Saturday, December 15, 2012

The sixth warfare domain: Human brain under attack…..

Hussain Saqib

The conqueror of the world is the one who conquers hearts
-Iqbal, poet philosopher

Winning hearts and minds has always been the ultimate objective of any war because without winning hearts and minds, the victory cannot become sustainable. A rough translation of the poetry of great Oriental poet philosopher quoted above says it all in a poetic manner. By conquering hearts, he definitely meant winning hearts and minds. In Oriental poetry heart always meant mind.

Experts have been working on this enterprise for a fairly long time. They don’t call it winning of hearts and minds; in their own lingo they describe it as hacking of human brain. In this, they are not talking about winning hearts and minds per se, they are working on “capturing” the brain which houses the mind. If they succeed, they will introduce the latest domain, sixth of a series, of the warfare domains.  Traditionally, the warfare was limited to land, sea and air. Then the fourth domain of space was added. It was further extended to the fifth domain; the cyberspace. But now there’s a sixth and arguably more important war-fighting domain emerging: the human brain.

According to an article titled Hacking the Human Brain: The Next Domain of Warfare which appeared in WIRED, this new battle-space is not just about influencing hearts and minds with people seeking information. It’s about involuntarily penetrating, shaping, and coercing the mind in the ultimate realization of Clausewitz’s definition of war: compelling an adversary to submit to one’s will. And the most powerful tool in this war is brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies, which connect the human brain to devices. Current BCI work ranges from researchers compiling and interfacing neural data such as in the Human Conectome Project to work by scientists hardening the human brain against rubber hose cryptanalysis to technologists connecting the brain to robotic systems. While these groups are streamlining the BCI for either security or humanitarian purposes, the reality is that misapplication of such research and technology has significant implications for the future of warfare.

Where BCIs can provide opportunities for injured or disabled soldiers to remain on active duty post-injury, enable paralyzed individuals to use their brain to type, or allow amputees to feel using bionic limbs, they can also be exploited if hacked. BCIs can be used to manipulate … or kill. Recently, security expert Barnaby Jack demonstrated the vulnerability of biotechnological systems by highlighting how easily pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) could be hacked, raising fears about the susceptibility of even life-saving biotechnological implants. This vulnerability could easily be extended to biotechnologies that connect directly to the brain, such as vagus nerve stimulation or deep-brain stimulation. Outside the body, recent experiments have proven that the brain can control and maneuver quadcopter drones and metal exoskeletons. How long before we harness the power of mind-controlled weaponized drones – or use BCIs to enhance the power, efficiency, and sheer lethality of our soldiers?

Given that military research arms such as the United States’ DARPA are investing in understanding complex neural processes and enhanced threat detection through BCI scan for P300 responses, it seems the marriage between neuroscience and military systems will fundamentally alter the future of conflict. And it is here that military researchers need to harden the systems that enable military application of BCIs. We need to prevent BCIs from being disrupted or manipulated, and safeguard against the ability of the enemy to hack an individual’s brain.

The possibilities for damage, destruction, and chaos are very real. This could include manipulating a soldier’s BCI during conflict so that s/he were forced to pull the gun trigger on friendlies, install malicious code in his own secure computer system, call in inaccurate coordinates for an air strike, or divulge state secrets to the enemy seemingly voluntarily. Whether an insider has fallen victim to BCI hacking and exploits a system from within, or an external threat is compelled to initiate a physical attack on hard and soft targets, the results would present major complications: in attribution, effectiveness of kinetic operations, and stability of geopolitical relations.

Like every other domain of warfare, says the article, the mind as the sixth domain is neither isolated nor removed from other domains; coordinated attacks across all domains will continue to be the norm. It’s just that military and defense thinkers now need to account for the subtleties of the human mind … and our increasing reliance upon the brain-computer interface. Regardless of how it will look, though, the threat is real and not as far away as we would like – especially now that researchers just discovered a zero-day vulnerability in the brain.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

India’s Scorpenes project runs into snags as its submarine fleet nears depletion….

Hussain Saqib

India’s plans to counterweight Pakistan’s submarine capability, and have an edge over China’s inferior submarine technology forced it to go for French submarine, a sister boat of Pakistan’s Agosta. But its plans have run into snags and have been severely frustrated. The blame has been laid at the door of “procurement bureaucracy” which is being targeted for a massive cost-escalation and huge time over-run which will seriously damage the combat capabilities of India Navy. On the strength of its Navy, India was poised to serve global American interests in Indian Ocean and, by extension, in the Pacific.

India may have acquired a nuclear-powered submarine of a very old Russian vintage, it only serves the purpose of power projection. The toothless power, so to say. But its project of development of conventional submarine, Scorpene, in India under a transfer-of-technology program is not faring any better. The whistle-blower report of India’s Auditor-General, the Controller and Auditor-General (CAG), raises alarms and concerns.

The report is clearly critical of the Scorpene acquisition. Indian Defense Minister had to admit to India’s Parliament that the project was running about 2 years behind schedule, due to “some teething problems, absorption of technology, delays in augmentation of industrial infrastructure and procurement of MDL purchased materials (MPM).” The CAG report criticizes the fact that the submarine requirement was approved in 1997, but no contract was signed until 2005, and then for only 6 of the envisioned 24 boats. Overall, the project cost had increased from Rs 12,609 crore in October 2002 to Rs 15,447 crore by October 2005 when the contract was signed. Once it was signed, the CAG believes that “the contractual provisions resulted in undue financial advantage to the vendor of a minimum of Rs 349 crore.”

The overall project, which includes a submarine construction facility at Mazagon Dockyards Ltd. (MDL), is placed at Rs 18,798 crore, or 187.98 billion rupees (currently about $4 billion). The Times of India believes that the final program cost will be over Rs 20,000 crore (currently about $4.3 billion), as the cost of key equipment that MDL shipyards needs is rising quickly. Rediff News notes other excerpts from the CAG report, adding that an accompanying Rs 1,062 crore deal for Exocet anti-ship missiles will have issues of its own:

“But even before the missiles become operational on the submarine, the warranty period of first two batches of the missiles supplied by the company would have expired, it added. India also extended to the [submarine] vendor “Wide ranging concessions” on warranty, performance bank guarantee, escalation formula, arbitration clause, liquidated damages, agency commission and performance parameters….”

The update on the project is that the program has been delayed several times and the price has gone up to $5 billion ($834 million each), a cost-over-run of 25%. While this effort will leave India with thousands of workers and specialists experienced in building modern submarines, all that will be wasted due to this delay. The deal was mismanaged to the extent that it is now three years behind schedule. But it is even more behind schedule if you count the several years delay in even getting started. The original plan was to have the first Indian built Scorpene delivered at the end of this year. But now, because of problems getting the construction facilities and skilled workmