Chinese. Heading the undertaking is Graticity Real Estate Development, a lesser-known developer based in Beijing. The first phase is being built on 7.9 hectares of reclaimed land once covered by Boeung Kak Lake.   The total cost of the project is unknown, but the construction fees alone will amount to $130 million, according to the state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corp, who won the contract. Another 11.1 hectares of reclaimed land has been set aside
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Combing down
How Iraqi Navy was targeted during Gulf War After 2 August 1990, once Iraq had overrun its hapless former ally, Iraqi naval patrol boats were able to slip out of Umm Qasr and down the coast between Kuwait and Bubiyan Island. Iraq quickly secured the naval bases at Al Ahmadi, south of Kuwait City, and Shuwaikh, capturing most of the Kuwaiti Navy intact. Kuwait had some twenty-three patrol boats and coastal vessels, the most significant of which were six German-built TNC-45s and two German FPB-57 missile patrol boats equipped with MM-40 Exocet missiles. Some of these were pressed into service to support the Iraqi attack on Khafji almost six months later, but the Iraqi Navy was little more than a bit player during Desert Storm. RAF Jaguar jets roaring over the Bubiyan Channel in early 1991 caught Saddam’s navy bloodied and fleeing the fight; with nowhere to hide the outcome was predictable. The Kuwaiti island of Bubiyan was the very raison d’être of the Iraqi fleet, but once in Saddam’s possession it heralded the Iraqi Navy’s death knell. Saddam’s naval forces had always been the poor cousin to his powerful army and air force. Geography had seen to this: Iraq is largely a landlocked nation, although it has a small outlet into the Gulf and part of its eastern border with Iran runs along the infamous Shatt-al-Arab Waterway. By the time the preliminary air campaign for Desert Storm opened in mid-January 1991, th
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Lingering shadows
China’s quest for expanding into western region and Central Asia Lenin’s theory that imperialism is driven by capitalist surpluses seems to hold true for China’s adventure into the Western region and Central Asian nations where China plans Belt and Road Initiative and dozens of bilateral economic projects in coming years. This is primarily to exploit Central Asia’s energy resources - oil, natural gas, uranium - are the cake for an economy which is slowing down at a faster pace. China needs these resources to fuel its economic growth and Beijing is seeking them everywhere in the world. But why send oil tankers half way around the world when numerous pipelines, railways, and roads are being constructed in Central Asia, largely with Chinese money. All that can bring oil, gas, uranium, and various minerals from Central Asia to China. And the Chinese loans that the Central Asian governments are accepting to develop their oil and gas fields and build the infrastructure needed to export these resources to China are in fact pre-payment for goods to be received later. For example, China has loaned Turkmenistan more than $10 billion to develop the massive Galkynysh gas fields and build the pipelines from the field. Some gas from Galkynysh will eventually go to China and the first $10-billion worth would not earn Turkmenistan any money as Ashgabat will be paying back the loan. Energy resource Some might say China is sucking Centra
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Growing threat
Surge of terrorism in MENA region and Africa The rise of ISIS and Al Qaeda in the whole of MENA region and other parts of Africa will witness a grappling surge in their activities as the competition for aligning new members and young recruits are taking place in a war footing manner. The Islamic State has faced significant defeats in Africa over the past year but political instability across the northern and western regions could offer a ripe breeding ground for the terrorist group to resurge, according to various local reports. ISIS over the past eight years has taken advantage of the political vacuum left by the 2011 toppling of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and the ongoing civil war between two rival governments in Tripoli and Tobruk that has left large swaths of ungoverned territory. ISIS has been losing ground in recent months in the Libyan city Sirte, the terror group's last major command-and-control center for operations in North and West Africa, but the group still maintains a sizable contingent of fighters in Libya. Those remaining fighters could be mobilized to perpetuate terrorist attacks in the region as they are now recruiting new members into their fold. Jihadists who were operating in the western Libyan city of Sebratha were forced to move operational networks into Tunisia after US airstrikes in February 2016 decimated ISIS targets in the region. ISIS resurgence Some of the estimated 1,000 Tunisians who were fighting with I
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Alternate option
Dominance of US Dollar may end sooner than earlier thought The world is in search of a real global currency which should be acceptable to all parties and run global economic prospects smoothly for another 100 years at least. The idea of Euro has failed but now leaving a hole in the entire international monetary system. The United Nations has been issuing various inputs that openly call for an alternative to the US Dollar as the reserve currency of the world. In particular, one UN report envisions a new global reserve system which no longer relies on the United States dollar as the single major reserve currency. Iran has been one of the most aggressive nations when it comes to moving away from the US dollar in international trade. For example, it has been reported that India will begin to use gold to buy oil from Iran. The International Monetary Fund has also published a series of reports calling for the US dollar to be replaced as the reserve currency of the world. In particular, one IMF paper entitled “Reserve Accumulation and International Monetary Stability” actually proposed that a future global currency be named the ‘Bancor’ and that a future global central bank could be put in charge of issuing it. Broad perspective A global currency, Bancor, issued by a global central bank would be designed as a stable store of value that is not tied exclusively to the conditions of any particular economy. As trade and finance cont
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Dealing by proxy
Rise of missile programs and changing geopolitics Missiles and nuclear war fighting were the flavors of January of the new year. China has launched a nuclear blitzkrieg against India’s attempts to catch up with Chinese nuclear capabilities by successfully enhancing the range of its Agni series of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads deeper into the Chinese heartland with each successive version. Such is the irritation over the launch of the Agni-V missile with a range of more than 5000 km that it has threatened to raise the issue of India’s nuclear weapons delivery program in the UN Security Council of which it is a Permanent Member with veto rights. Simultaneous with this assertion there have been quick claims by Pakistan that missiles it launched in January had new technologies that ensured that they are invincible against ballistic missile defences of the kind that India has said it will set up to protect its political hub in Delhi and economic hub in Mumbai. It is now no longer a secret that all of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and delivery systems are proven products of Chinese weapons and missiles. They are part of Chinese game plan to confront India by using Pakistan as a proxy and counterfoil that has existed ever since India conducted its first nuclear experiment in the Pokhran desert in Rajasthan in 1974. India had long suspected (and moulded its nuclear policy accordingly) a deep conspiracy by China to s
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No identity
Rohingya crisis and implications for regional stability The issue of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is making headlines for quite some time but it is dangerously brewing a deadly cocktail in which outside intervention is becoming more likely and an armed militia could soon be formed to take revenge. There are signs of radicalization among Rohingya youths who now view Myanmar military as repressive and unwilling to allow them to live peacefully in Myanmar. Combined with foreign help and massive radicalization the issue may turn ugly in coming years if it is not handled with care and prudence. The escalating military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State, on Myanmar’s western border with Bangladesh, signifies the first major crisis for the fledgling government of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. Of the myriad issues facing Suu Kyi, Rakhine-and related allegations of military abuses, displacement, destruction of villages and even “ethnic cleansing”-has the greatest potential to damage her international image and the country’s successful emergence on the world stage. A sweeping operation to root out Muslim militants in northern Rakhine after October 9 attacks on police posts and subsequently on an army unit, is entering a deadly new phase. The next stage could see harsh zoning plans and relocation of villages, under a revival of the military’s old “four cuts” strategy, developed in the 1970s
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Brides for utopia
Western women becoming target of Islamic State Perhaps Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is the most powerful, ruthless, horrific and well-funded terrorist group in recent history but it is able to attract the imagination of a section of Western women who are ready to fight with them and falling prey to their recruitment drive. By building an Islamist utopia theory to attract young women in the Western world, the ISIS has created a web of recruitment cells which appear and last only for one week and take a fresh birth to avoid detection by authorities. This strategy of ISIS is somewhat working at the moment mainly due to the inability of security agencies who fail to anticipate the next move of ISIS in a digital world. The roles women take in terrorist organizations vary, but keep in mind, militant jihadi organizations are generally male dominated, and women generally only take leadership roles over other women. In ISIS, the roles women are taking on will continue to shape the battle with this new global enemy. Michael Steinbach, the head of the FBI’s Counter-terrorism Division announced in February of 2015 that ISIS is more aggressively recruiting women than any other terror group has. Similarly, FBI Director James Comey, announced in July of 2015, that ISIS is using Twitter and encryption to recruit thousands of English-language followers and send out orders. According to Comey, ISIS reaches 21,000 followers on Twitter, some that are
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Great hopes
Foreign policy challenges for the new US President The surprising victory of Donald Trump as the next US President elect, defying all expert predictions, has sent the whole world into shock. While some people and world leaders have displayed their surprise and called Trump’s election as a disaster for the West, few segment has cheered his win and are looking forward to his leadership. Though it cannot be denied that Trump gave a tough competition to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party Presidential candidate, and garnered publicity with his hyped campaign statements. However, all his statements, which might have appealed people of US to vote for him, will come haunting to him if he fails to deliver on the promises made during his campaign. As the world struggles to digest the stunning election victory of Donald Trump, there will be much hand-wringing in many capitals about how their relations with Washington could change in radical ways. Foreign relations of United States at this critical juncture will prove to be a litmus test for Trump to prove his mettle as the new US President. All new presidents face a formidable workload, no matter what their level of experience is. Foreign policy challenges are always a complicated and daunting part of the portfolio for a new commander-in-chief. But in 2017 President Donald Trump will have to deal with perhaps the most sensitive array of crises faced by any American president in decades. From Mexico and
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Safe haven
Increasing piracy activities in SE Asia South East Asia is fast becoming a potential threat to the world commerce due to rising incidents of sea piracy. In past few years the region has witnessed an increase in the pirate attacks near Strait of Malacca and South China Sea. This is becoming a significant problem and it seems to be escalating as the value of the oil stolen in 2015 alone in the area stands at $5 million. There have been 124 armed robberies, hijackings and other attacks on ships by Southeast Asia sea criminals in 2015. In Southeast Asia, pirates are increasingly hijacking ships to steal oil from slow-moving tankers but rarely seek to ransom the crew. It is estimated that pirates have stolen more than 16,000 metric tons of oil products in 2015. The pirates operate very differently in this region as compared to the piracy attacks in Somalia or East Africa. Unlike pirates in Somalia, who seeks multi million dollars as ransom money and keep the ship and crew as hostage, pirates in Malacca Strait capture tankers, sail them to a mother ship and siphon off the fuel, then release the boats with their equipment smashed and, at times, the crews badly hurt.  In the Malacca Strait, pirates like to get in and get out. Their modus operandi is not to kidnap. These pirates just want the cash aboard the vessel or to rob the crew of any valuables. There’s a really high return on investment in a very short period of time with oil theft in the regio
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Shifting axis
Yemen war and its impact on Gulf of Aden stability In view of escalating tension in Yemen, the Gulf of Aden is witnessing a strong surge of rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia and if not timely intervened then it may lead to a naval blockade against Iran in near future. Iran seems to be aware of the situation. Last month, twice and possibly a third time, US Navy ships on patrol in the Gulf of Aden were attacked by sophisticated cruise missiles. The American warships were not hit, but they did have to fire SM-2 and Sea Sparrow defensive missiles and use Nulka anti-ship missile decoy countermeasures to disable the incoming weapons. The Houthi attack utilized cruise missiles-variants of Silkworm missiles, weapons Iranians are known to use. In response, the US ships destroyed three radar stations along the Red Sea Coast in Yemen. The radar sites helped guide the missiles and they too were operated by Iranians. The American warships-two guided-missile destroyers, the USS Mason and USS Nitze, as well as the amphibious transport ship USS Ponce-are operating in the Gulf for two reasons. First, they are ensuring the safe passage of merchant ships through a critically important shipping lane: the Bab el-Mandeb strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden (3.8 million barrels of oil a day pass through the chokepoint on Yemen’s southwestern coast, making it the fourth busiest transit point for oil on earth). At the northern end of the Red Se
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New avenues
ISIS is expanding footprints beyond Middle East Though ISIS is rapidly losing the grounds in Syria and Iraq, but it is not at all losing the war. Interestingly, the weakening of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is something that increases the risk of a major terrorist attack in other parts of the world. It is well-known that when a terrorist group is defeated on its own turf, it retaliates by carrying out a series of deadly attacks abroad. The potential gravity of the ISIS group’s threat has only just begun to dawn. The group’s latest atrocity was a recent on a Sufi shrine in Balochistan that killed at least 50 people and wounded 100 others. According to police, Afghan officials and ISIS media outlets, the majority of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan are Pakistani nationals, mostly from the tribal regions. Disgruntled Taliban fighters from Pakistan and Afghanistan have joined along with foreign fighters, mainly from central Asia. This incident and the recent spate of terrorist attacks across the world-unleashed by ISIS-inspired or affiliated individuals and groups-indicate that the group has made inroads into many other territories and the Western powers have failed to assess the threat this group poses as a global terrorist outfit. ISIS is operating both on the ground and in cyberspaces. In cyberspaces, it is influencing the minds of Muslim youth with violent Islamist ideology while exploiting their socio-cultural and psychological confusion
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Power projection
Modernising submarine fleet With both its conventional as well as nuclear powered submarine production lines well on stream India will have to decide what percentage of the entire Indian Navy fleet will have to be either diesel electric/air-independent propulsion and which types of surface vessels will have to be converted to nuclear propulsion. This factor will dictate the extent of its regional footprint and hence its power-projection capability. The true worth of the Indian Navy will be judged by how well it is able to police the Strait of Hormuz/Suez Canal waterways in the west to the Chinese maritime seaboard in the Pacific Ocean in the east 24x7, 365 days. A naval presence at such distances will have to depend largely on nuclear propulsion if it is to be effective both as a deterrent as well as an in situ operational group. The need to call at local ports for bunkering facilities will have to be eliminated if one is to be truly effective. ‘Showing the flag’ operations will need to be knitted into the whole skein of deployment patterns on a sector wise basis-the more sensitive sectors requiring longer ‘on station’ presence fully supported by organic depot ships for victualing, medical evacuation and housekeeping/maintenance requirements. Nuclear capability The commissioning of the nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed INS Arihant has completed the third leg of an indigenous triad of nuclear weapons delivery platforms, the others be
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Selling dreams
China’s economic engagement with Africa China is in Africa for economic reasons. China is home to more than 19 percent of the world’s population but only six percent of the world’s land area. More than 500 million Chinese live on less than $2.50 a day. The country must remain on a high growth trajectory in order to raise these people  to middle-income status. An annual growth rate of seven percent, considered a bare minimum by China, requires enormous quantities of raw materials, including from abroad. China needs long-term supplies of raw materials and food at reasonable and stable prices. Since 2000, most raw materials and commodities have doubled in price and, despite the Great Recession of 2008, remain historically high. This is thanks to emerging market demand, and production and infrastructure constraints. China looks at Africa primarily as a source of raw materials; the West, on the other hand, is increasingly looking to market consumer goods to the small but growing African middle class. A sort of division of labor is emerging with Western aid focusing on health, education, rural development and governance, while China specializes in “infrastructure for natural resources” transactions. China’s foreign reserves-estimated at 3.5 trillion dollars-give it ample room to invest massively abroad. Conveniently, these investments keep Chinese engineering, construction and equipment suppliers busy, while allowing Chin
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Power struggle
Split in Boko Haram Nigeria based Boko Haram terror group has split into two factions, one loyal to Abubakar Shekau and the other to Abu Musab al-Barnawi, appointed by Boko Haram’s ally, the Islamic State. In 2015, rumours started spreading that Shekau had been killed or replaced after he failed to make a verified video appearance for the past year. Following the new appointment, Shekau, released an audio message in Arabic and Hausa accusing al-Barnawi of trying to stage a coup against him. The recent split has generated a wide range of reactions and predictions among international security experts and analysts, who have warned that the dangerous development could be more deadly threat to the already porous Nigeria security system and that of West Africa as a whole. However, it will be too early to come to a conclusion as there are chances that this split might actually weaken the terrorist group as a whole. In the struggle for control, Boko Haram factions could turn on each other, further splitting the insurgents who have been beaten back from their strongholds in northern Nigeria over the past year. Shift in strategy There were talks of crack appearing in the leadership of the group in last few months, however as an indication of shift in strategy, the Islamic State has officially named Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the militant group’s new leader and says he will pursue a different strategy-but the old leader, AbubakarShekau, says he&rsq
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Dividing line
Pakistan-Afghanistan border conflict The violent clash between border forces of Afghanistan and Pakistan at Torkham crossing may appear to have ended, but it reflects a deep rooted disconnect between these two South Asian neighbors. Though the clashes in Torkham were triggered by the construction of a border post by Pakistan on its side, the border tensions are a symptom of a larger bilateral problem which if not tackled timely may have big and irreparable consequences. Tensions have been brewing for a while over Pakistan’s attempts to erect a gate on the border. Afghanistan has long opposed this idea as it does not recognise the gate as a legitimate dividing line. Pakistan’s moves towards fencing a 2km area at the Torkham crossing, was opposed and stopped by Afghanistan. The row led to Pakistan’s closure of the crossing, affecting thousands of people who commute across the border each day. Any construction near Torkham is a violation of bilateral agreements between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The build up to this conflict started when Pakistan stopped allowing movement of people without visas from crossing Torkham to the Pakistani side of the Durand Line, not recognised as the international border by Afghanistan. Pakistan shares a 2,500 kilometre-long borderline with Afghanistan. Over 15,000 people are said to illegally move across the Torkham crossing post located on the Durand line border, on a daily basis. Since the Decembe
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Smart move
China-Pakistan joint border patrol The joint Sino-Pak military patrol in north Jammu and Kashmir is essentially a method of formalizing an annexation of the Gilgit-Baltistan segment of Jammu and Kashmir into a joint ownership arrangement. It has to be read with the rigging of the elections in that portion of the former princely State and the pre-positioning of several thousand Chinese personnel of the People’s Liberation Army in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir for laying the foundations of the road-rail-pipeline Economic Corridor from Xinjiang to Gwadar in strife-torn Balochistan. China does not really need Pakistani troops to patrol the external border of its own Xinjiang province. It has enough military manpower to deal with the Uighur Muslim uprising instigated by Chinese Han colonization of the province even after the proclaimed reduction of about 3,00,000 troops of the People’s Liberation Army. Pakistan has not been able to protect Chinese engineers involved in setting up dams and other infrastructure within Pakistan. Several Chinese have been kidnapped and killed over the years by jihadi Pakistani elements much to China’s consternation and ire. Pakistan has tried to placate the Chinese by feeding a regular supply of low-level Uighur jihadis who have either trained with the Pakistani terrorist groups or been baptized in Islamic hyper-fundamentalism by stints in ISIS and Al Qaeda-held territories in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria and were looking
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Expanding footprints
ISIS is becoming a global threat The recent surge of terrorist strikes, in Orlando, Jordan, Lebanon, Istanbul, Baghdad, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and now southern France is a sign of ISIS’s desperation to reassert its relevance, in the face of its string of losses on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq. With ISIS’s call for attacks in the coming months in Europe and America, the likelihood of an ISIS directed, enabled, or inspired attack is high. There is no denial that American airstrikes, Iraqi and Kurdish ground assaults, and the occasional raid by US Special Forces have lately thrashed ISIS forces, severed their supply lines, and recaptured some of their strongholds. However, the spectrum of terrorism is widening and now includes attacks loosely inspired by the Islamic State, those carried out by its affiliate groups and attacks directed by the group’s leadership. All have drawn public condemnation and concern, but the plots organized and executed by the Islamic State usually prompt greater concern from the authorities. The group’s ideology, spread widely through social media and propaganda videos, appears to have inspired a scourge of violence for more than a year: including the shooting in December in San Bernardino, Calif.; the mass killings at a gay nightclub in Orlando; and the deadly attack at a cafe in Bangladesh. These were in addition to attacks that top Islamic State operatives apparently planned directly, like the P
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Need to comply
Maintaining peace in South China Sea China has got biggest shock to its emerging global superpower image and faced international embarrassment when the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled recently that China did not have historic rights to the South China Sea and that it had breached Philippine sovereignty by endangering its ships and fishing and oil projects in the energy-rich waters. The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) has issued a sweeping verdict in favor of the Philippines in its case against China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. The verdict represents a serious blow to China’s efforts to win legitimacy for its claims in the region. China claims more than 90 per cent of the South China Sea, an area which accounts for more than a tenth of global fisheries production and is also claimed in part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Since China’s declaration of nine dash line in SCS, the region has grown increasingly concerned by China’s assertiveness in SCS. In 2012, Beijing snatched Scarborough Shoal away from Philippines. The two states has quarreled over allegations of illegal poaching by Chinese fishermen. After a two month standoff, the parties agreed to withdraw from the Shoal. Manila did. Beijing did not. Since then China has excluded Philippine boats from the Shoal’s waters. In response to this escalatory move, Manila filed an arbitration case against China Januar
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New dimensions
Modi’s recent visit to Africa In order to strengthen India’s economic linkages, PM Modi recently travelled to four African nations, a direct indication of India’s shifting policy towards Africa and projecting itself as a trusted strategic partner of the continent. As it is evident that over the coming decade, global security challenges will necessitate combined efforts by states to manage threats and maximize opportunities. Among the most significant challenges that India and Africa will face in particular, are reforms in global governance institutions, maritime security threats in the Indian Ocean, energy insecurity and the rise of extremism and terrorism. Both in his tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat and during his general election campaign, Modi put the need for economic reform and growth at the centre in order to make India more competitive and to bolster employment. Therefore Africa is a region that India cannot afford to ignore. Six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are located in Africa. Huge complementarities exist to strengthen bilateral collaboration in diverse areas and upgrade India-Africa engagement. Modi visited four African countries- Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya-from July 7 to 11, 2016. This is his second tour to Africa. Last year, he had visited Seychelles and Mauritius. The government’s policy to deepen ties with African nations was initiated by two recent high-ranking visits b
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Digital war
Advanced weapons and smart techniques used by ISIS Though some reports from western countries are trying to portray that ISIS is losing its foothold but the reality draws a completely different picture. ISIS has grown tremendously since its beginnings as a spinoff group from al-Qaida, generating revenue from each territory it has conquered. It has recently been called the world’s richest terrorist group, with an estimated $2 billion on hand. Further the group is now expanding its presence outside Middle East and is in process to utilize the social platform to propagate its agenda. Since claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks in November, ISIS has increased its violent acts in Europe and the Middle East. The emergence of ISIS and its claims to have established a caliphate have an impact on South-east Asia and other regions. The threat will continue over the next decade. The claim of the ISIS-proclaimed caliphate to oversight over Muslims around the world has strong emotional appeal and resonates with many Muslims, even in South-east Asia. Though US and its allies are taking credit of destroying the ISIS, the reality is that the terrorist  group is increasing its source of funding and utilizing all resources to develop modern weapons and spreading their messages through all media platforms. Through the exploitation of known smuggling routes on Turkey’s border, it has used the black market to sell oil, natural resources and looted g
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Deepening crisis
China’s economic slowdown needs timely intervention A series of events has jolted China’s economy and rattled markets around the world. Early this year the Chinese stock market shed nearly a fifth of its value. Now the fresh data from China has confirmed its economy is continuing to lose steam.  China’s slowing growth has been dragging the global economy as Beijing hopes for a shift towards services and consumption in its domestic market. Against the backdrop of a faltering global economy, turmoil in the country’s stock markets and overcapacity in factories, Chinese economic growth has slowed markedly. After growing 7.3% in 2014, the economy is thought to have expanded by 6.9% in 2015 and the Chinese central bank has forecast that it may slow further in 2016 to 6.8%. Even China’s top leadership has acknowledged the serious challenge it faces in keeping growth apace. A series of interventions by policymakers, including interest rate cuts, have done little to revive growth and in some cases served only to heighten concern about China’s challenges. China after witnessing nearly three decades of double-digit growth has been showing signs of slowness. Though China is trying to name this economic crisis as ‘economic rebalancing’, experts believe that if timely action is not taken the world’s second-biggest economy could be the source of the next global downturn. Weak economy Signs of weaker-than-
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Clear stand
India’s cooperation in Pacific with regional powers As the churning in  South China Sea  gradually develops into a face to face rivalry between the big powers, India will soon have to take a call on the pressures being applied to come out openly whether they want to align with the big powers. That China has aggravated the tension in the region with unilateral militarization through new artificial air bases and missile squadrons is undeniable and well known along with India’s stand that the  dispute be resolved in accordance with International Law of the Sea and the 2002 Code of Conduct reached between ASEAN and China. Considering its state of sweet and sour  relations with China and  the need for maintaining peace and tranquility on the over 4,000 kms long undemarcated border, India would not succumb to the US pressures to join over the triangular or quadrilateral alliance proposal  against  China. The response from the Indian side has been till now very cool, dismissing any such possibility of joining the alliances. Reacting to the proposal the Chinese foreign ministry objected, “Relevant countries should not provoke confrontation and create tension in the region.” The US side has perhaps been making unilateral overtures, which looks as if they are speaking  on behalf of India. The first US announcement was rejected by the Indian defence  minister regarding the Malabar naval exercise ne
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Striking a balance
Saudi Arabia could rethink its geopolitical vision for MENA region   Time changes everything. In diplomacy change comes more faster and unexpected than in any other segment of statecraft. Saudi Arabia and Israel are getting good friends in recent time which is aimed at tackling rising Iran and its influence in the region which can be harmful to both the nations as they perceive Iran as a strong rival. Yet, Israel and Saudi Arabia are standing across the road due to their past differences on the fate of Palestinian state and other issues involving MENA region. However, Saudi Arabia’s claims to be one of the leaders of the Arab and Muslim world prevent it from recognizing the State of Israel’s right to exist within its current borders, while Tel-Aviv in its turn rejects the plan for Middle East Regulation (MER) proposed by Riyadh involving a reversion to the pre-1967 status quo. As a result of various domestic and international factors neither side will change their diametrically opposite positions and maintain official contacts. However, the absence of diplomatic relations does not prevent unofficial contact between Israeli and Saudi representatives. Recently there have been frequent media reports on meetings between representatives of the two states and there have even been claims that the Saudis are ready to provide Israel with an air corridor and air bases for rescue helicopters, tanker aircraft and drones (unmanned aircraft s
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Pushing for control
Afghanistan needs military leadership not militia forces If materialized, the creation of large-scale militias could plunge the country back into civil war, undo achievements in establishing conventional national forces, and divide the country into several fiefdoms controlled by militia commanders. Abdul Rashid Dostum, the current first vice president; Mohammad Mohaqiq, the deputy chief executive; and Atta Mohammad Noor, the governor of Balk province are some of the major politicians who have been publicly vouching for the rearmament of their loyalists. Reports from some northern regions have already indicated that former factional commanders, widely known as “warlords” who were involved in the devastating civil war of the 1990s, were recruiting and rearming their fighters. The move is ostensibly prompted by Taliban insurgents’ brazen attacks in the northern provinces of Badakhshan, Kunduz and Faryab, where militants briefly overran districts and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) posts. The Taliban have recently also carried out attacks in other parts of the north, including Baghlan and Balkh provinces. There are legitimate concerns about the growing attacks and influence of the Taliban in the northern regions, and they must be dealt with through military might. However, these threats must be tackled by national security forces, not through any disproportionate and dramatic measures that could-undoubtedly-become unproductive in th
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Show of strength
Maritime diplomacy and international fleet review of Indian Navy The International maritime fleet review, held on the vast expanse of the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Vishakhapatnam in February, showcased India’s naval might, represented by aircraft carriers and frontline warships, not only to all those who participated in  the review, but to those also who were observing the review from open sources. The maritime review included naval representatives and ships from over 50 nations, who had good opportunity to interact with each other and develop better camaraderie among themselves. In a reciprocal gesture even Chinese navy was invited, in response to last year’s Chinese invite to participate in the fleet review. Significant and obvious omission was the Pakistan navy, which was the only neighbouring country not represented in the fleet review. Explaining the significance of India’s second International Fleet Review, the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R K Dhowan said, “both geographical configuration and historical antiquity bestow a unique dimension to India’s maritime disposition.” “These two factors ensured that matters maritime and its offshoots such as trade, commerce, cultural and civilizational exchanges (but not conquest) remained intrinsic aspect of our DNA for a long time.” Even during the relative period of maritime decline in the second half of the last millennium, several aspects such
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Eluding solution
South China Sea and threat to stability in Asia Recognizing the gravity of the deepening crisis in the South China Sea, the world’s leading western powers have recently begun to speak out. During their latest summit in Germany, the Group of Seven (G7) leaders underlined the “importance of peaceful dispute settlement as well as free and unimpeded lawful use of the world’s oceans, and expressed how they strongly oppose the use of intimidation, coercion or force, as well as any unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo, such as large-scale land reclamation. Obviously, it was too diplomatically provocative to explicitly name China, but it was pretty clear which country the Western leaders had in mind. Over the past eighteen months alone, according to the Pentagon, China has reclaimed 1170 hectares on a whole host of dispute reefs and rocks, which, in the words of US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, is more than all other claimants’ [construction activities] combined and more than in the entire history of the region. In March 2015, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) astonished the region and the broader international community when it chose to reveal its broad objectives in the South China Sea, providing the rationale behind its mind-boggling geo-engineering overhaul of the land features in the area. Beijing mentioned improving the working and living conditions of people stationed on these islands as among t
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Promising venture
India-Russia military cooperation   The 16th India-Russia summit in Moscow cleared the path for a few more joint projects in defence sector. This helped Russia make an emphatic comeback as India’s trusted and strategic partner. The summit helped propel Russia in the top slot of India’s main defence partner. This was spearheaded by a Prime Minister who has in recent months shown much more proximity to the US and Western leaders. During the visit, the two leaders, Modi and Putin, witnessed the inking of joint defence agreements in the area of helicopters and air defence missiles etc. The joint statement issued after the summit recognized the fact,” both sides reaffirmed that military-technical cooperation remains one of the key elements of the special and privileged strategic partnership between the two countries.” Prior to the departure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Russia on 23rdDecember, the Defence Acquisition Council of the Defence Ministry headed by the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had cleared the acquisition of the S-400 air defence missile system Triumph. Though there was no direct announcement of the deal, which was supposed to be the biggest of deals in recent years worth six billion dollars for acquiring five such missile systems. After the talks Prime Minister Modi said, “we have had excellent conversations over the past two days and very productive outcomes, it has deepened my conviction tha
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Mounting tension
South China Sea dispute and ASEAN position Maritime sovereignty disputes in the region, particularly in the South China Sea, have been a source of tension and a destabilizing factor in the Asia-Pacific region. To translate the vision of “a peaceful and prosperous Community” into reality, ASEAN needs to address internal differences and garner a collective power of unity that pushes for a peaceful and durable solution to the South China Sea issue, such as setting up mechanisms to maintain maritime order and stability, prevent tensions and avoid escalation into armed conflicts. Mounting tensions in the South China Sea recently have stemmed from the large-scale renovation of reefs and atolls by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the ensuing construction of dual-use infrastructures on these artificial islands. Such activities by the PRC constitute serious violations of international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the 1982 UNCLOS), and the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (the DOC). Chinese activities have changed the status quo in the South China Sea, altered facts and natural features, endangered marine environment, violated freedom and safety of maritime and air navigation, and heightened regional security dangers, all to the detriment of peace, stability and prosperity in the region. To deliberate the ongoing tension, recently, Centre for
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Boosting ties
Deepening defence cooperation with Russia India-Russia defence relations are set to receive a boost during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Moscow in the third week of December. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has done the ground work during his early November visit to Moscow during which he discussed issues ranging from the lease of second nuclear submarine to Fifth Generation Fighter aircraft and manufacture of weapon systems and platforms in India. Lot of contentious issues, like the maintenance problems of Su-30MKI and Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft, will also be on the menu during Putin-Modi meeting. Parrikar is reported to have given a final shape for the proposal for acquiring second Akula class submarine. The Putin-Modi meeting is expected to put their final stamp of approval on the transfer of second Akula class submarine on lease to India. The first nuclear Submarine christened INS Chakra was inducted in Indian Navy in 2011. Earlier India had inducted the first ever Charlie class nuclear submarine in 1989 on ten year lease and has already been returned to the Russian shipyard. The second Akula class nuclear submarine, though, would not be armed with nuclear missiles like the first one. However, this will roam in the Indian Ocean with impunity and thus can help Indian Navy keep a close watch in the Indian Ocean with enhanced surveillance capacity. Acquisition program Parrikar also discussed the acquisition of long range air def
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Exploring potential
India-Oman geo-strategic engagements The Sultanate of Oman is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and is well-known for its open market policies and an investor-friendly regime. Owing to its strategic location of being in the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula, the country has enjoyed a historical significance in global maritime trade since the ancient times. Oman has a rich maritime history with evidences in historical discourses dating back to the first century AD when Yalainous, the Roman historian is believed to have mentioned Omana, now Oman. It was known as the land of the Frankincense trade through its various sites across the Dhofar region. Oman also served as a gateway for the Indian and Chinese merchants who travelled on the ancient Silk Route to the European markets and to other parts of the Arab world. India’s relations with Oman have evolved over the centuries both in terms of geo-economic relations as well as for geo-economic ties. In recent years, India and Oman have witnessed a strengthening bilateral trade, increase in investment flows and a strategic cooperation based on mutual necessities. Oman’s export to India has increased from US$219 million in 2005 to US$1537 million in 2014; while its imports from India has seen a trajectory of growth from US$399 million to US$1266 million during the same period (see Figure 1). Moreover, the two countries have entered into bilateral agreements on several geo-economic
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Growing differences
India-Pakistan relation and challenges Two nuclear neighbors in South Asia continue to draw world’s attention for their constant badmouthing towards each other. After the famous Ufa agreement in Russia on 10th July this year the Pakistani side backtracked on their promises to initiate talks on agreed parameters. India claimed victory on Ufa statement and Pakistan retaliated by upping the ante on the K word and India insisted, the National Security Advisor level talks must be held on the issue of terror first, as agreed in Ufa. The aftermath of the cancelled talks, scheduled to be held on 25th August, between India and Pakistan at the National Security Advisors level has led to more bitterness among the leaders and people of the two countries. There has been verbal duel between the leaders of the two nations. From army Generals to Government leaders and ruling party,  both sides never lose an opportunity to strike verbal blows and threatening total devastation. Pakistani leaders use the N word on every occasion to warn India to offset their inferiority in traditional weapons against India and India never fails to remind the Pakistanis that they are engaged in terror and possess Dawood Ibrahim the most wanted criminal and terrorist fugitive from India, who has not only be given shelter in Karachi, but also has been allowed to have most flourishing business in real estate. War of words That Dawood is in Pakistan is an open secret, but Pakistan cont
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Renewed approach
Multilateral Malabar naval exercise The Malabar-2015 has created fresh ripples in the already rough sea of the Indian Ocean. After a gap of eight years, India will be hosting another multilateral naval exercise of three nations with USA and Japan. All the members of the original five nation multilateral naval engagement held in the Bay of Bengal in September 2007, developed cold feet after China issued diplomatic demarche to all the five nations asking them if they are ganging up against China. Eight years later India gathered enough courage to ignore Chinese sensitivities and organized the three nation multilateral joint exercise and separately along with bilateral maritime exercises with Australia and Singapore who were part of the 2007 multilateral exercise. The strategic observers will now deliberate on the evolving construct in the Asia Pacific region. India initially hesitated to convert the Malabar exercise to be held in the Indian Ocean on the Eastern Seaboard, into a multilateral one. But with hardening attitude of the Chinese towards India, perhaps encouraged India to send a signal to the Chinese that if they are not ready to take note of India’s concern India will be free to march on the road on which the US led Western alliance waited for India to join. The Malabar initially began in the aftermath of the end of Cold War after the dissolution of Soviet Union in the year 1992 and continued on bilateral basis till 1997. But the US unilaterally
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Lacking consensus
Nepal’s new constitution and the challenges After nearly a decade of political struggle, the land-locked South Asian nation of Nepal recently passed a constitution. Nepal has adopted a new constitution aimed at bolstering its transformation to a peaceful democracy after decades of political instability and a long civil war. Nepal’s monarchy, which ruled the country for more than 2 centuries, came to a formal end in 2008, and birthed the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. The new constitution is the final stage in a peace process that began when Maoist fighters laid down their arms in 2006 after a decade-long insurgency aimed at abolishing an autocratic monarchy and creating a more equal society. The country, still reeling from a devastating earthquake in April that killed nearly 10,000 people, passed the new constitution with majority support, but riots and violence marred the celebrations with some groups contending that their rights had been trampled upon. The move to create a new federal structure that will devolve power from the center has widespread support, but critics say the planned internal borders will leave some historically marginalized groups under-represented in Parliament. They include the Madhesi and Tharu ethnic minorities who mainly inhabit Nepal’s southern plains, along the border with India. Nepal has adopted a new constitution aimed at bolstering its transformation from a Hindu monarchy to a secular democracy,
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Fleeing horses
China’s millionaire factory is crumbling and more to leave mainland China’s experiment with the creation of ‘millionaire clubs’ is coming to a full circle but it leaves behind a dirty culture that will take decades for new generation of Chinese to clean and establish rule of law which can bring China back to a civilized state. The Communist Party of China which has been ruling China since 1949 is not in a position to clean the mess as most of its senior leaders are involved in more than 400 scams running into 440 billion dollar involving various sectors. But the filthy rich millionaires once created by years of CPC ruling due to lack of public scrutiny are now leaving China to secure their own future at the risk of the nation whom they had once adored with high spirit. Today most of the Chinese millionaires are desperate to leave China as soon as possible and their destination is Europe, America, Australia, Canada and few opt for Gulf states.         In view of global financial crisis, a number of countries are opening the doors to the estimated 1 million Chinese millionaires, yet provided they bring their money with them. It is something of a bidding war in reverse. Conspicuous wealth makes Chinese businessmen and women a target for the country’s anti-corruption authorities. A study in 2012 found that Chinese listed on the Shanghai-based Hurun Rich List were more likely to be inv
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Bolstering presence
Implications of PM Modi’s Central Asia visit Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a whirlwind tour to Central Asia on the way to attending the BRICS and SCO summits in Russia in the second week of July. Though the visit cannot be termed as a game changer, Prime Minister Modi was able to convey  the Central Asian leaders that India  has revived its interest in Central Asia and has  made sincere moves.   India has till now lacked a cogent Central Asia policy. However, the Prime Ministerial visit to the five States (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan) has shown India’s resolve to strengthen economic and strategic relations with the region.  After the conclusion of the visit, the political leadership and the officials needs to follow up with the lofty joint declarations made during the five Central Asian Republics with an action plan. Though, Central Asia has been in the thought process of Indian leaders ever since Jawahar Lal Nehru traveled to Central Asian Republics in mid fifties, then  under the Soviet Union. Even after they gained independence from the Soviet Union in the early nineties, India failed to make swift moves, as connectivity issues prevented Indian leadership from taking actual movements on the ground. Though Central Asia is the extended neighborhood for India,  the doors for India has been closed because of unstable political situation in the region and the areas adjoin Taj
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Deepening ties
Emerging axis among global powers Yet another trilateral grouping has emerged along with  India, US, Japan and US, Japan and Australia. The latest and third  trilateral comprising India, Japan and Australia are part of the same quadrilateral India, US, Japan and Australia, which prematurely died in the womb in 2007. The four countries had earlier conducted a joint maritime exercise  in the Bay of Bengal called the Malabar in September 2007 in which Singapore was the fifth partner. Now this year India, US and Japan trilateral will  together once again be seen in action  in the joint maritime exercise in September 2015. Ignoring Chinese sensitivities India has invited Japanese  Navy also  to join in the bilateral Malabar exercises, after initial hesitation. In 2007 the four  big powers had somersaulted as the Chinese dragon roared. However, a few years later US persuaded India to join Japan in the  trilateral dialogue forum, which has now been institutionalized as they  meet regularly. The India, Japan and US trilateral was considered as an anti-Chinese grouping  and the  officials of India, Japan and Australia denied the media assertions that another anti-China grouping  has emerged. The new trilateral met for the first time in New Delhi in June 2015 and discussed burning regional and international security issues, which included the South China Sea. All the members of defunct quadrilateral have
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Separate identity
Uighurs may engage China differently Uighurs are waging a war of different kind to which many Chinese politicians and strategists are unknown but Beijing’s strategy to apply a carrot and stick policy may give instant result but it might lose out in the future once the steam is over. Chinese military and security thinkers are quite unfamiliar with the problem in Xinjiang in a manner that Uighurs have already started their preparations for a long haul and dipper engagement with the Chinese state to seek a final separation from Chinese mainland.      While China adopts its tested strategy in Tibet in the fifties to deal with Xinjiang uprising, Uighurs are getting battle hardened and ready to fight through an armed struggle like the Mongols were doing in the 14th century. Already 450 Uighurs have entered China after arriving from Yemen and their association with the ISIS can now be visible through their action against Chinese forces. This could spring a surprise since these are already battle hardened in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. The issue of Uighur problem got highlighted due to deportation of hundreds of suspected militants in Thailand. Recently, Thailand and Turkey faced an unprecedented situation after Thailand deported some Uighurs to China who had planned to go to Syria and Iraq to carry out jihad and were in constant touch with ISIS commanders. Although Turkey is supporting Uighurs on a nationalistic fervor but Uighurs have
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Muddy water
South China Sea dispute and its implications China’s islands reclamation initiative in South China Sea could spark a war like situation and it might draw silent powers in the region to get involved by rendering ASEAN as useless and a mute spectator.    ASEAN’s long slogan of resolving South China Sea dispute in ASEAN way has no taker today and the group is just a talking shop in which all members are split into the laps of regional or global powers through which they benefit for their so-called national interests. All ASEAN members in some way or the other fear China and they are reluctant to talk anything that might anger Beijing but China does what it wants to without giving an iota of any regard to ASEAN as a regional body.    This might prompt a new cold war, in which a rising China gradually will seek to push the US military out of the Western Pacific, which seems to be inevitable. Any such conflict would of course be dangerous whenever it happens, because the United States is likely to resist these efforts strenuously. But what’s surprising and worrisome is how the timeline for this conflict, or at least its beginning stage, has seemed to accelerate over roughly the past two years. Suddenly and aggressively, China has begun advancing its military interests throughout the region, catching its neighbors and the United States off guard. Flash point The territorial dispute in the South China Sea is b
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Flawed approach
Afghanistan’s foreign policy and Iranian interests While the regional countries are grappling hard to stabilize Afghanistan, President Abdul Ghani chooses to obediently toe the Pakistani line and even walks  all out to soothe Pakistani concerns unmindful of the realities in his own country. Ghani’s approach virtually entails  the rolling back of the entire Indian influence  in Afghanistan. First, by sending Afghan troops  for training in Pakistan military academy instead of India  as done previously.  Second, by suspending his own country’s request  for Indian weapons and third by starting sharing the intelligence cooperation entirely with Pakistan. This gives a clear impression of Afghanistan walking extra miles solely with Pakistan. This shift in Afghanistan’s foreign policy is definitely flawed when the country is virtually slipping  into a civil war  as illustrated by renewed Taliban attacks in the vicinity of Kabul. Pakistan’s spy agency ISI has further entered into an agreement with its Afghan counterpart over intelligence sharing and coordinated operations against Taliban militants. Cooperation with Pakistan This approach was adopted after Pakistan President Nawaz Sharif , Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif and ISI Chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar visited  Afghanistan recently to seek more cooperation to eradicate Taliban rebels operating along both sides of the border. Inte
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Cautious steps
Modi’ China visit and border issues Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s  much hyped recent visit to China  was not expected to deliver any unexpected outcome on boundary related issues, Modi certainly was able to drive home his point that boundary question remains the most important unresolved issue between the two Asian giants, which is hindering the further growth in bilateral relations . Since the Chinese leaders were  not ready to move an inch on the boundary both sides have decided to move on with the relationship in other areas while adopting new confidence building measures to manage the pain on the border.  Both the countries have applied some balm on the festering wounds , which both sides hope would not grow cancerous.   Obviously even an inch of distance was not covered to reduce the deepening trust deficit between the two nations. Also on other strategic issues like the UNSC reform ,  membership of the  export control regimes and  One Belt One Road project , there was wide margin in the  level of mistrust. However, in spite of deepening suspicion on each other’s national desire and interests, the Chinese President Xi Jin Ping went out of the way to appease Indian Prime Minister to win his support in China specific projects like the One Belt One Road. But India remained non-committal on this issue, describing it as a Chinese project. Border talks For the first time an Indi
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Strong partnership
India seeks South Korean defence technology Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Act East diplomacy  was in full play during his recent visit to Seoul, South Korea. Though the two countries enjoy warm friendly relations since decades and the South Korean economic engagement with India has become so deep rooted that Korean companies have become  household names in India, the two countries have only recently begun to realize the strategic potentials of partnership. This is why during Modi’s visit to Seoul, the two countries decided to upgrade the partnership to Special Strategic Partnership, and  together  expects to play a very important role in East Asian affairs. This new level of partnership will help transform the bilateral relations  and forge a new cooperative partnership  in defence sector, with Korean companies promising to participate in India’s warship production program. The Hyundai has already agreed to discuss the possibilities of  making a warship in India. South Koreans are considered a leading ship manufacturer of the world and their participation in India’s warship construction program will greatly boost Indian shipping sector. South Korean defence industry wants to achieve the status of top ten defence exporter of the world  and would definitely like to participate in the modernization program of the Indian armed forces.  Indian  policy makers have realized that the South Ko
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Yellow peril
Russia-China suspicion growing over Far East border problem Russian nationalists often comment that the Chinese are expanding into Russian territory of Far East not with tanks or troops but with suitcases. The Russian Far East territory, long disputed between the two powers, could cast a gloom about any bonhomie between Russia and China.      Since Russia is not having a credible plan to control its own territory, the Chinese are ready with their money bags to insert their influence. However, increased Chinese migration is marking a return of Chinese influence to these territories. And any territorial dispute could disrupt relations between Asia’s largest continental powers. The Chinese migration into Far East is fast becoming a problem. It is impossible to know the exact level of Chinese migration into the Russian Far East because Russia has not run a census in over a decade. But by all indications, a significant river of people is surging across the border. The Moscow Carnegie Center, the only organization to launch an independent study, claimed that there were about 250,000 Chinese in Russia in 1997. The Russian Interior Ministry has claimed that there are 2 million. Other estimates place the Chinese population at 5 million. The Russian Far East also holds resources that are valuable to an ever-growing China. The region is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas and timber. It is easier to send these goods to Asia
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Unending crisis
Political instability in Nepal Nepal is a tiny nation traumatized by its bloody past, uneasy present and uncertain future. Six prime ministers and two elections later, Nepal is nowhere near the end of the process of drafting its long-awaited Constitution due to profound political differences among its political class. As long as new constitution does not come into force, the ongoing political instability cannot be expected to end. On 22 January, 2015, Nepal has again failed to meet the deadline to frame the new constitution and to give the country stable political institutions. The agonizingly slow pace of political progress toward democratic governance has deepened public frustration. As the constitution-making process is entering the most decisive phase, the rhetoric of the political parties is becoming more acrimonious and their behavior more unscrupulous. Nepal’s current constitutional situation is delicate and its feuding politicians must realize that time is not on their side. The protracted constitutional stalemate raises the risk of socio-political unrest in the impoverished buffer state wedged between India and China. Constitutional drafting is difficult in any context, particularly in a system witnessing transition from authoritarian to democratic one. It is even more complicated to throw away the feudal influence and to establish democratic consciousness. A constitution that qualifies itself as democratic should be one not only in its provi
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Renewed interests
Competition for Chabahar port development As the geopolitics is picking up in Afghanistan in the post US troop withdrawal, India has taken a renewed position to develop Iran’s Chabahar port which can provide Afghanistan an alternate access to the sea. Indian move has come at a time when Iran is also looking for a second port option which can serve as a unique deep sea port located at the crossroads of global trade, commerce and energy routes. Now Rouhani government has a change of mind about Iran’s share of Chabahar port development which can serve Tehran’s strategic interest and facilitate Afghanistan’s access to sea for trade and commerce with the help of India. All three nations, India, Afghanistan and Iran share a common goal for stability in Afghanistan and maintaining peace and development in the whole region that can ensure long term interests of both India and Iran. During UPA government tenure when India wanted to force Iran for making investment into the port, Tehran apparently showed reluctance to make an investment thinking it will drain out its precious foreign exchange reserves. At the same time Iran was adamant that its Bandar Abbas port will be sufficient for handling Iranian trade and commerce and therefore further investment into Chabahar may not be value for money. At that stage China, which is creating ruffles in the region by introducing an ambitious maritime silk route project, was keen to take over t
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Filling vacuum
Modi’s splash in India Ocean The much awaited and desired maritime thrust to India’s foreign policy was witnessed during the three island nation’s whirlwind tour to Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka taken by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the month of March 2015. Maldives was the significant omission from his latest splash in the Ocean and was noted by the international strategic community. Critics may say that Modi’s sojourn to the three island nations was in response to the success China achieved in making deep inroads in the Indian Ocean. Undoubtedly, a concerned India woke up late, but analysts say that it was never too late. The Island nations are India’s maritime neighbors and sooner or later they will realize the importance of increasing their dependence and proximity to India for meeting their economic, defence and security needs. Over the years India remained a mute spectator to China’s successful moves to acquire contracts for mega infrastructure projects in the island nations of Indian Ocean. Strengthening partnership After the conclusion of the three nation tour India can also claim to have expanded its footprint on these island nations, which will go a long way in reducing the Chinese influence in the Ocean. Analysts say that India had over the years not been very proactive in promoting its security interests and almost ignored these island nations which is evident from the fact that last Prime Mini
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Common goal
China-India relations A week after castigating India for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh in late February, China talked of preparing hard for the success of his visit to Beijing and other Chinese city in mid May this year . China thus speaks in two languages while talking  of  relations with India and try to cajole it to join Chinese schemes and projects like the One Belt One Road and  the Maritime Silk Road etc  while simultaneously asking India to leave the resolution of the contentious issues to  the next generation. China had earlier raised eyebrows after India announced the tango of its newly revised ‘Act East’ policy with the US Rebalancing Asia policy. But the Chinese envoy in New Delhi Le Yucheng has spoken of the possibility of Elephant-Dragon tango and talks of development as a common strategic goal for both India and China. The Narendra Modi led NDA government  has also  continued with the  two pronged approach on India’s relations with China. Signals emanating from China are the same  towards India.   Bonhomie in the Capitals while militarily challenging each other at the very long  undefined borders. The leaders of two countries display lot of love and affection  in their capitals but show confrontationist attitude not only on the borders  but also on the strategic front. Both view each other with suspicion. Both contest each
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Tackling dragon
Obama-Modi: The new G-2 in Asia? The Obama-Modi meeting before Indian Republic Day in New Delhi resulted in unprecedented three joint statements, rare in bilateral relations especially between two powerful democracies described as having estranged relations during most of the six and half decades after India gained independence. This sudden upturn in relations and coordinated strategic thinking resulted in the US-India Joint Strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region. The other Joint statements were-Joint Statement during the visit of President of USA to India-Shared effort: progress for all and the third one was India US Declaration of friendship. These three joint statements revealed the possible strategic games the two world’s largest and oldest democracies are likely to play. However, the first one on the Joint Strategic vision for Asia-pacific and the Indian Ocean region have irked China most, against whom all the strategic observers have unanimous view that the statement was directed against. “We affirm the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea. We call on all parties to avoid threat or use of force and pursue resolution of territorial and maritime disputes through all peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on Law o
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Endless wait
TAPI gas pipeline project Several countries across the world are making tremendous efforts to overcome their energy shortage. In the South Asian region, Pakistan and India are the two major energy consumers and they are getting increasingly dependent on imported oil and natural gas. The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, which is a major project being pursued, if successfully implemented could be the beginning of a new era of cooperation and interconnectedness at the regional level. TAPI’s route may serve as a stabilizing corridor, linking neighbors together in economic growth and prosperity. The road ahead is long for this project, but the benefits could be tremendous. TAPI project was originally conceived in late 90s but now it is resulting in a bitter tussle between US, Russia and China over energy resource and consequently political supremacy over the Central and South Asian region. The TAPI pipeline has the potential to export up to 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas per annum from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India over a period of 30 years. It will enable landlocked Turkmenistan, which has the world’s fourth largest proven gas reserves, to expand its gas export market to the southeast. The pipeline is expected to carry 90 million metric standard cubic metres of gas daily, of which India and Pakistan would get 38 mmscmd each and Afghanistan’s share would be 14 mmscmd. The next meeting of t
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Paradigm shift
Menace of terrorism and Indo-Pak relations Post-Peshawar terror attack, many Pakistani commentators have claimed that both civilian and army leadership are on the same page as the long-maintained distinction between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban has been wiped out. Under the new counterterrorism National Action Plan, Pakistan has announced to ban around a dozen terror outfits, including notorious Haqqani network and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. These terror outfits have long been referred to as ‘strategic assets’ of the Pakistan Army to be used in asymmetric warfare against India. Long-time Pakistan observers would doubtless raise some important questions regarding the timing and intention of this decision. Is ban meant for an international audience? Is this too little too late? Will Pakistan revert to its terrorism ‘business as usual’ once the public outrage over Peshawar attack fades? Going by past record of Pakistan government, banning an organization can be considered a rhetorical exercise as it has meant little except change in the name of the outfit. Moreover, some recent disturbing moves by Pakistani suggest that there is little possibility for such a ‘paradigm shift’ or ‘genuine change’ any time in the near future. Proactive approach If this ‘business as usual’ continues, how would India respond? Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has doubtless left an indelible imprint on
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Unfolding rivalry
Strategic significance of Indian Ocean region “The Indian Ocean area will be the true nexus of world powers and conflict in the coming years. It is here that the fight for democracy, energy independence and religious freedom will be lost or won.” Robert D. Kaplan World is moving towards the geo-energy era which would completely change the world power scenario and would reconfigure its inter-state relations. The energy security and resource potential would be the key to rejuvenate mutual relations and create conflict in the times to come. The geostrategic location of the Indian Ocean in South Asia between India, China and Pakistan, the three nuclear powered countries of South Asia has pictured clearly its arena in the contemporary geopolitics today. It has immensely charged its political, strategic and economic activities in the world because of which the regional powers are placing great reliance on the deployment of fleet missile submarines for maintaining balance of power in order to deter hegemony of any power whether territorial or extra-territorial. It is quite imperative to say that, whosoever controls the Indian Ocean would govern the future center of economy in the world as it has one of the most important ocean trade route lying from the Red sea, Persian Gulf region via Indian Ocean through the Strait of Malacca to China, Korea, and Japan and Australia mainly. It acts as the bottleneck of South Asian economy as important a
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Recasting ties
Myanmar’s aim to balance between China and India Since Myanmar is realizing that an increased dependence on China may harm its long term interests in future, there is a growing bonhomie between India and Myanmar to fill the gap which some experts view as an attempt of Yangon to recast the ties with Beijing. Myanmar is forging closer relations with neighbor India in a radical departure from its recent foreign policy. The move comes as the impoverished Southeast Asian nation attempts to distance itself from its heavy dependence on China. Recently, in their recent meeting, the leaders of Myanmar and India discussed the construction of roads linking the two countries. Myanmar’s diplomatic shift away from Beijing towards New Delhi could change the region’s geopolitical balance. It comes at a time when many nations grapple with the challenge of dealing with an increasingly powerful and outwardly assertive China. Both China and Myanmar have historically an uneasy relationship till 1988, although on the surface it was painted quite colorful and strong. The relationship was trailblazing in other respects. In the 1950s and 1960s, China considered its relationship with Myanmar as a model for the development of relations with other Asian and African countries and an example of ‘peaceful coexistence’ between socialist and non-socialist states. In 1954, for example, Myanmar and China affirmed that the Five Principles of Peaceful
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Fresh approach
Changing equations between Iran and West A new world order is being created that may significantly change the old equations and alliances between West and Iran on one side and relations between Shia-Sunni regimes of the Middle East on the other hand. These may also address the concerns of Israel with regard to Gaza controlled by Hamas and West Bank administered by Fatah. Threats posed by Islamic State and other jihadi forces in Syria and Iraq, have prompted West and Iran to move closer to each other. The US and Iran, who used to look at each other with suspicion for more than 4 decades, are trying  to build trust by resolving the most contentious issue of Nuclear program. The November 24 decision to extend the P5+1-Iran nuclear negotiations for another seven months (three to four for the political framework “and another few months to formalize it”) was not a surprise, although it did create a sense of anticlimax. It was preferable to the option of a deal concluded hastily in the final days, because such a deal would no doubt have reflected additional far-reaching concessions by the international negotiators to Iran, resulting in a very bad nuclear deal. Now Tehran and the P5+1 group of international negotiators plan to discuss Iran’s nuclear program later in December. The sticking point revolves around Iran seeking complete removal of sanctions (2 sets of US sanctions plus UN and EU sanctions) while the P5+1 nations will be demand
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Looming challenges
Energy and water crisis in coming years Water is going to be a high precious product for next century which can match with the rank of what today hydrocarbon products mean to most people across the world. It is going to be a scarce and rare commodity as it rules life. Water is an integral part of energy development, production, and generation. Water is used directly in hydroelectric power generation and is used extensively for thermoelectric power plant cooling and air emissions control. Water is also used extensively in energy-resource extraction, refining, and processing, as well as for energy resource transportation. The World Economic Forum (WEF) published a report in early 2009 highlighting that water use by the energy sector in developed countries averages about 40 per cent of total water use. Therefore, as global energy consumption continues to increase, as much as 50 per cent by 2030, this growth will place the energy sector into greater competition with other major water users and exacerbate concerns about how to balance water use for domestic supplies, food production, and energy production with public health and economic development. Energy development Unfortunately, this large growth in energy development and the expected increasing water use are occurring at a time when freshwater availability is already being stressed in many regions of the world, including many regions of the United States. This is due to changing precipitation
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Reviving alliance
India and Australia in Indian Ocean The year 2014 has seen the rise of Narendra Modi on world geo-political scene and his getting closer to the allies of USA, which will culminate in the visit of President Barack Obama next year as the Chief Guest for the Indian Republic Day on 26th January.      After a landmark visit to Japan in early September, Prime Minister Modi invited the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott a fortnight later,  which was followed by Mr Modi availing the opportunity to attend G-20 summit in mid-November to convert his visit into a bilateral one. This was unprecedented in India-Australia bilateral relations , as Australia was once very vocal against India’s nuclear posture. There seems to be a pattern in India forging closer strategic relations with US allies. The repeat of grand public receptions, as seen in US, in Australian cities also, reaffirmed Modi’s profile as rising star on world scene. It was natural that the Australian leadership recognized Modi’s prowess as the leader of a rising India and reiterated their commitment to forge strong bilateral ties not only in economic arena but also in strategic and defence field. During the September visit of Prime Minister Abbott to New Delhi,  the two Prime Ministers had committed to strengthening the defence  and security partnership. Nuclear energy Cooperation in nuclear field is another significant facet of bilateral strategic partne
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Double game
Geopolitics behind fight against terrorism in Africa When the United States began regular drone surveillance flights from the Republic of Chad over the Lake Chad Basin, the aim was ostensibly in support of the goal of the BringBackOurGirls campaign. But the humanitarian goal of finding the Chibok girls has since proved a convenient smokescreen to pursue larger interests of a more strategic nature in Africa’s Sahel zone, such as beating the Chinese to the newly discovered oil and gas fields of the Lake Chad Basin. Conservative estimates of the Lake Chad oil reserves range up to 3 billion barrels of crude oil and over 14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Long after the short-lived social media frenzy of the BringBackOurGirls campaign, US drones continued operating surveillance flights equipped with sophisticated imaging technology over the new Lake Chad Basin oil fields, apparently having abandoned the initial hypocritical posturing that the missing black African schoolgirls were the primary reason for the deployment of 80 US troops and sophisticated surveillance technology to Chad. The Pentagon has since followed up the establishment of a military presence in Chad with another drone base in the Republic of Niger with the deployment of 100 US troops. Why has the US been quietly but actively establishing a network of surveillance hubs and military bases, and consolidating political and military alliances with governments across Africa’s
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Declining power
Japanese currency is losing its value Japanese economy is still faltering in a new way which is causing lot of concern that whether Japan will ever be able to come out of this crisis and regain its place as world’s second largest economy. The tragic story is its currency Yen is losing its stem and it is deliberate as the government wants to keep Yen at a low height to boost sluggish economic recovery.     If the items you purchase these days seem more expensive, you are not imagining things. Electric bills are higher. The price for a litre of gasoline or diesel fuel has gone up, with costs being passed on throughout the distribution chain. The raising of the consumption tax on April 1 boosted prices at the checkout counter. And certainly the past several months of inclement weather has caused the prices of certain vegetables and other food items to soar. Such developments are poised to play havoc with the average household budget. According to data released by the Tokyo metropolitan government in mid-September, the price for a head of lettuce had already soared year on year by 86.5 percent (as opposed to 38.4 percent for cabbage). Other increases (all figures in percent) included beef, 16.2; shrimp, 17.9; tuna, 11.2; salmon, 18.2; imported cheese, 12.2; chocolate, 13.8; and ginger root, 25.5. If these were not enough, the decline in value of the Japanese Yen, which less than two years ago was soaring high at ¥85 to $1,
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Mapping future
Is United States of Europe a solution? German politician Martin Schulz who is now President of European Parliament and is visualizing a united Europe which can stand on its own without external support, is pushing for reforms in politics and security cooperation. Some feel that this move may result in united Europe that can take on challenges more quickly and intervene timely than depending on external support but Schulz’s ideas are not liked by some who think it is a waste of time.     Schulz is a hardworking politician who wants to see a change in his life time to happen that is a united Europe which can form a big nation to counter rising powers like India and China.    The saddest moment of Martin Schulz’s life came at the age of 24. He was an unemployed drunk with no girlfriend and no high school degree. He contemplated suicide. Now he is Europe’s number one socialist and president of the European Commission in Brussels. Schulz is leading Europe’s center-left parties into parliamentary elections and his agenda is bold: Curb the power of banks, institute higher taxes on the rich and create a more centralized government system for Europe with a common fiscal policy. But even if he does not win outright, he may be about to change the balance of power between the European institutions for good and help create something like a United States of Europe. Greater role But Schulz’ core demand
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Watching carefully
ISIS is now targeting Sahel to spread its tentacle The ISIS is now calculating a new game plan as how it can spread its presence in a credible manner to attract hundreds of thousands recruits for its battle from the Arabian Peninsula and African region, mainly in North and West Africa. The ISIS is keen to take advantage of lawless situation of Africa. With insecurity in Mali, Libya, Nigeria and beyond, the terrorism map of Africa is being redrawn. Various experts including Abdullah Mamadou Ba, an expert on militant groups in the Sahel, Maghreb and West Africa, say the whole region is changing as it is the new intersection of various groups. Yet the public opinion on ISIS is divided. After ISIS militants posted on the internet a video showing a masked man using a knife to decapitate a US journalist abducted in Syria two years ago, the situation is changing. Islamic State jihadists are accused of multiple acts of summary execution, rape and other atrocities against minority communities. Latest country in the region is Tunisia which calls on the international community to protect ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq, using methods permitted by international law in such extreme situations. The Tunisian foreign ministry also said that it condemned efforts to destabilize the security and stability of Iraq and to hit its various civilizational components through the targeting of ethnic and religious minorities. Threat to security These crimes a
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Doubtful intentions
Border intrusion casts shadow on Xi visit Even though the Chinese soldiers were forced to make a retreat in Chumar after the high level diplomatic and political pressure and the activation of the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, it will not improve the sentiments in bilateral relations in near future.   If the Chinese soldiers would not have come face to face with the Indian soldiers in Chumar and Demchok region of Eastern Laddakh on the Line of Actual Control in early September for a fortnight, India-China relations after President Xi Jinping’s visit to India would have been described as a forward moving with lot of promises to cooperate for strengthening bilateral relations in trade and political arena. Chinese President’s visit was being watched closely in international strategic circles in view of evolving geo-politics and regional equations and Chinese efforts to woo India to join its various regional trade and economic initiatives like the Maritime Silk routes and the BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar) economic corridor. Many in India were already viewing these  as  strategic moves hidden in economic agenda aimed at dissuading India from joining the US and Japanese economic and strategic groupings. However, the Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman emphasized that the important consensus reached between President Xi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will keep the borders calm and drive the relationship forward. Mil
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Unable to handle
Pro democracy protest in Hong Kong The ongoing protest in Hong Kong has shown that China has not learned its lessons from the past, particularly from the Tiananmen Square incident of 1989. The rigidness and hard line approach could be the biggest stumbling block for China in finding a peaceful resolution of the current situation in Hong Kong. All the problems from the history have been only brought under control but none of them could find a complete resolution. For example, situations like occupation of Tibet, verbal duel with Taiwan, control over Xinjiang and inner Mongolia and sovereignty over Hong Kong, perhaps, will take at least 100 years to get solved only if the Chinese leadership show flexibility. Hong Kong has not seen a protest on this scale for years. Those out on the streets have been angered by the Chinese government’s ruling limiting who could stand as a candidate in elections for Hong Kong’s leader, due in 2017. The protesters are demanding open elections for Hong Kong’s leader, the chief executive. In 2007, China promised that Hong Kong residents could vote for the chief executive in the 2017 election. But in August this year, China’s legislature proposed changes to the electoral process, prompting the recent protests. China’s legislature rejected any change in election rules that would open the race to candidates not vetted by a committee that is reliably pro-Beijing. Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong ha
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Uncertain victory
ISIS crisis and international intervention Recent gains by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and the well-publicized executions of captured journalists and aid workers have once again drawn US military assets and personnel into a civil war. While Iraq remains familiar terrain for both the political elite, the American public and the thousands who served in the Global War on Terror, a great deal of misinformation about what the US can and should do in addressing the civil conflicts in Islamic states in the Middle East remains in mainstream discourse. In his recent speech at UN, the US President Barack Obama announced a multifaceted strategy to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State organization. The announced strategy is for the United States to lead and expand a multilateral coalition that will undertake direct military action, provide support for partner ground forces in Iraq and Syria, gather and share intelligence and use financial measures to try to progressively shrink the geographic and political space, manpower, and financial resources available to the Islamic State. The US and its allies all have ruled out deploying combat forces to either Iraq or Syria. Some assert that the US strategy will attract the support of Sunnis in both Syria and Iraq in a broad effort to defeat the Islamic State. Others assess that the strategy might have minimal effect because local anti-ISIS forces will not have support from US or other western com
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Building trust
India-US relations and Modi Visit It was natural for two “natural allies “ to climb within a short span of ten months  from  the lowest ebb of relations during diplomat Devyani Khobragade issue last December to its peak of Obama-Modi bonhomie in September 2014. Though there was nothing substantive in terms of takeaways, the warm atmospherics and camaraderie promised much deeper engagement in the years to come- both on bilateral front and in international arena, with Modi promising to eliminate bottlenecks in US investment in Indian nuclear energy sector. Both leaders took note of the delay and reaffirmed their commitment to “implement fully” the US-India Civil nuclear cooperation agreement that would facilitate installation of American origin nuclear reactors in India. An interagency contact group has been set up to iron out the differences. US observers have described this as sweet and sour relations between a married couple. India and US are tied to each other by strategic partnership, with a new mantra for the relationship, “Chalein Sath Sath: Forward together we go”. The Devyani issue was symptomatic of trust deficit and promises unfulfilled. But Modi’s elevation on the national throne has created hopes and aspirations not only for India but for the entire world. The US administration which till a few months ago was not ready to commit  a visa for Mr Narendra Modi, the then CM of Gujarat, the pos
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Space integration
Sharing the fruits of Gagan with neighbours In a major policy decision aimed at reaching out to the neighbours, Indian Government has decided to offer the services of Gagan (GPS- aided Geo Augmented Navigation) system designed to support the civil aviation traffic over the Indian skies and in adjoining areas to South east Asian countries to help them generate financial resources and showcase the country’s next generation navigation and surveillance technologies. Essentially, Gagan meaning sky in Sanskrit is a satellite based augmentation system which helps aircraft navigate and operate smoothly and efficiently by making use of GPS (Global Positioning Systems) signals. In fact, moments after the successful flight of the four stage Indian space workhorse PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch  Vehicle), Prime Minister Narendra Modi  while addressing the Indian space community at the spaceport  in Sriharikota island had highlighted the need for India to extend the services of India’s home grown  navigation satellite system IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System).   Incidentally, two satellites of the seven spacecraft IRNSS constellation being developed by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to end Indian dependence on US GPS system are already in operation. In fact, it was the difficulties which India had encountered while accessing the US developed GPS especially for defence applications that nudged the country
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Underground wall
China’s nuclear arsenal modernization China is secretly modernizing its nuclear weapons largely stored underground beneath mountains of Hunan range as the military sees potentiality of tactical use of nuclear weapons in future warfare since the neighbors are becoming increasingly defiant.    Nuclear issue is a highly secretive topic for most of China’s military leaders yet the Chinese have called it their ‘Underground Great Wall’-a vast network of tunnels designed to hide their country’s increasingly sophisticated missile and nuclear arsenal. For the past three years, a small band of obsessively dedicated students at Georgetown University has called it something else: homework. Led by their hard-charging professor, a former top Pentagon official, they have translated hundreds of documents, combed through satellite imagery, obtained restricted Chinese military documents and waded through hundreds of gigabytes of online data. The result of their effort is quite visible. The largest body of public knowledge about thousands of miles of tunnels dug by the Second Artillery Corps, a secretive branch of the Chinese military in charge of protecting and deploying its ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads, is now a hot topic. The study has sparked a congressional hearing and been circulated among top officials in the Pentagon, including the Air Force vice chief of staff. Nuclear threat Most of the attention has fo
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Grabbing opportunity
The DTTI and India-US defence relations Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), if implemented in true spirit, will  add a new dimension to India-US defence relations as it has the potentials of turning the buyer seller relationship into co-producer and co–developer of weapons systems. But the US defence industry is concerned with roadblocks enunciated in Indian FDI policy announced just on the day of US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel’s arrival in New Delhi. This was pointed out during the Hagel- Jaitley meeting and publicly raised by Hagel during the ORF public lecture, as he sought clarifications from India on the 49 percent FDI limit in joint ventures. However, the US defence industry is enthused by its emergence of top supplier of weapon systems and platforms to India during the last three years surpassing Russia, France and Israel which were the top three defence suppliers in recent years. Since the Indian armed forces are likely to acquire defence systems worth over US$ 100 billion in the next decade, the US defence industry is eager to grab a big chunk of possible acquisitions. However, since Indian defence ministry has in recent years introduced a policy of indigenization in arms industry through the offset limits of over 30 to 50 percent for weapon acquisitions worth over US$ 300 million, the multinational arms companies are gradually adjusting their defence exports policy to India in order to win multi- billion dollar d
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Discreet ties
Qatar is supporting rise of Sunni fundamentalism Qatar has been branded all over Arabian Peninsula as a country that secretly supports many fundamentalist and terror outfits operating in the region and elsewhere as a matter of state policy to buy peace in exchange of money. Thus, Qatar has been largely peaceful when other Arab monarchies are facing the heat from rising youth forces demanding for a change and making attempts to overthrow other regimes either by force or religious violence. The Qatar Royal family and elite military leaders are having discreet ties with more than 40 such outfits or elements having substantial influence among the fundamentalist Muslims spanning across West Asia to North Africa just to ensure the Royal family is safe.     A recent statement by Syria’s Information Minister that Qatar is violating all of the UN Security Council’s resolutions on fighting terrorism is being silenced in the West. The United States and its allies are keeping silent because Doha is providing funding to carry out their plans. Sponsoring terrorism Nor is there any word about an Arab role in settling the Syrian crisis, because it would be unrealistic for those who are arming one side in the conflict and sending terrorists into Syria to have a hand in resolving it. And for good reason, if one can recall the recent major terrorist attack in Boston in which there is clear evidence of Saudi brainwashing with Wahhabi i
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Building hopes
Japan’s efforts to boost space launch capability Notwithstanding the tremendous strides made by Japan in the frontiers areas of scientific research and cutting edge futuristic technology, the island nation is yet to leave its imprint on the multi billion dollar global market for launching satellites of various categories on commercial terms. While the two other Asian space faring nations, India and China, are making steady progress in attracting customers-mainly from the third world countries-for their commercial launch service, Japan seems to be lagging behind  in the  critical area of space launch business. And in a landmark decision aimed at turning the Japanese space program into an economically viable enterprise, considered a vital step towards making Japan a competitive player in the fierily competitive but lucrative global space market, the Japanese space agency JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) has been freed from the responsibility of the launch operations of country’s heavy lift H-IIB rocket. Consequently, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), which has been handling the launch of H-II A since 2007, will also be responsible for H-IIB launches. This was sequel to the successful July 2012 launch of the H-IIB vehicle which placed into low earth orbit Kounotori 3, a cargo transfer vehicle for facilitating supply runs to the International Space Station (ISS). H-IIB, an upgraded version of H-IIA, is capable of carrying
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Setting a trap
Chinese overtures to India A resurgent India is finding itself in an extremely enviable position as big powers from China to Japan to US are trying to court India and making advances unprecedented in India’s international relations. With Narendra Modi taking over as the Prime Minister in May 2014, India’s magnetic strength has increased a lot. India under Narendra Modi presents a picture of hope in economic sphere and the strategic balance will be heavily tilted in any country’s favor with whom militarily strong India casts its lot. Hence one can understand the Chinese overtures to India. Last year its Prime Minister Li Keqiang made it a point to make his first international stop to India and this year without any reciprocal Head of State level visit, the Chinese President Xi Jinping would be visiting India in mid September. The Chinese have gone out of way to celebrate the 60th year of Panchsheel and wanted Indian President to adore the occasion in the Great Hall of the People at the Tiananmen Square. But Chinese remained satisfied with the presence of Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari who was hosted by the President Xi Jinping himself. When President Xi met Modi in Fortaleza in Brazil for the BRICS summit, the scheduled 40 minutes meeting was extended to 80 minutes in which both the leaders discussed host of issues. During this meeting Prime Minister Modi raised the necessity of early resolution of the border issue to which Xi responded b
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Sagging relations
Image crisis for China to expand influence in Myanmar When protesters against a copper mine in central Myanmar recently took two Chinese contractors hostage, the incident sparked reports about growing anti-China sentiment in a country long reliant on investment from its giant neighbor. Some commentators were quick to link the kidnapping with violent protests in the Philippines and Vietnam against China’s economic encroachment and territorial claims. But anger over the Letpadaung mine at Monywa, about 135km west of Mandalay, predates the recent flare-up in tempers over territory. There is a swelling backlash, from the government level on down, against China’s pervasive role in Myanmar and its unrivaled dominance during the Southeast Asian country’s long economic isolation from the West. A number of Chinese businesses-including Wanbao, the company leading the Letpadaung mine project -are finally recognizing the need for proactive community engagement. Some observers suggest such efforts have come too late. “Anti-China sentiment is definitely on the rise in Myanmar,” said Sean Turnell, a Myanmar expert and economist at Macquarie University in Australia. ”This is across all strata of society, from business, government, to the ordinary people of Myanmar’s major cities.” He continued: “Much of this sentiment is not without reason, to the extent it is not so much anti-Chinese people as anti-Chinese state
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Divided house
BRICS: A solid move but fissures remain The mid-July Sixth Summit of BRICS in Fortaleza has come out with some concrete results on economic front. Certainly, BRICS has moved beyond the rhetoric of cooperation, unity and mutual respect by taking a firm decision of setting up a BRICS New Development Bank, a move of far reaching significance in international financial sector. However, China has stolen the show by hosting the headquarters of the Bank in Shanghai. China wanted to show this unity among BRICS partners for projecting its potential leadership of the emerging economies as a second largest economic power, on the strength of which China has a hidden agenda of promoting its strategic designs. With more than half of the total GDP of the BRICS members and very good infrastructure facilities to host the BRICS Bank, China had a natural claim over the decision and desire to take a larger share of the initial seed money of US$ 50 billion, but each member countries pressed upon the need of adhering to the principle of equal sharing. Also, Russia has the same hidden agenda of showing unity among BRICS members to justify its wrongdoings in its neighborhood. However, it was a consolation prize for India to have been offered the first Presidency of the BRICS New Development Bank for the first five years, but it would be naïve to think that China will not try to dominate the body through its financial muscle in the coming years when requirements for funds will
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Lacking will
The growing Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria Throughout history, Nigeria has been exposed to ethno religious violence and political discontent and has recently seen an escalation in associated violence threatening its sovereignty, territorial integrity, peace and stability. Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram-which has caused havoc in Africa’s most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations and now abductions-is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. The Boko Haram could grow upto this level because initially the Nigerian government were in denial of existence of such a group. But now over the last two years northern Nigeria has been coping with a violent underground group, Boko Haram, that has been able to carry out attacks not only in Nigeria’s northern states, but also in the capital, Abuja, with the bombing of the United Nations (UN) headquarters there in August 2011. Although attacks have mainly targeted state institutions such as prisons, barracks, security officers and politicians, the civilian population feels increasingly unsafe as violence has become unpredictable. Moreover, the state security apparatus is so visibly challenged that it has tended to overreact when attempting to deal with the problem and has killed even more civilians than the Boko Haram attacks. As the insurgency spreads across northern Nigeria and into its “Middle Belt” in the centre, its guns
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Regional solidarity
Escalating tension in SCS and way forward Recent years have witnessed renewed tensions over disputed territories in the South China Sea. In response to China’s encroaching military maneuvers - and the country’s (purported) designation of the whole area as part of its “core interest”, with Beijing exercising “inherent” and “indisputable” sovereignty based on historical claims-several Southeast Asian countries have found themselves dangerously vulnerable. A murky legal regime has led to the emergence of a series of overlapping territorial claims in the area, with China, the Philippines, Vietnam, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and increasingly both Japan and the United States playing a direct role in shaping the trajectory of the maritime disputes. The maritime disputes are based on age-old historical claims, but broader global trends in the 21st century are largely shaping the geostrategic contours of the South China Sea region. China’s rapid rise, concomitant with seemingly stark US decline in the aftermath of the 2007-08 Great Recession, is creating significant anxiety among smaller states allied to and dependent on Washington. China’s growing military expenditure, meteoric rise in high-end and cutting-edge research and innovation, and increasing geopolitical assertiveness heightened since 2009-10-is changing the complexion of international affairs. Upon a closer inspection,
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Time to act
Indo-Pak border challenges for new government The Indo-Pak situation is very much as it was when Narendra Modi’s icon Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. The past year has been replete with shootings along the Line of Control and infiltrations. It appeared to some Indians that this was because of an arrangement between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the military establishment headed by Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif that the Army would have a free hand in Kashmir if the Pakistan Army Inter-Services Intelligence would give the Prime Minister some leeway in trying to bring about a dialogue with the Taliban for an arrangement in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the US International Security Assistance Force from that country by the end of the year. The Kargil episode which happened during the Vajpayee tenure was analyzed by the Kargil Review Committee headed by the eminent strategist Dr K Subrahmanyam. The committee made some very telling comments on how and why Kargil happened. Some of the reasons listed in that report appear to be extant even today and it needs to be ascertained how Modi will deal with the situation along the western border and the Line of Control. Living in denial The Kargil Review Committee noted the “unsustainability” of the Pakistani operations and underscored the Indian mindset thus: “A number of former Army Chiefs of Staff and Directors General of Military Operations were near unani
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Fresh avenues
Modi’s upcoming Japan visit Though the Shinzo Abe government was little saddened over Modi’s postponement of Tokyo visit to late August, which was earlier scheduled for the first week of July, Japan would still be his first major bilateral visit, which would be preceded by his first multilateral engagement in Brazil, where he is scheduled to meet the Chinese President Xi Jin Ping in mid July. In fact Modi will have to make a fine balance between the two warring economic giants of the Pacific region. Modi’s visit to Japan will now be viewed in the context of Modi-Xi meeting in Brazil and the Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari visit to Beijing which resulted in Industrial Park MoU with China which will have a far reaching impact on bilateral economic relations. However, the release of fresh national territorial map by the Chinese government while Ansari was in Beijing depicting Arunachal Pradesh and parts of Jammu and Kashmir as areas belonging to China, have touched the raw nerves of India. In view of this, Modi’s first bilateral visit to Tokyo will convey a message to the Chinese and to the world community that Modi’s first love is Japan, though Modi will make every move to deepen economic engagement with China, which was evident during the Vice President Hamid Ansari visit to Beijing, who went there to attend the 60th anniversary of the Panchsheel. Ansari was accompanied by the MOS of Commerce and Industry who signed a
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Shared prosperity
Modi’s Bhutan visit and its impact for South Asian region Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first foreign visit to Bhutan is a great indication that the tiny neighborhood of India will enjoy high priority under Modi’s leadership in the coming years, which was somehow neglected under the UPA rule in the past. Narendra Modi has demonstrated that firming up troubled or neglected relationships will be a major priority of his regime, a point he has already emphasized by inviting the heads of all SAARC countries and Mauritius to his oath-taking ceremony which is first of its kind. With such decisions, Modi is somewhere trying to utilize the soft power diplomacy to give assurance to its neighbors about full Indian support at all level in critical times while sending an indirect message to the major regional powers of India’s intentions. China, which has no diplomatic ties with Bhutan, was keenly observing the outcome of Modi’s Bhutan visit. Over all, from a geo-strategic perspective, the Indian Prime Minister’s visit is a soft counter to China’s ambitions to enhance its engagement with Bhutan for a full diplomatic status. In the past, under UPA ‘misrule’, India was facing trouble with the slowing economy and it was also adversely affecting the strategic-economic relations of India with its neighboring countries. The lack of influential and strong foreign policy was also a major hurdle in cooperatin
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Power equation
China’s military modernization and its regional impact Beijing may tout its continued military buildup as part of its “peaceful rise” or “peaceful development,” but reactions outside of China have been anything but sanguine. There is genuine concern throughout the Asia and the Pacific Rim that this expansion of military power is a prelude to a more aggressively assertive China-and one that is prepared to use its growing armed might to press its national interests and back up its various geopolitical claims. This unease is reinforced by the increasingly volatile rhetoric coming out of Beijing-for example, when it comes to claims of “indisputable sovereignty” over much of the South China Sea-as well as its ostensibly provocative activities in adjacent seas and airspaces, such as harassing the USNS Impeccable in March 2009, sending warplanes over the median line with Taiwan, or establishing the Sansha administrative prefecture within the Paracel and Spratly islands. Consequently, several nations, that are the most directly affected by a more militarily capable and assertive China have reacted in kind: by undertaking their own military responses to this buildup. In particular, Japan, India, and several nations in Southeast Asia are beginning to at least partially justify their current military modernization programs as a hedge against Chinese aggression; these arming actions, in turn, have led some to fear that the Asia
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Emerging conflicts
The Shangri-La dialogue and role for India One can excuse India for not sending its official representative to the famous Shangri-La Dialogue, held annually in the last week of May in Singapore, as the new Indian government had just taken birth and it would have required time for the new foreign policy managers to frame a stand on any issue likely to emerge during the Conference. This is the most watched security gathering where world leaders issue quotable quotes on burning issues of the time. But the UPA government had left a legacy of ignoring the annual Shangri-La congregation of world’s strategists and security policy makers in recent years. If the previous AK Antony led Ministry of Defence did not rise to the challenge of meeting face to face with all the leading security interlocutors of the world on one single forum, one can certainly fault the National Security Advisor of the day for remaining oblivious of a very important strategic gathering not very far from the remote Indian maritime territory of Andaman and Nicobar.   The Shangri-La Dialogue perhaps for the first time converted into an open duel between US and China but India remained a mute spectator from far off New Delhi, where the foreign policy honchos were too busy taking calls from the world leaders, from Obama to Li Ke  Qiang. India’s stand However if we go by the previous quotes of the Manmohan Singh led Indian foreign policy establishment on the need to
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Unrealistic claim
Emerging maritime challenges in the region: A Japanese perspective In April 2010, Chinese Rear Admiral Zhang Huachen, then-deputy commander of the East Sea Fleet of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), declared: “We are going from coastal defence to far sea defence. With the expansion of the country’s naval strategy of the country’s economic interests, the navy wants to better protect the country’s transportation routes and the safety of our major seal lane.” This statement symbolized China’s departure from Deng Xiaoping’s dictum “Hide brightness, cherish obscurity” in its maritime strategy. This statement also confirmed China’s strategy to control the First and Second Island Chains, an intention first made public in 1982 by Admiral Liu Huaqing, the former PLAN commander and the mastermind of China’s naval strategy. In his 2004 book, Liu identified the first island chain would run from Japan to Taiwan to the Philippines, and the second from Tokyo to Ogasawara, Marshal Islands, Guam, and Indonesia. Other books, following this, explained that China envisioned to expand its naval capacity to cover the first island chain by 2010, the second chain by 2020, and finally to become a global force by 2050. An American expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, Dr. Elizabeth Economy, labeled China as “the Game Changer” which seeks to alter the status quo of the Western Pacific
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Surprise move
South China Sea tension may spark a crisis in ASEAN unity China’s recent standoff with Vietnam over the placement of a large flotilla of oil rigs in the latter’s EEZ in South China Sea may create fresh round of tension and could seriously undermine the ASEAN unity in the long run if the group fails to take appropriate steps in an urgent manner. This has however sparked a debate over the motive and timing of such an act, which is not ethical and legally correct. At the same time it is proving to be a major challenge to whole of Asia at a time when US President is advocating about a new US rebalancing policy towards Asia. This step of China will not only push the ASEAN members into a corner but in the long run provide ample space for the outside powers to play a greater role in the management of geopolitical events in the whole region. The South China Sea has geo-strategic importance not only for South East Asian nations but also to the whole and particularly to the of Asia Pacific region. In fact, East Asian economies have been dependent on the life-line of sea lanes of communications that link Asia Pacific with Indian Ocean and Europe, America, Middle East and rest of Asia. Preserving security and safety of maritime and aviation connectivity along with seeking a peaceful resolution for the disputes in South China Sea could prove to be in the interests of people in the region. However, China has increasingly been trying to dominate th
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Lacking will
Challenges and opportunities for BIMSTEC Realizing the importance of regional groupings and forums, which are increasingly evolving as strategic groupings of much influence, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) has also decided to enhance cooperation in many areas, particularly through a Free Trade Agreement in a bid to increase intra-regional and inter-regional importance. India and Thailand, the two strongest economies of the grouping were the pioneers of BIMSTEC. As their economic interests grew in the region, the two nations realized the importance of a geographically determined grouping such as BIMSTEC which could promote and secure the economic interests of their own economies while dispensing development across the region as well. India primarily evolved and expanded BIMSTEC as an integral expression of its Look East Policy, while Thailand approached it in context of its Look West Policy. Formed in 1997, the BIMSTEC initially comprised of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand. While Myanmar joined the same year, Nepal and Bhutan joined in 2004. This was the same year BIMSTEC held its first summit in Bangkok in 2004. However, despite India’s efforts to expand its Look East Policy towards a more fruitful direction, challenges in its neighborhood will substantially deter India to promote BIMSTEC in a credible way. Except Bhutan, most BIMSTEC members have serious internal problems,
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Bringing stability
The new Indian government and new strategic calculus With the change of Indian leadership after a decade, the international community is closely observing the strategic orientation of the new government. Congratulatory messages are flowing to the new Prime Minister from all corners of the world, seeking stronger economic and strategic ties but the strategic calculus of the world will depend much on the new Indian government’s acumen in delicate handling of its policy towards declining super power US or Russia which is trying to reassert its cold war predominance or towards a rising China which wants to extend its suzerainty in its surrounding areas. Concerns have been expressed in strategic circles over the possible reopening of India’s no-first use nuclear doctrine and its implications over the regional nuclear security. With India emerging as an economic heavy weight and a leading consumer of luxury goods, the developed world wants to find a foothold in Indian market and has been wooing India with its financial muscle and offering its strategic weight behind India. The Manmohan Government though tried to maintain a balance and remained non committal on its stand on bilateral disputes between various powers; the new Indian government cannot afford to stay neutral for long on most of the issues like the Sino-Japanese disputes, the Rebalancing Asia policy of the US or the Russia-Europe confrontation. Since the days of the nonalignment are over
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Crossing fingers
Afghan elections and increased threat from Taliban   While Afghanistan is moving towards some degree of uncertainty in view of no clear winner, the recent elections could in the long run bring a much needed change to infuse fresh blood into the system which has been paralyzed for some years. But as the fighting months are fast approaching, with the absence of a credible government at the moment will make the present situation further complicated going by recent surge of violence by the Taliban which is trying to seize power once the NATO troops leave the country.           Afghanistan is set to hold a second round run-off in its presidential elections after preliminary results showed no candidate was able to win an absolute majority. The second round will be on June 7 as per Afghanistan’s Independent Elections Commission, a constitutional body whose entire leadership has been appointed by incumbent President Hamid Karzai. The vote will be contested by former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. The IEC has said that Abdullah finished top with 44.9 percent, followed by Ghani with 31.5 percent. Zalmay Rassoul was a distant third with 11.5 percent. The final result is due to be announced this month. In the meantime, authorities will investigate allegations of fraud involving up to half a million ballots. The first round of presidential elec
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Political thrust
Myanmar-China relations and dam project The relations between Myanmar and China that flourished during the days of Military Junta regime in Myanmar have become strained with the suspension of Myitsone dam. The civilian president Thein Sein,  who took power in 2009, has suspended the work of the dam mainly due to environmental concerns stating that cancellation has been ordered as per “will of the people” clearly implying that his government takes environmental concerns more seriously than the previous ruling ‘military Junta’. Irked by the decision of civilian president, China is making political inroads in the newly emerged political forces in Burma. China is now developing good relations with the Chairman Shwe Mann of the Union solidarity and Development Party who is also the speaker of the lower house, the Senior general Min Aung Hlaing who commands the military, and the democratic opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Moreover Chinese political Pundits perceive Shwe Mann as the most likely winner of the presidency in the 2015 elections. Beijing thus appears eager to cultivate close relations with him. However at official level China is threatening Myanmar to “ protect the legal and legitimate rights of the Chinese companies” following the suspension of Myitsone Dam project. The concerns Since its inception, Mega Myitsone Dam Project has been surrounded by hosts of environmental concerns, human rights a
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Securing interest
Indo-Iran trade ties and its impact Now that the P5+1 countries have struck an interim nuclear deal with Iran which has limitedly eased off sanctions against it, India feels relieved from the frustrated pressure of Western sanctions that had disabled India and Iran to enhance their indispensable bilateral relations. In addition to Iran-US relations being at their worst for the past 35 years and Iran’s ongoing influence in Iraq during US’s occupation of Iraq, the West had slapped heavy sanctions on Iran following its refusal to stop its uranium enrichment facilities since 2002. As a result of the western sanctions on Iran, India was forced to cut imports of crude oil from Iran. Now, the ongoing shift in US-Iranian relations is finally allowing New Delhi to capitalize on this opportunity, slowly, but steadily.  The interim US- Iran accord that was concluded at Geneva in November last year increased optimism that Tehran was on its way to international rehabilitation. They have already begun talks to enhance ties in trade and the energy sector. Indeed, blooming bilateral ties between India and Iran can be a highly strategic game-changer not only for the region, but also for the broader strategic calculations with respect to USA, Pakistan and Afghanistan’s future. Common links India and Iran have shared historic ties for centuries, which make them natural friends. It started with the migration of Parsis to the India, following the Isl
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Talk trap
Pakistan’s game plan for Siachen Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit’s recent comments in Mumbai on the possibility of a resolution of the Siachen issue once talks resume makes one wonder why he is so optimistic about any outcome over the issue given Pakistan’s hard line about accepting the Actual Ground Position Line. The point  at issue is why should the Indian Army withdraw from its own territory which is an integral part of Jammu and Kashmir even as Pakistan and China are in occupation of large segments and both are conniving to create road, rail and  pipeline connectivity over what they say is disputed territory? Worse, why should Indian troops withdraw from any part of Jammu and Kashmir even while there are between 4000 and 9000 Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops disguised as engineers and technicians in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Controlling territories A solution based on a recognition of where exactly the troops of each side are Positioned makes no sense because one or the other side can return as clandestinely as was attempted in 1984. Given the manner ceasefire violations are taking place along the Line of Control how can India trust Pakistan not to violate a stretch of territory that is unguarded? More particularly when it has so zealously coveted that strip of territory over the past three decades and pushed its troops to try and dislodge Indian soldiers from the crestline of the Soltoro range ov
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Fresh approach
Nigeria’s efforts to tackle Boko Haram Even though Nigeria is an extremely resilient nation, having survived successive military coups, a civil war, religious extremism and ethnic crisis, its fight to eradicate the ongoing insurgency led by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram is creating an unprecedented challenge for the country. Established in 2002, Boko Haram, considered an ultra conservative militant Islamist outfit, is fighting to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamic State, in a bid to dis-associate the state from any form of Western influence that it deems forbidden. Largely, the trend of the group’s attacks have signaled at an intolerable attitude towards its critics and perpetuating tension between the Muslims and Christians. The counter-fight from Nigeria’s security forces ever since has added to the fair share of violence in the region, the human and economic cost of which has aggravated beyond control. Scores have been killed and thousands have fled the affected areas. Spreading agenda Headquartered in the Maiduguri district of the Northern Nigerian state of Borno, the group spent its early years consolidating its base and agenda by spreading its disdain for Western education and corruption by the non-believing political class. But, since 2009, it has begun carrying out deadly and violent attacks, prompting the Nigerian President, Mr Goodluck Jonathon to declare a state of emergency in the three most a
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Expanding horizons
Naval diplomacy with Island nations Though the third NSA level meeting of India, Sri Lanka and Maldives has not attracted much media attention unlike the similar meetings between India, Japan and USA, but this has the potential of silently expanding India’s footprint in the Indian Ocean. The three countries have agreed to form a cooperative structure for maritime security cooperation. In its third year of infancy, the trilateral meeting has been able to generate interest in other island nations like Seychelles and Mauritius who attended the New Delhi 6th March, 2014 meeting and confirmed that the next NSA level meeting would be a five nation agenda to promote peace and stability in the Indian Ocean.  The Indian national security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon led the Indian delegation while the Sri Lankan security team was led by Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Secretary, Ministry of Defence and Urban Development and the Maldivian Defence Minister Col (Retd) Mohammad Nazim represented his country. It is significant that the four island nations have joined the maritime bandwagon under India’s leadership, though India has obviously projected itself as equal participant. This will obviously widen the joint maritime security responsibility of the Island nations along with India who will coordinate with each other in keeping this area free of non state actors. Obviously the State actors will also notice this area falling under the joint maritime command of fi
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Strong alliance
Malabar naval exercise The Manmohan Singh government has presented it as a fait accompli for the next Indian government to go ahead with the decision of inviting Japan in the revived multilateral Malabar naval exercise, a decision of far reaching strategic significance. If the coming Indian leadership shows guts, the trilateral Malabar may prove to be a game changer in India’s maritime military engagement.   On the sea bed of the trilateral maritime exercise the three nations can build a foundation of deeper maritime alliance to jointly protect each other’s maritime security interests and ensure the free movements of the military and trade cargo over the Indo-Pacific region. During the visit of the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to New Delhi the Indian government gave the go ahead for transforming the Malabar bilateral exercise into a trilateral one. Abe’s visit was on the eve of the Indian Republic Day celebration parade, which he attended as the Chief Guest, an annual honor India bestows on the Heads of States whom India considers worth wooing. The decision to again invite Japan to join the Malabar exercise was taken after long years of strategic hedging among the Indian leadership, which probably was propelled by the continued Chinese intransigence on the Sino Indian borders.    In fact it was Manmohan government which had developed cold feet in 2007 to drop Japan and Australia from future maritime engagements
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Conflicting interests
Political differences hampering growth of Nepal Hopes galore after the new government in Nepal finally saw the light of day which had been delayed for long due to squabbling and in-fighting among the political parties. As the new coalition government faces the daunting task of providing the country (which has for long been engulfed in a political impasse and civil war) a constitution that will help Nepal gain the structure to move forward as an able democracy, chances are that it will face many more challenges before any major success. The very fact that it took so long for the political community of Nepal to find a ‘solution’ to the unrest that had robbed the country of any economic or developmental progress means that the formation of the Constituent Assembly is a rather meek step forward towards stabilizing the country. The political solution that has been found to solve the many problems of Nepal will only look at issues from a narrow perspective, simply because the coalition government that has been formed is on the basis of a mere political agreement, a bargain of sorts between two of the country’s largest political parties. In this sense, it brings little hope that they will be able to formulate or draft a constitution within a year or restore the economic prosperity of the country, which are currently the key priorities for the country. As power sharing alone has caused such ruckus already, it doesn’t present a hopeful picture
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False hopes
Indo-Pak composite dialogue With the acceptance of formal invite from Pakistan, it appeared that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would have visited Pakistan this month. It was supposed to be his final major diplomatic endeavor as Prime Minister. But now with all scams under his leadership surfacing and may be due to the pressure from the high command the chances appears to be bleak. However at a personal level Manmohan Singh is still optimistic. Though the motive behind this visit is to resume the long stalled composite dialogue between the two countries, the speculations are also high that Manmohan Singh is keen to visit the country as he was born in a village which is now part of West Punjab.  The composite dialogue between India and Pakistan, which seeks to address the entire spectrum of hotspots in relations between the two rivals- from Siachen and Kashmir to economic cooperation and confidence building measures, was suspended in January 2013 after an Indian soldier was beheaded by Pakistani troops. Thereafter, the entire year was marred by various skirmishes along the troubled Indo-Pak border as a result of many ceasefire violations which hampered the prospects for improved bilateral relations. Indeed, the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008 had already completely disillusioned any efforts to further bilateral ties, as much speculation within India derailed any attempts to move forward. However, what became apparent amidst India&rsq
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Tough rivalry
China-Japan’s growing interests in Africa Much has been said lately about the China-Japan rivalry spreading to the continent of Africa. Perhaps, this is logically so. Japan’s growing interest in Africa as a lucrative market for economic ties and energy security, at a time when China’s ever-increasing economic and political clout is engulfing Africa; is proving to be an extension of already existing competitive rivalry between both the nations. An adding to this tension is their war of words over each others intentions in Africa. The ongoing rivalry between the two Asian giants over potentially resource rich Senkaku islands in the East China Sea and Japan’s unresolved wartime past has maintained a continued face-off between the two. Subsequently, they have both used ways like regional diplomacy through political and economic persuasion; media sponsored propaganda, use of geopolitical strategies like the ADIZ and sustained presence in the East China Sea to maintain pressure over each other. However, their engagements in Africa go beyond that. Their proxy psychological war will continue to try and contain each others interests in Africa. But, as Africa is fast becoming an economic frontier, the rivaling Asian giants will increasingly depend on the continent for their economic gains. Africa is fast proving to be a lucrative market for Chinese goods, which is accelerating trade between the two countries. Resource rich Africa is also provin
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Bleak future
The political unrest in Thailand Thailand’s anti-government unrest has taken an increasingly ugly, more violent turn with children killed or injured, their tiny bodies maimed and turned lifeless by shrapnel or gunshots. Thailand’s government will remain paralyzed for months, raising the risk of further street violence and possible damage to the economy, after the country’s Election Commission announced it would try to complete this month’s disputed election in late April. Thailand recently held parliamentary elections amid anti-government protests, which have grappled the country for four months now. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved the parliament in December 2013, giving her government the title of a ‘caretaker government’ with the hope of finding a way past the anti-government protests. Even though the government called the snap election to try and mitigate the unrest, the protests show no sign of abating as neither the government nor the opposition seem to be willing to compromise, which means that their opposing stands will continue to polarize the Thai society, leaving very little space for negotiation or a peaceful solution in the coming days. The elections provided no clear outcome, particularly because the opposition refused to take part in the elections while their supporting protestors blocked voting stations and ballots from allowing the elections to take place. Consequently, the protests turn
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Common goal
MINT economies-prospects and challenges After coining the term ‘BRIC’ in 2001, denoting Brazil, Russia, India and China as potential powerhouses of the world economy who later grouped themselves into an economic, trade and investment alliance, Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill identified the ‘MINT’ countries-Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey as emerging economic giants. The term ‘MINT countries’ was originally coined by a Boston based asset management firm Fidelity and was popularized by Jim O’Neill. He believes that a number of advantages could potentially propel these countries in the list of the world’s largest economies, possibly within the next three decades. Just like the coining of the term BRIC enabled those countries to develop their own economic-political club, the coining of the term MINT might also be the basis of these countries to form a similar forum for themselves. If that indeed happens, Nigeria could hope to become a member of the G20, just like the rest of the MINT countries. The coining of such a term means a lot, not only for the countries in question, but also for the global economy and trade. When the ‘BRICS’ term was coined, it created a lot of buzz in the economic and political spheres of the world. Naturally, a lot of positive attention was focused on them. Over the time, they have become a non-western counterpart to the decade’s long hegemony in the econom
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Consolidating act
China’s growing interest in Tawang Both China and India are two of the fastest growing economies attracting a tremendous amount of global attention. Since the past decade pulsating economic links has been a vital part of their bilateral partnership. Both the countries have vouched to enhance their bilateral and multilateral co-operation and are constantly on the process of forming better policies to facilitate this. However, the biggest impediment that the two countries face on their path of improved bilateral ties is the massive border conflict between them. China and India for long have been engaged in border disputes where China claims most part of Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh as its own. China claims India’s Northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh and refers to the region as South Tibet or Zangnan. The border issues have escalated in the recent past with the frequent intrusion by Chinese troops in the Indian territory. Both the countries, after signing numerable pacts and agreements, are facing challenges for the peaceful borer negotiations. China and India fought a border war in 1962 and the border issues concerning Arunachal Pradesh has since escalated and no resolution has evolved. The border negotiations between China and India is not visible in the foreseeable future but further conflict, especially centered around the Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang region is plausible. Importance of Tawang China’s growing interest
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Political war
Controversial elections and future of Bangladesh The scenes on the streets of Bangladesh that the world has been witnessing in the previous months depict the mood of a pseudo-democratic nation that is hanging by a thread. Bangladesh seems to be heading towards a dead end as an anarchic like state of affairs spins the country into total disarray. The two political dynasties of Bangladesh have forever been fighting a political war to grip power over a country that has been plagued by violence, corruption and poverty. Their fighting is eating up Bangladesh from the inside and even though it is costing the country more than it can afford, their rivalry shows no signs of abating. Added to this ongoing conundrum is the troublesome history of 1971. The controversial judgments on the 1971 war crimes are not helping the country emerge out of its violent history, even after decades of independence and democracy. Thus what lies ahead for Bangladesh is continued violence amidst uncertain developments and the possibility of external elements exploiting the volatile situation. General elections were held in Bangladesh on 5 January 2014. Although they were held in accordance with the constitutional requirement that the election must take place within the 90-day period before the expiration of the term of the Jatiyo Sangshad or the parliament (which was to end on 24 January 2014), the elections were nothing less than controversial and violent. Elections boycott A
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Committed alliance
Abe’s India visit and changing balance of power Amidst rising tensions between China and Japan over the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, the visit of the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe to New Delhi from 25th to 27th January, 2014 was watched with great interest not only in the Chinese strategic circles but also in the entire Asia Pacific region as India holds the key to the new power balance in the area. Strategic analysts are assessing the possibilities of whether Abe’s visit will be a game changer in the chess board of Indo-Pacific region or end in a draw. However much depends on China’s stance towards India and whether the commitments expressed in the joint Singh-Abe communiqué will remain a mere rhetorical statement. If the visit is to turn into a game changer both India and Japan will have to show guts and play while projecting their soft and hard power jointly to deter China from flexing its muscle in the East and South China Sea. Both India and Japan have domestic and national compulsions which will most likely prevent both the countries from raising stake. If the Indo-Japan partnership intends to take on the Chinese economic and military might in the region Japan will have to shed its inward looking defence posture and India will have to confront the Chinese aggressive designs forcefully. If it so happens, powers like USA, Europe and Australia will be so happy to assist. The three countries India, Japan and
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Regional hegemony
Chinese activities in the Asia-Pacific maritime region China’s rise in the past decades has been extraordinary. It has grown to become an economic powerhouse and a military giant. But, as the country has grown and evolved from the shackles of its past, the manner in which it has gone about its rise has been viewed as aggressive. Naturally, a country on its path of super economic growth requires maintaining a continued and sustained standard of performance, for which it requires resources–monetary, political, diplomatic, geo-strategic, and military. China has demonstrated a steady consolidation of all these aspects. However, commensurate with this is its increasingly imperialistic and aggressive policy of expansion at any cost. Its idea of expansion is not limited to becoming the world’s sole economic power by 2030. It is also linked with expanding geographically. Thus China’s claims in the South China Sea and now the East China Sea, as baffling as they may be, signal an attempt by Beijing to consolidate control over the immensely strategic sea routes and territorial regions ranging from the Indian Ocean all the way to the Western Pacific. If one considers the trajectory of Chinese occupations, claims and attempts to gain territory in the past four decades, it becomes clear that while resources (which are strategically required by an evolving economy to sustain growth) are the highest priority, maintaining sole control over the most
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Restoring faith
Gayoom reenergizes relations with India That the new Maldivian President Yameen Abdul Gayoom chose to make his first official visit abroad to New Delhi in the very first week of the year 2014 was enough indication that he wants to mend fences with India and restore the decades old traditional relationship with its closest maritime neighbor, on whom the country depends for its security. Though the moves of the previous Maldivian administration threatened to weaken the political and security links  with India , the new President during his interactions with the Prime Minister and the President in New Delhi in  January  has very surprisingly expressed extremely  positive  sentiments which bodes well for the return of the bright phase in the bilateral relationships. Before the visit of the Maldivian President to India the Indian Government had set the solid stage for the successful visit of the Maldivian defence minister, to whom India donated the second Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv and promised many other cooperation programs. The Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim was received warmly by Indian Defence Minsiter A K Antony who committed the full medical treatment facilities for the Maldivian forces in Indian military hospitals besides training the Maldivian defence personnel in India, deputation of Indian army medical officers, strengthening of Maldivian medical infrastructure and training of Maldivian medical
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Deepening roots
Al-Qaeda’s shadow government in Yemen A recently captured document written by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) reveals an unusual degree of self-reflection regarding the terrorist group’s short-lived control over parts of southern Yemen. Having retreated to historic safe havens in the interior following last year’s Yemeni military campaign, AQAP has returned to its insurgent roots as it reconstitutes its forces. As part of this regenerative process, it has undertaken a thorough review of its 2011-2012 occupation and administration in the south-a unique approach given that Al-Qaeda has never devoted much attention to the details of governance and development nor administered such a large area in the past. Among other things, the document indicates that AQAP sees value in analyzing its experience with governance and using it as a propaganda tool to blunt criticism that Al-Qaeda does not care about the people. While AQAP’s actual record of administering territory falls far short of what it presents in its self-review, the document’s depth of thinking and its focus on popular sentiment provide valuable insights into Al-Qaeda’s future strategy in Yemen and elsewhere. Unique conditions Throughout its history, Al-Qaeda has usually been hosted by a foreign government, tribal/ethnic group, or other terrorist group (e.g., in Sudan, the Pakistani tribal region, and Afghanistan under the Taliban). In other cases, the g
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Changing equations
Implications of Iran’s nuclear deal for Middle East Iran’s relationship with the West and particularly with the USA has remained convoluted and under pressure for decades. Since 2003, what has kept Iran forcefully isolated from the world by way of trade embargos and sanctions by the Western powers is the Iranian nuclear issue. Uranium enrichment has remained at the heart of the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program. In November 2013, after four days of marathon talks, Iran and the P5+1, (the five permanent members of the UNSC – USA, UK, China, France and Russia + Germany) finally inked the Geneva interim deal as the preamble to reaching a long term comprehensive solution through diplomacy. In order to achieve the interim deal, a lot of complicated politics and diplomacy has taken place, to accommodate the realities of nuclear energy and warfare in today’s uncertain geopolitical environment. While the question whether the deal has prevented Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons capability or has merely postponed it for sometime will continue to be debated, one should not ignore the wider strategic consequences of the agreement because the impact of the deal is likely to be limited to the nuclear issue. The crisis In order to understand the complex crisis that follows the possibility of Iran being allowed easy access to nuclear proliferation and the volatile consequences that could follow suit, it is necessary to understa
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Bright opportunity
Myanmar’s chairmanship in ASEAN 2014 At a time when Myanmar is experiencing an unprecedented transformation, the ASEAN countries have agreed to let it take on the leadership of the bloc as its Chairman for the year 2014. After decades of military rule, isolation and existence, Myanmar’s leadership has initiated a series of political, economic and administrative reforms that have elicited positive responses both regionally and globally, helping the country swiftly integrate into the regional and global communities. While the chairmanship will provide legitimacy to the Myanmar regime, it will be a good opportunity for Myanmar to build its socio-economic progress and democratic transition. As the country opens, develops and assumes the role of a leader of ASEAN- the regional bloc of much political, economic and strategic value, Myanmar has much to be hopeful for as major development opportunities unfold in the light of its ASEAN chairmanship. In addition, with its strategic geographical location between India and China and at the beginning point of the South-East Asian region with a vast reserve of natural resources, tourist destinations and young population, Myanmar could become Asia’s next economic frontier. Boosting image President Thein Sein’s office has allocated a budget of US $ 33.4 billion to host the ASEAN summit, according to a senior official from Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Not only will its position as
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Finding solace
Bhutanese refugees in Nepal getting resettled Bidur Thapa remembers the day six years ago when he came to Nepal as a refugee from Bhutan. He struggled to understand the culture and language of his new land as most Bhutanese are unfamiliar with Nepalese way of life. Six years into the resettlement of tens of thousands of Bhutanese refugees to third countries from camps in Nepal, experts say there are lessons from the operation that can inform similar efforts around the world. Since the launch of the programme in late 2007, more than 86,000 of the 108,000 Bhutanese refugees in Nepal have been permanently resettled in eight countries-the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom-making the operation among the world’s largest of its kind. “The main lesson from this refugee situation has been that strong commitment and cooperation of the states can help unlock protracted refugee situations,” Cecile Fradot, senior protection officer at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Nepal office said. A protracted refugee situation (PRS) refers to a situation in which refugees have lived in exile for five years or more, and where there is a low likelihood of resolving their situation in the near future, according to the PRS Project a joint research initiative by Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre, the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, and the Internal Displacement Monito
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Escalating tension
China’s ADIZ: Challenges for security in the region Last year the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of National Defence announced the creation of the East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) which faced lot of criticism and got reactions from all over the world. China also announced Aircraft Identification rules for the ADIZ. The zone overlaps the existing ADIZ of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. It also covers the disputed Senkaku islands that are claimed by China, Japan and Taiwan and also the Leodo/Suyan rock that is claimed by China and South Korea. The announcement by China on ADIZ was met with concern and dissatisfaction from Japan, USA, Australia, South Korea and Taiwan. A day after the announcement, China conducted two aerial patrols over the area. It sent Tu-154 and Y-8 aircrafts, prompting the Japanese Air Self-defence Force to send two F-15 Fighter Jets to intercept them. Later, South Korea and Japan sent their surveillance aircrafts into the area in the East China Sea. Joining its regional allies in condemning China’s decision to establish the zone, USA also defied Beijing by flying two B-52 bombers through the area three days after China’s announcement. Implications Apart from this becoming a cat-and-mouse game, such developments are potentially dangerous for a region that is already extremely vulnerable as tensions remain constantly high owing to the contentious territorial disputes between
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Vulnerable future
South Sudan fighting affecting humanitarian programs Amid sharp confusion in South Sudan as ethnic fighting escalated and the army warned of a mobilizing fighting force called the ‘White Army’ that is allied with one of the main protagonists in the week long old conflict, the situation is fast escalating into a war despite best efforts to stop hostility. As fighting continues across South Sudan, the United Nations is reporting that some 1,000 people may have been killed, while aid agencies estimate that in a worst-case scenario, thousands more could be displaced or will require humanitarian assistance. There are also serious concerns about the safety and health of the 58,000 people who have sought refuge at UN bases around the country, as aid organizations work to provide emergency food, water and sanitation facilities to prevent disease outbreaks. “We are extremely concerned about the escalation in the situation in South Sudan,” the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Country Representative, Iyorlumun Uhaa, said. “We’re really facing a huge and growing humanitarian crisis.” According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), aid agencies need an estimated US$166 million in emergency funding from now until March 2014 for the needs of those affected by the violence. The fight The fighting in South Sudan began on 15 December 2013, when clashes erupted between two factions in milit
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Incompetent handling
India-Maldives relations under Gayoom’s leadership Though  the newly elected President Abdulla Yameen Gayoom has assured Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of giving priority to relations with India, especially because of geographical proximity as suggested by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh  in  his congratulatory note, there are fears that Maldives will return to hardline Islam- both in political and social domain. This might not allow the recovery of lost ground in India-Maldives relations which deteriorated after the coup in February 2012 when the then President Muhammad Nasheed was dethroned. If the hardliner elements prevail in the next administration of Yameen, who has won elections on the Islam plank, smooth progress in relations would be difficult as the fundamentalist elements will be cajoled by the anti- India forces guided by the Pakistani intelligence agencies. China card For India’s neighbors it is very easy to manipulate relations with India playing China card and undoubtedly Maldivian leaders have also learnt this art. China was the second country after India which has been allowed to open its embassy in Male. The Maldivian Presidents are often hosted by the top leaders of China.   China certainly has entered as a big elephant in the room and it will be difficult to ward off the Chinese influence in Male without a friendly regime in Male. India has welcomed the new government of Maldives with President
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Political recovery
Elections in Nepal: Way forward Though there are serious protests by Maoists on alleged irregularities in the recent election in Nepal, the centrist Nepali Congress party won the most votes in recently held general election. The Maoists-who formed the single largest party in the previous Constituent Assembly-have been relegated to third place. They have complained that the results have been systematically rigged. The vote is seen as vital in moving Nepal towards political stability after a 10-year Maoist revolt ended in 2006. According to Nepal’s Election Commission, nearly 70% of Nepal’s electorate voted on November 19th, 2013 to choose a constituent assembly that would hopefully end years of turmoil and political instability and draft a new constitution. Therefore, the turnout, despite a call for boycott by Communist Party of Nepal (CPN)-Maoist led alliance, was higher than that of the last polls held in 2008, but was hit by violence and vandalism that injured a few people. However, people voted amidst tight security and international observation across 18,438 polling centers in the tiny landlocked country, hoping that despite many false starts with democracy, this election would set them on the road to political recovery.  Nepal is an amalgamation of 125 ethnic groups with many spoken languages and a vibrant spread of castes and other such social groups. More than 120 political parties registered to compete in the elections
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Floating enemies
Pirates are increasingly getting assertive in Gulf of Guinea Since the global attention is turning towards Africa and its resource rich regions, the number of pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean region and Gulf of Guinea could double next year if governments do not act to protect off-shore assets. There have been over 360 attacks on merchant shipping this year, and without action by West African governments this could rise to over 700 incidents in 2014. This could see an average of two attacks every day of the year. However, piracy threatens more than just oil and gas assets; criminal gangs at sea are responsible for drug trafficking, arms smuggling, dumping of toxic waste, illegal bunkering and illegal fishing. This is in addition to the problems caused by the profits from piracy that finance other criminal activity such as terrorism and human trafficking which have a significant human and financial cost. As stronger counter-piracy measures have developed in East Africa, criminal organizations have come to see coastal assets in West Africa as soft targets. The result is that waters in the Gulf of Guinea are now the most dangerous in Africa for merchant shipping. West African nations are rapidly developing their oil and gas infrastructure to capitalize on existing assets and exploit new offshore discoveries. These assets can serve as the driver of long-term economic development in these countries, boosting industry, creating thousands of jobs and
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Power projection
Indian Navy’s growing maritime capabilities The much awaited commissioning of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and its handing over to the Indian Navy as an Indian warship is all set to boost the Indian Navy’s endeavours to position itself as a robust blue water maritime force capable of taking care of Indian interests across the global oceanic waters while ensuring the maritime security of Indian mainland in all its manifestations. This 44,500 tonne Kiev class battle ship, formerly called Admiral Gorshkov, was inducted into the Indian Navy by Defence Minister A K Antony. “Carriers have been part of the Indian Navy since independence and have effectively served the country for over five decades. The induction of Vikramaditya with its integral MiG-29K fighters and Kamov-31 helicopters, not only reinforces this central policy but adds a dimension to the navy’s operational capability,” observed Antony while speaking at the commissioning ceremony. He also described INS Vikramaditya as the true symbol of the time tested special and privileged strategic partnership between India and Russia. On the other hand, Indian Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi drove home the point that  Vikramaditya  would bridge the  time gap  between the retirement of the ageing INS Viraat now in service with the Indian Navy and the under construction of the home grown carrier INS Vikrant. Joshi also noted that Vikramaditya would provi
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Power game
US-China competing interest in Asia Pacific At a time when the region of South-East Asia is engulfed in geopolitical instability and economic sluggishness, the recent APEC and ASEAN summits were crucial platform for the concerned countries to discuss opportunities for economic cooperation and resolve the ongoing territorial disputes which threaten the peace and security of the region. But what made headlines instead was the absence of President Obama, which shifted the focus to politically unstable Washington and its commitment to Rebalancing Asia Policy. The summits were also significantly overshadowed by the ongoing rivalry between the two biggest economies of the world–China and USA. This focus fails to observe the confusion their strategic advances have caused for the perennial problems faced by the region. While it cannot be denied that the power struggle between China and the USA is becoming increasingly evident across the globe with significant implications, viewing the regional bloc from this lens alone provides only a narrow-minded understanding. Therefore, it is important to assess, along with the impact of China and USA’s rivalry, the implications of the competing interests of regional powers like India and Japan and also, ASEAN’s strategy in light of all these developments. America’s presence Firstly, the US ‘pivot to Asia’ policy came about as a result of China’s increasing geo-political challen
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Failed approach
Political turmoil in Maldives and India’s engagement   The recent political logjam in Maldives, deliberately orchestrated by the present regime of President Mohamed Waheed has exposed India’s inability to manage Maldivian political crisis. Concerned over the developments, India had engaged extensively with various leaders of Maldives over last year and half. But, India’s sustained diplomatic persuasion failed to put the Maldivian house in order. Observers believe that some anti-India forces were working behind the scenes with consistent effort to prevent the Ex-President Mohamed Nasheed’s return to power, who also commented that India has lost its leverage on the current regime. Perhaps the Waheed regime has played the China card very well, which prevented India from playing an active interventionist role in the country. India, which played a crucial role in saving the regime of the then President Gayoom, by flying its forces in 1988 appeared as an ineffective watchdog of the Maldivian politics. The pro India leader has been patiently waiting for more than a year and half for the democratic process to conclude and to facilitate Nasheed’s return to power as the legitimately elected President of the island nation. Nasheed had undoubtedly proved his credentials as the most popular leader of the country as he bagged over 45 percent votes during the first round of Presidential polls held on 7th Sept, 2013. Since he did not sc
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Another gimmick
The Border Defence Cooperation agreement and its future The Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) signed during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to China is expected to revive the bonhomie between Indian and Chinese armed forces to the level of previous decade but it does not guarantee the incidents of incursion at the Line of Actual Control will not be repeated.  However, it provides for an institutional mechanism to deal with the incursion issues. In fact the BDCA is another updated version of the earlier confidence building measures reached between the two countries in 1993, 1996 and 2005. However, these mechanisms largely helped to maintain peace and tranquility on the 4000 kms long LAC from Arunachal Pradesh in the East to Ladakh in the West. Due to these understandings the India-China defence relations and exchanges reached its pinnacle in the latter part of last decade but came to a sudden halt in 2010 when Chinese government changed its policy on the status of Jammu and Kashmir and slighted a top Indian General posted in the Indian state when a staple visa was issued to him.   Lt General B S Jaswal, Northern Army commander, actually was to head an Indian delegation to China on the Chinese government invitation in return for the earlier visit of similar Chinese Army delegation to India. Though the Chinese have stopped issuing Stapled Visa to the Kashmiris, their policy of granting stapled visas to the residents of Arunach
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Glorifying slavery
Irrelevance of CHOGM summit No matter how eloquently a justification for the existence of an organization like Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is presented, its vagueness and futility cannot be underestimated. No one has a clear idea, except Britain, why such a grouping exists and what it exactly promotes. Although to its members it is a voluntary association of independent states in the enterprise of promoting democracy, good government, human rights and economic development, the Commonwealth has been criticized for being a post-colonial hub with little influence and relevance. Indeed, it doesn’t enjoy any influence over non-members and is not even recognized as a bloc of worth in international affairs. So far, CHOGM’s achievements are confined to promoting British interests and sometimes, profit-making. It has no connection with promoting democracy, freedom of expression, development and universal values, except selective rhetoric from time to time. It is a bogus claim in a post-colonial global network. Formerly known as the British Commonwealth, the Commonwealth of Nations is a lose association of former British colonies and current dependents, along with some countries that have no prior ties to Britain. Essentially, CHOGM stems from the infamous ‘Imperial Conferences’, which were, at that time, organized to accommodate the increasing assertiveness and independence of dominions. To perpetuate Britain’s super
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Coveted pearl
China’s new South Pacific base to avoid Malacca Strait Since maritime issues have dominated China’s future war strategy, Beijing is currently reviewing its ‘String of Pearls’ doctrine to acquire a new base in South Pacific which will easily surpass Strait of Malacca to reach Indian Ocean. China’s grand maritime strategy depends on how effectively it can operate in both ocean surface with equal magnitude and show its military strength in the Pacific and Indian Ocean region. For China, Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean are emerging as the life line of its geostrategic influence and trade & commerce. As China is keen to avoid the Strait of Malacca and adjoining sea lanes where US, India and Japan are having substantial influence, Beijing has explored the opportunity for acquiring new base in the South Pacific region called as Tonga Island. Tonga Island Tonga has been an easy target for China for several reasons. The Tongan economy is weak and needs the assistance of a power like China. Thus China has strategically invested in the development and infrastructure of Tonga, flowered it with lavish economic loans and aid and assisted its economy. Tonga is also a good option for dumping China’s cheap inferior goods, as are other island countries in the Pacific. China wants to now lease land from Tonga and they also hope to secure a naval base out of all these economic overtures. The Kingdom of Tonga is typical li
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Traditional partners
Changing dimensions of India-Russia defence ties During the 21st October 14th  annual summit in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke of the historical bonhomie in bilateral defence cooperation and talked about the significance of  this  in the privileged strategic partnership.   India still depends a lot on Russia for critical technology support in many sensitive areas of weapons developments. The Russian diplomats and the leaders are right in pointing out that no other nation would have extended technology support to India in the field of nuclear submarines and cruise missiles. Russia has not only supplied the nuclear submarine to India but also provided critical support to India’s indigenous nuclear submarine Arihant. Though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft and the Multi Role Transport Aircraft projects as symbol of India Russia strategic partnerships, the two leaders after the summit meeting were silent on the issue of the costs that has become a major bone of contention.   The two sides were also silent on the issue of the transfer of second Akula class nuclear Submarine from Russia, which has now become a subject of media speculation. According to top defence sources the lease agreement of second nuclear submarine is under discussion and is likely to be finalized during the November meeting of Intergovernmental commission of military and sci
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Competing interest
Role of Rwanda in Congo crisis Central Africa, the region of the Great Lakes, which encompasses Rwanda, DR Congo, Uganda and Burundi, has for long been engulfed in instability. Its violent history continues to shape the complex regional dynamics, and the overlapping of several conflicts only complicates the solution. National conflicts have spilled beyond national borders and domestic disputes have polarized and entangled the neighboring countries. Of these, the troubled and violent histories of DR Congo (formerly known as Zaire) and Rwanda have caused maximum pressure on the region. Rwanda’s violent past along with the horrific genocide of 1994 and the decades’ long civil war in DR Congo has transformed the region into a battlefield, with their border as the epicenter of all ongoing troubles. Essentially, Rwanda’s ethnic tension is associated with the unequal relationship between the dominant Tutsi minority and the majority Hutus. Even though Hutu’s are the traditional inhabitants of what is now Rwanda, the Tutsi ethnic group came to dominate Rwanda, with the blessings of its European colonizers, before it became independent. The background Although after 1959, the ethnic relationship was reversed, when civil war prompted around 2, 00,000 Tutsi’s to flee to neighboring Burundi, Uganda and Congo, lingering resentment let to the periodic massacres of Tutsi’s, the 1973 military coup led by Juvenal Habyarimana to oust P
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Mutual benefit
US eyeing lucrative Indian defence market With an eye on India’s US$ 100 Billion defence market over the next decade, the US administration has made a smart move to enter into an understanding with Indian defence establishment on joint development and production of weapon systems, a route undertaken by the Russians and the Israelis long back to remain engaged with the Indian armed forces for meeting their requirements in an extremely competitive arms market. The visit of the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Washington DC last month, has produced a US-India joint declaration on defence cooperation, which will make easier the transfer of US defence technology under the garb of joint development of weapon systems. The American administration used to impose toughest domestic legislations on dual use defence technology transfer to countries like India but the latest declaration on defence cooperation with India seems to be exceptional and unique in nature as US has not entered into such defence cooperation with non NATO partners. The Pentagon lost no time in submitting a list of ten weapons systems and platforms which can be jointly produced with India. These may include the Javelin anti tank missiles, the M-777 ultra light weight Howitzers and the C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft. Tough competition Indian armed forces need these weapon systems in large numbers and if India agrees for their further capability improvement and joi
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Balancing game
Nepal’s political transition and its fallout A landlocked country, Nepal is sandwiched between Asia’s two giant economies-India and China. Although it struggles with constant economic shortcomings, it is currently engulfed in a state of political transition. The country is now beginning to embrace multiparty politics and democracy. While it experiences changes domestically, the game-changers within its political Diaspora are also significantly altering its foreign policy. This is because Nepal is increasingly mindful of its geo-strategic positioning. Since Nepal fatefully sits in the middle of India and China, it is often engulfed in their existential issues. However, it has realized that it can use its very position to its advantage. That is why it sees hope in its newly deepened economic and military ties with China. However, it must strategically accommodate China in its pursuits, for Nepal has to constantly balance it with India, its long time big brother. India and China too, attach significant importance to Nepal. Apart from the enormous trade benefits, influence over Nepal could be a significant game changer for the Indo-China border dispute. Therefore, Nepal’s latest policy to balance India with China might work well for its economy and domestic prosperity, but, in addition, it will also have larger ramifications for South Asia, as well as Indo-China relations.        China and India, mindful that Nep
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Willful act
Northeast insurgency and role of China China, which is known to have border and territorial disputes with almost all its neighbors, is keen to adopt direct or indirect means to disturb the stability in India, its biggest rival in the region. In view of the current Sino-Indian relations, China considers the North-east more important than other parts of India. To strengthen its footprint in this area, China is reviving a flagging militancy in north-eastern India with arms and military training. In return, it wants militants to spy on nuclear missiles and military formations deployed in the north east. Though China clearly denies any involvement in the increasing insurgency in India’s north- east, India, on several occasions, has given evidence to China. There was evidence that insurgent from India’s northeast were meeting Chinese intelligence officials regularly in Yunnan. Further, a Chinese spy disguised as a TV reporter, was arrested and deported after she reportedly visited the headquarters of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) or NSCN-IM-one of India’s largest and most troublesome insurgent groups. Chinese support for north eastern rebels isn’t a new phenomenon. In November 1966, China covertly trained and procured weapons for a 300-strong contingent of Naga rebels in support of Maoist revolution. The group returned to India in January 1968 and established a huge camp in the Jotsoma jungles. When Indian force
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Unchecked entrants
Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and its impact on North East For India’s North East states, the alarming issue is the uninterrupted illegal intrusion of Bangladeshis into Indian Territory tampering the demographic composition of the region and that lead to social tensions and confrontations over certain diverse aspects. Bangladesh came to today’s shape through a long history of political evolution. Today Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries among the Asian continent and faces serious issues and poses great threat to its neighbouring countries. After the formation of Bangladesh as an independent state in 197, there were difficulties in holding the population in terms of economic and social status, and this further lead to the migration of the Bengali speaking population into the Indian states which were mostly into the North-Eastern states like Nagaland, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and other states like West Bengal, Bihar and even in Delhi. In 2004, the Congress-led UPA Government came up with a figure of 1,20,53,950 illegal Bangladeshi immigrants living in various parts of India and 35 million in 2008 but the figures of these immigrants have till date not been specific and accurate for study and analysis. But what is interesting here is that the entire blame cannot be put on the Bangladeshi‘s alone because the political parties in Bengal and some North-Eastern states play a small role in encouraging the flow of the people in to the
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Delayed justice
Bangladesh liberation war trials and its impact The trials in Bangladesh for the war crimes committed during the country’s liberation war of 1971 have brought Bangladesh back to a crossroads, exposing the underlying tensions in the country. Deadly violence erupted on the streets as the controversial International Crimes Tribunal sentenced the country’s top Islamist leaders and wartime head of the Jamaat-e-Islami to life sentences and imprisonment. Although the current situation is a daunting reminder of the unhealed wounds of the liberation war, it seems to be a difficult but necessary procedure that Bangladesh must undergo to get some closure and move on. It is also a critical time for the nation’s political and religious identity as the trials could spark off underlying currents of division within the society that consists of over 160 million Muslims. Nevertheless, it is not only the moral responsibility of Bangladesh’s current, somewhat stable democratic government but also an important procedure to safeguard the nation from possible pro-jihadi elements who could potentially spell more trouble if the Jamaat-e-Islami succeed in their strategy of maintaining unrest in order to further pro-jihadi sentiments. Current situation The International Crimes Tribunal sentenced ninety year old Ghulam Azam to 90 years in prison for masterminding atrocities during the 1971 war of Independence against Pakistan. The Islamist was the wartime
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Connecting hope
Trilateral trade between Afghanistan- Pakistan-India Manmohan Singh’s wish, to be able to have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul, may finally see the light of day now that Nawaz Sharif is re-elected as Pakistan’s leader. Back in 1999, as Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif initiated an ambitious process of planning a super-express highway that would connect Afghanistan and India through Pakistan. Although this plan made a rough progress during Musharraf’s and Zardari’s time in office, there is considerable hope for its revival now that Nawaz Sharif is making overtures toward India. Integrating Afghanistan, India and Pakistan through infrastructure and trade will boost the region’s economy, but the process is and possibly will be clouded by a gamut of issues. Nawaz Sharif looks optimistic and willing to boost ties with India, but Pakistan’s words and actions have not always matched in the past, especially during Sharif’s rule. Pakistan’s Army has always had a different agenda from its government when it comes to Afghanistan and India, and following the US withdrawal of troops next year, there is a possibility that Afghanistan may turn into India and Pakistan’s battleground, since both eye the strategic edge that Afghanistan offers. Boosting trade Therefore, in light of such sensitive issues, even though boosting trade ties would be the economic and political need of the hour,
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Maintaining balance
Early resolution of Palestine issue and implications for India The resumption on Palestine-Israel peace talks in late July 2013 after four year interregnum at the behest of US has evoked positive response from India, which is indicative of India’s deep interest in the early resolution of the conflict. India needs cordial relations and close partnership, both with the Jews and the Arabs, hence the early resolution of the longstanding conflict will be in India’s national interests. Considering the very antagonistic relations between Israel and the Arab world India needs to make a fine balance and do a tight rope walk to advance India’s cause. Though India never fails to make acerbic comments towards Israel whenever the Palestinians areas are attacked by the Israeli forces, India also is gradually deepening its relationship with Israel. In a belated reaction the Indian Permanent Representative at the UN welcomed the US initiative and hoped that direct peace talks will lead to concrete results. This is in tune with keeping the domestic constituency in mind and also these comments follow the international trends. India has accepted the necessity of two state solutions for lasting peace in the Middle East, but never fails to denounce Israeli aggression on the Palestinian land. India’s dependence However, in recent years India has been strenuously trying to maintain a balance between Israel and Palestine. Over the years India has become
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Strong grip
Political future of Cambodia The recent developments in Cambodian politics signal a troubled future for the country’s already volatile political legacy. Although the recent national elections declared yet another victory for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian National Party (CNP), that has maintained its grip on power for two decades, there seems to be a break in the status-quo as the result has been challenged by the return of Cambodia’s veteran politician Sam Rainsy, head of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP). His return from exile has obviously stirred up the political atmosphere of the country. His decision to oppose and challenge the election result could potentially threaten the hegemonic character of Hun Sen’s rule, if not completely topple him, but little will change on the ground with respect to democratization of the electoral process in Cambodia. Unfortunately, opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s appeal against the election results felt on deaf ears as Hun Sen’s two decade long rule has transformed the country into an authoritarian government, due to his strong grip over state institutions. Even though regular elections have been held since the UN- administered transition in 1993, Hun Sen’s successive victories have only perpetuated and legitimated the status-quo. Hun Sen moved troops and armored vehicles into the capital after the opposition first threatened protests several weeks ago, sparki
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Failed intervention
Mali crisis and growth of Al Qaeda Mali is becoming Africa’s Afghanistan as Islamic terrorists find it easy to operate and get cheap recruits to carry out the conflict in a manner which is unknown to most professional militaries who go by traditional rules of engagements in a combat situation. The conflict in the West African nation of Mali, a former French colony with a majority-Muslim population, came to sudden prominence in the West when France intervened at the request of Malian authorities. But the country and its complex dynamics have been scrutinized by scholars for many years. Behind the recent fighting are nuanced factors that have deep roots in the nation’s history, as well as regional forces that have negatively affected the nation. As a 2013 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report notes, “Mali’s instability stems from both internal and external factors. These include poor governance, the corrosive impact of drug trafficking and other illicit commerce, military fragmentation and collapse, limited implementation of previous peace accords with Tuareg rebel groups, and an uptick in regional arms and combatant flows from Libya since 2011.” Despite a relatively small population-15.8 million-the country occupies a vast, landlocked area, with a huge northern region. Prior to a 2012 coup and the neighboring Libyan conflict, Mali had seen reasonably strong economic growth in the past few years, and there have been po
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Bolstering foothold
The trilateral maritime security agreement Maldives and Sri Lanka, eyed by China and other world military powers because of their significant geopolitical locations, have entered into a trilateral cooperation with India on Maritime Security of far reaching importance. China has adopted Sri Lanka as one of the gems in its String of Pearls strategy to mark its strong presence in the Indian Ocean and encircle and contain India. And recently China has deepened its strategic and political engagement with Maldives by offering many sops to lure the island nation within its strategic fold. On the other hand the US is also in serious negotiations with the Maldives government to enter into a Status of Forces Agreement, which will provide a foothold to the American forces in this strategically significant island. India would not like the presence of any of the big powers to station their forces so close to Indian coasts, roughly 300 nautical miles from Kerala. However India has made a significant strategic move to bring the two island nations under the common umbrella of Trilateral Cooperation on Maritime Security in which Indian maritime assets will play a lead role. Though the trilateral security cooperation has not been agreed with the express intent of engaging in security partnership as understood in traditional sense, the agreement will help bring the security establishments of the three countries in a very close web of naval cooperation. The Coast Guard
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Trust deficit
India-China defence relations Seven years after the last Indian defence minister visited China, A K Antony landed in Beijing in the first week of July 2013 with a welcoming discordant voice from one of the retired Chinese Generals who warned India not to provoke problems at the LAC. Though the shrill voice was not stoutly rejected by the Chinese foreign or defence ministries, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman clarified with a mild denial that Major General Luo Yuan’s comments were not the official view of the government. And the senior Indian officials maintain that the General’s outspoken comments should not be taken seriously as he was a retired military officer and his strong anti India comments  should be viewed in the light of the similar strong anti China views of some of the retired  Indian Generals.   Yet, the Indian and Chinese defence ministers were not able to reach any landmark agreement to ensure peace and stability on the 4000 kms long LAC. Indian officials privately confide that in spite of such agreements, it cannot be said with certainty that such incidents of incursions will not be repeated. Border incursions This was proved true by the Chinese PLA, when its soldiers continued to make forays inside Indian controlled territories in the Chumar sector of Ladakh in July. The third meeting for Working Mechanism for consultations and Coordination on India China border Affairs (WMCC) was held on 23rd and 24th
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First move
Bhutan and China’s diplomatic engagements Bhutan is finally awakening from its long, tranquil sleep and slowly facing the realities of geo-strategic politics and international relations. Squished in the middle of the two Asian giants- India and China, the tiny, peace-loving nation is slowly embracing democracy and diplomacy. The process can be overwhelming for a country that gives importance to Gross National Happiness over Gross Domestic Product and believes in maintaining happiness over securing strategic interests. Bhutan is unique and crucial to its neighbors. As Bhutan and China talk of building diplomatic ties, realizing the importance of geographical inevitability, Bhutan’s other inseparable neighbor, its supposed big brother; India has to tackle this hard fact. India and China are locked in a territorial cold war and Bhutan could be the next battleground. Therefore, China and Bhutan’s diplomatic plans to settle their long-standing border disputes are signal for India to adjust its strategy in the Himalayas. However, India must not test its relationship with Bhutan because of its overt paranoia about China. Undoubtedly, a Bhutan- China close-up could give China the strategic advantage. But India should embrace the reality and allow Bhutan to make a strategic decision for itself, instead of unnecessarily tampering. Overlapping claim Though China and Bhutan are neighbors, they have not yet established diplomatic ties. Bhut
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Continued unrest
The new phase of the Arab Spring What began as a movement devoid of any structure and fueled mainly by long standing anger and frustration of the people has transformed itself into a larger question of society-state relations in the Arab World. The Arab Spring, which started as a revolt against the decades’ long tyranny of autocratic rulers and their inefficient social, political and economic practices, has matured into a larger ideological debate of the ideal way forward for the Arab world. The flow of the Arab Spring movement has been unpredictable. Like any other movement, the Arab Spring too has experienced several phases as different country-specific consequences tend to influence the larger narrative of the struggle. If the initial ambiguity of the demands was not enough to cause confusion, several other issues are causing their share of havoc in the region. No doubt, the fall of the rulers has created a leadership and security deficit; it has also raised issues like rise of Islamism and sectarian violence. Countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen are facing problems in their post-revolutionary transition; Syria has been engulfed in an ongoing bloody civil war and the fate of GCC countries remains uncertain. Although it is difficult to perceive the final outcome of the movement, an assessment of the situation in the countries that have already experienced the Arab Spring, the countries that are currently engulfed in it and those countries
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Playground of pirates
Strategic importance of Gulf of Aden and prospects of maritime trade Incidents of maritime piracy in the Gulf of Aden have posed a significant strategic challenge for the security of global trade. Despite a reduction in rampant pirate attacks in the ‘pirate-alley’ last year, the challenge is far from over. Piracy will remain a recurrent problem till the root cause of the problem is not tackled. When piracy became rampant in 2008, flag states and international organizations added strategic value to the already important trade route which links the east with the west. Countries realize that the ongoing problem at the Gulf of Aden provides ample opportunities to display their military might, their ability to act as hegemonic powers, especially to secure vital economic interests, and consolidate their claims of being superpowers with global ambitions. Even though such heavy intervention has made a difference, the root cause of the problem, which lies in the instable conditions of coastal states on land, is not being tackled. In such light, military interventions remain futile and will only go so far, as they are not backed by law enforcement, social development and political will. The Gulf of Aden is one of the most vital maritime trade routes because it is at this location where the volume of the world’s maritime trade and piracy are at its peak. By the sheer volume of trade that passes through from here, it is literally the backbone of m
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Connecting links
Prospects and challenges for the Trilateral Highway The balance of power is consistently pivoting toward Asia as it enhances trade with the rest of the world. In the meantime, in Asia, there is an emerging trend of multi-modal connectivity projects, cutting through country boundaries to boost economic as well as strategic ties. These projects are creating a strategic land and sea infrastructure in the region while they significantly alter the geo-political landscape. Of these, one of the most important is the 3,200 kilometers highway connecting India and Thailand through Myanmar. However, though the prospects that come along with such connectivity can hardly been understated, the trilateral highway has been in the pipeline for years. Despite a strong political will for completing it, it faces challenges that must be addressed soon so that the benefactor countries can reap the benefits, avoiding unnecessary handicaps. The trilateral highway plans to connect India with Thailand through Myanmar. The road network of the highway will connect Moreh in Manipur, India to Mae Sot in Thailand via Bagan and Rangoon in Myanmar. Regional growth It aims to create a new economic zone as a means to consolidate regional growth, cooperation and integration by linking the landlocked North-Eastern India to South-East Asia. The Head of States of the three countries set the deadline for its completion at 2016. But the project suffered its fair share of setbacks for
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Smart move
The US wants India in its Rebalancing Asia policy The US Secretary of State John Kerry brought with him a very high powered delegation for strategic talks with India held on 24th June, 2013, which included the US Pacific Commander Admiral Samuel J Locklear who stayed back in New Delhi to discuss the future game plan for the Asia Pacific with the Indian tri-service Chief of Staff, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne.   The political direction given by Kerry during his visit was intensely discussed with the Indian Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Committee for its execution at the ground level. The meeting was held in the background of strident posture adopted by China in the South China Sea and its possible fallout on the region’s economic and security architecture. Hence it was significant to note that the official brief issued by the Indian Ministry of Defence mentioned that among the issues discussed was the South China Sea. Since the Chinese aggressive behavior in South and East China Sea has become a common topic of discussion among the strategic observers all over the world, the American Admiral’s discussion with top Indian military officials must have been watched by the Chinese observers with deep interest. Key player With US expressing its intent to project India as a key player in its  Rebalancing Asia policy, which is  viewed by the Chinese as the ganging up of nations against China, the  meeting of the US and
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Tilting balance
The rising military deployment in the Pacific With China significantly bolstering its navy and the US shifting its focus to the Asia Pacific region, both the powers seem to be on collision course. Since the region is rich in oil and gas and extremely crucial for global trade, Chinese policy to up the ante in the maritime area has compelled the US to give moral support on territorial disputes to its allies in the region by strengthening and relocating its forces. With increasing verbal duel and show of military strength between the Chinese and the Japanese navies for the Senkaku islands and Chinese decision to establish a city and the military garrison on the disputed Paracel islands claimed by Vietnam, China has stirred the East China Sea and the South China Sea. China has also laid claim to roughly whole of South China Sea, an area about two million square kms. Since the maritime area handles half the annual tonnage of international merchant navies and the region also sees a third of the world’s maritime traffic the powers who have a stake in maintaining the international character of the Ocean have moved forward to take on the Chinese intransigence. As almost 80 percent of China’s crude import passes through this maritime region, China has a natural interest in securing the sea lanes but its aggressive posture smacks of its desire to establish control over this maritime area, which is floating with estimated 130 billion barrels of crude oi
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Strengthening grip
China’s strategic relations with Sri Lanka China has further strengthened its strategic grip over Sri Lanka, as the President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his May end visit to Beijing, his sixth after the elimination of LTTE leaders and hardcore cadres, sealed fresh agreements to deepen Chinese involvement not only in training Sri Lankan defence forces and other areas of defence cooperation but also expanded its arms in the port sector from Hambantota to Colombo. Hambantota, which has already become a geopolitically controversial port development project by the Chinese, will allow the Chinese naval ships the facilities to refuel and rest while the Colombo port will be another ‘Pearl in the String’ which the Chinese have carefully woven around India but claims ignorance of such a strategy. The latest Sri Lanka-China joint statement, declaring to raise the defence relations to the level of full strategic partnership will add more fuel to the strategic fire likely to engulf the Indian Ocean in the near future. This will increase the level of suspicion not only in Indian strategic circles but also the international powers like US and Japan would not like China to get a foothold in the region. The Blue Book The latest Chinese Blue Book, released on 9th June, 2013, delineating China’s future role and strategy in the Indian Ocean has raised enough eyebrows and the Sri Lanka-China strategic partnerships agreement is only a manifestation o
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CoC needed
South China Sea challenges pose risks to ASEAN unity The ASEAN meeting in Brunei has ended with a joint communiqué which promises that ASEAN and China will work more closely to find an amicable solution to South China Sea dispute after Beijing agreed that it is ready to look into the drafting of a Code of Conduct. A CoC is necessary to bring down the tension in the South China Sea which can prevent parties to get into a confrontation either by choice or miscalculation but the outcome will be a disaster for the whole region. This time the leaders of Brunei, the current ASEAN Chair, at least showed remarkable courage and statesmanship to discuss the issue of South China Sea dispute which involves almost half of ASEAN members who are claimants of over 60 odd islands and tolls located in the blue ocean surface. Last year, around this time Cambodia which was previous ASEAN Chair, had failed to issue a joint communiqué that created lot of misunderstanding among ASEAN members as it was against the tradition of 45 years history of ASEAN.     The mutual understanding and collective security mechanism should be the ideal way to go for a lasting solution and it has been seen it has guaranteed stability and peace in the long term than trying to find a quick fix solution. Last month, during a seminar organized by Centre for Asian Strategic Studies-India (CASS-India) in Thai capital of Bangkok on ASEAN unity and maritime challenges in
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New orientation
Antony’s three nations visit and its significance At a time when the US Defence Secretary Chuck Hegel was elaborating the Pivot to Asia policy renamed as Rebalancing Asia, during the Shangri- la dialogue in Singapore in the first week of June, the Indian defence minister A K Antony was visiting those countries prominently included by the US in its rebalancing Asia strategy. The visit to Singapore, Australia and Thailand by the Indian defence minister drew the attention of strategic observers in China and other parts of the world which was indicative of the strategic direction India might take in the coming years. Coming immediately after the game changing visit to Tokyo by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in late May, Antony’s visit to the three countries reconfirmed India’s new strategic orientation. Though India would never commit to become a US Pivot to Asia but the way India has moved with the three US partner countries of the Rebalancing Asia policy, India seems to have tilted the balance in the US favor. Since India would not like to irritate or antagonize China it cannot apparently seem to be tilting the US balance in the Asia Pacific region but the joint statements issued after the interactions with the defence ministers of Australia, Singapore and Thailand was testimony to the fact that India would like to partner with the three countries to safeguard its maritime interests. With Singapore and Thailand, Indian
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Cajoling act
US woos Maldives with SOFA As Maldives prepares for Presidential election in September, a fierce debate is going on in the Maldivian political circles about the US offer to sign a Status of Forces Agreement. With the US focusing its strategy towards Asia Pacific by promoting its new Rebalancing Asia earlier called Pivot to Asia policy among the Asian powers, it seems to have chosen Maldives as one of the pivots on which it will deploy its military facilities. With China also making aggressive moves to lure Maldives in its strategic grip by offering substantial grants and assisting in many other developmental activities, the Maldivian archipelago seem to be turning into hot bed of super power rivalry. The ex-Maldivian President Mamoon Abudul Gayoom, who ruled with iron hand for 30 years and aligned only with India, has recently said during his India visit in early June, 2013 that “it is not good to make Maldives a hotbed of rivalries between superpowers. We do not want to be aligned to the west or the east.” But the way Maldives is being courted by big powers the Maldivian leaders will not take long to succumb to either of the powers. During his India visit in June, Gayoom voiced his opposition to the US offer and said that Maldives has been a member of NAM and will remain nonaligned. In the forthcoming elections his party has fielded his younger brother as the prospective Presidential candidate while the current President, Muhammad Waheed
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Timely steps
Era of unmanned coastal surveillance Many countries including India are facing the constant threats of terrorist infiltration via sea route. The real time monitoring of the thousands of vessels, big and tiny, are posing a big challenge to the security managers. After the November, 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, the Indian defence establishment has been on an overdrive to install surveillance systems on its 7000 kms long coastlines, comprising mainly the coastal radars but India will now be considering other surveillance systems which are appearing on the horizon. India has taken a number of steps during last few years towards making India’s coastal security more robust. The Indian Navy and Coast Guard have both experienced an unprecedented enhancement in their capabilities, which includes the installation of 46 coastal static radars, 36 in mainland and ten in island territories which would assist in monitoring and identification of maritime traffic. For synergizing coastal security operations the real time link between the operations room of the navy and coast guard is being made operational through the national command, control, communication and intelligence network project. This was done under the Phase-1 of the project, which has other important components like fitment of high end surveillance gadgets viz. Frequency Diversity Radar, Electro Optic sensors (Charge Coupled Device (CCD) Day Camera, Low Light TV (LLTV) Night Camera and Long Rang
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Countering hegemony
Roadmap to engage China along Indian borders It does not need a rocket scientist to understand the game that China and Pakistan are playing on the roof of the world. Its first impact is intended to be regional domination leading towards a bi-polar world. Should India stand by and watch it happen? STRATEGIC AFFAIRS, in earlier articles on the developments in the north Kashmir salient, has warned about the danger of India being sidelined even as its territory in Jammu and Kashmir, usurped by two of its neighbors, is to be used to fulfill their strategic goal. The goals of a linkup of territories with improved road, railways and oil and gas pipelines that will serve China’s interest by reducing travel time for fuel and commerce to days instead of weeks. It has suggested that the Government of India should refashion its negotiating stance and put it to China that since the large parts of the former princely State of Jammu and Kashmir are “disputed” the territory should not be treated as belonging to any one of the disputants and should be utilized for the mutual benefit of all three nations party to the “dispute”-India, China and Pakistan. China and Pakistan are already using the land to fulfill their geopolitical ambitions and the laying of the Karakoram Highway has facilitated this. To measure China’s true intentions India must make a proposal that the road in Aksai Chin, the original cause of military confrontation betwee
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Bridging gap
Coastal patrolling and unmanned surveillance After the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai and the feverish efforts launched to close the gaps in the maritime security infrastructure, India has come a long way in ensuring that another such attack from the sea will be more difficult to execute. How synergetic will be the effort will only be known when the next crisis occurs and we have another round of blame game and accusations as happened after the recent Chinese intrusion in the Depsang area of south-eastern fringe of Jammu and Kashmir below the Daulat Beg Oldi outpost. Defence Minister AK Antony is doing well to see that whatever is planned by way of equipment, sensors and fast interceptor boats and radars is implemented as per schedule. The first phase is completed and the second should create the seamless inter linkages between the Indian Navy led maritime assets and the facilities created by the States with maritime boundaries along the 7500 km coastline. Since the time the new security arrangement has been set in place there have been glaring lapses like the failure to intercept pirates using a hijacked commercial vessel as a mothership for terrorist activities in the mid-Arabian Sea; Somalian pirates operating close to the Lakshadweep group of islands off the western coast of the Indian peninsula; the derelict ship floating unnoticed across the north Arabian Sea all the way from the Gulf and spilling oil in Mumbai; and the legal complications that a
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Tackling predators
Anti-piracy operations in Gulf of Aden Piracy in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia, has become a destabilizing force in the region. The seas, as Global Commons, allow for nations to exercise community rights of peaceful use of the seas. The seas form a complex legal environment of flag state, port state and coastal state jurisdiction. With most oceans lying beyond coastal states’ jurisdictions, cooperation with flag states becomes essential. This implies the need for national, regional and international collaboration in order to secure the maritime domain, especially with regards to piracy. Efforts to build capacity for maritime security include several United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, regional and international initiatives. Asian involvement in this regard is increasingly visible, with India, Japan and China having recently begun coordinating their existing anti-piracy efforts in the region. The Republic of Korea has also now indicated interest in joining these efforts. Anti-piracy operations Over the last years, acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships off the coast of Somalia have increasingly gained the attention of world leaders and international organisations. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) first expressed concerns over an increase in piracy attacks in East Africa and the Indian Ocean in 2005. Another upsurge was marked in 2008 as the number of incidents in the region increased to 222 fro
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Strategic alliance
India-Japan economic engagement India-Japan strategic partnership can only be sustained on a long term basis on the solid foundation of deep economic engagement, for which Japan has provided enough fertilizer to nurture the relationship. Along with the promise to conclude the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement by the end of the year, other mega projects will help propel the bilateral economic and political relationship to unimaginable heights. The Civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Japan will help India enter many of the restricted nuclear clubs and trade regimes and encourage other countries also to respect India’s desire to promote civil nuclear energy. It is upto India to provide an enabling environment for not only the Japanese but other international investors to make the country an attractive place and worthy of engagement in the strategic areas. The kind of huge market and strategic possibilities that India has emerged has led the Japanese government to encourage its investors to consider India as an alternative to China, where they have till now made more than US$ 70 billion investment and conduct more than US$ 345 billion of bilateral trade. Promoting investment In fact the anti Japanese sentiments over the Senkaku/Diayou islands in China will force the Japanese business to seek greener pastures and India must seize the opportunity by putting its own house in order. During the visit of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Tok
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Searching for oasis
Water scarcity in West Asia and regional implications The area covered by the Persian Gulf and Northern Africa is the most water stressed region in the world. Being dry and arid, the area has limited natural resources of water and renewable water resources.  Roughly, the water resources here amount to three river basins-Tigris-Euphrates, Nile and the Jordan River Basin, which are suffering from very limited and rapidly diminishing fresh groundwater resources and desalination plants. The population is growing rapidly which is stressing the water crisis even more. This is despite the fact that most of the Arabian Peninsula is a desert and does not support much human settlement, except in areas with reasonable water resources such as oasis, coastal areas and river basins. The economies of the region have not been credited with a decent water management system which highlights the problem of diminishing water supply and increasing demand for it. Water crisis is a trans-border issue and so far the countries have not carved out any long term water sharing mechanisms. The lack of water is a sticky point and the contention lies in a sharing mechanism without which, water could potentially turn into a geo political concern and possibly, the cause for war. Given the other instabilities in the region and the stagnant state of economic development in the Middle East, local conflict dynamics are likely to deteriorate in the absence of a pragmatic solution to
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Rising fast
Growth of Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is one of the fastest growing terrorist organisations in the world. Not only has this group been able to recruit members from all over the northern African region-but it is also one of the wealthiest terrorists groups in Africa. With regards to becoming one of the most successful terrorists groups, the question can be posed: Does this group achieve these macabre heights through brutal combat and killings or is it the work of clever opportunists who know how to fend for themselves amidst local conflict and international intervention. In April 1999 about 700 Salafists broke away from the Group Islamique Arme (GIA) and formed the Groupe Salafiste pour la Predication et le Combat (GSPC). Since July 2004 Abdel-Malek Drukdal was the emir of the GSPC. In a video released on the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on America, Al Qaeda’s then second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri (later appointed as their leader), acted on command from Osama bin Laden and announced that the GSPC and Al-Qaeda has decided to join forces. The Egyptian terrorist-leader called this move a “blessed union” and said that it would become a source of frustration and sadness for the apostates of the regime in Algeria, who were referred to as the “sons” of the previous colonial power; France. In late January 2007 the Algerian Salafist group, GSPC, announced that they will undergo a
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New gimmick
Whether the visit of the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang will result in a new chapter or simply add a new page in Sino Indian relations only time will tell, but it can be said without doubt that his visit has sown the seeds of a new chapter which will flower only if India plays its cards well. Though Li’s visit could also be termed as an exercise in Public Relations, India needs to cash in on the goodwill Li has tried to create between the two countries. The Depsang incursion in the western Ladakh and the three week military standoff from 15th April to 5th May, 2013 has in a way proved good for India as the issue helped India raise the issue of unresolved border dispute at a very high pitch and the issue hovered over the summit meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Li Keqiang and dominated the media discourse before and during the visit of the Chinese leader from 19th to 22nd May, 2013. The Depsang issue helped India inject a sense of realism in ties and the Chinese Premier was defenceless and could not publicly offer an explanation. Border issue resolution The rising profile of India as an economic and military power and as a prominent player in world politics gave enough courage to Singh to talk to Li in a very frank and candid manner and successfully drove home the point to the Chinese leader that without forward movement on the issue of border resolution, no headway could be made in the strategic relationship between the
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Groping in dark
Boston bombing: A foreign or domestic attack? The attack at Boston marathon that caught everyone’s attention on April 15 has raised many unanswered questions. The main questions of who could be behind the attack and why have ended up giving unsatisfying answers and created several conspiracy theories. What has been made public about the attack, is the fact that explosion was caused by pressure cookers. Similar kind of bombs were used in 2010 New York Square bombing attempt, which first brought allegations to those two attacks being related with each other. The fact that pressure cooker bombs have been used in many terrorist attacks in South Asia and have also been favoured by Al Qaeda affiliated groups created discussions whether the attackers could be part of a bigger organized terrorist group. However, as pressure cooker bombs are generally quite common homemade bombs and of relatively cheap cost, there is absolutely no basis to give ground for such allegations. Even more so in view of the fact that no terrorist group has claimed responsibility - or taken credit - for this attack. The fact that the explosive ingredients discovered have been of low quality supports the allegation of the attackers acting without major support-or at least not having (used) access to more sophisticated and expensive weaponry. Chechen background Until now two brothers have been blamed for the attack: Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Much of the news follow
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Emerging axis
Will India add shine to the Democratic Diamond? Amidst the race to lure nations in its camp in the fast changing geopolitical equations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh  charted a path breaking visit to Japan, sending strong signals to China, whose leaders were obviously perturbed by the developing proximity between India and Japan. The kind of below the  belt comments that emanated from Beijing, even before the two nations could issue joint statement, describing Japan as petty burglar, was indicative of the nervousness  in the Zhongnanhai , the seat of Chinese power. Though Japan and India entered into the Global and Strategic partnership in 2006, the two nations sat down with greater sincerity and purpose for the first time to give effect to this resolve, which has the potentials of creating a new strategic equation in the Asia Pacific region. In the background of the new US policy of Rebalancing Asia or Pivot to Asia, the Chinese PM had embarked on a protocol breaking first overseas trip to India and launched a charm offensive to lure the Indians into its fold. But only a week later, the Indian Prime Minister landed in Tokyo and very demonstrably conveyed a message to the Chinese and the world powers that India would rather add shine to the Democratic Security Diamond. Maritime cooperation It was proposed by Shinzo Abe, who had said “I envisage a strategy whereby Australia, India, Japan, and the US state of Hawaii form a dia
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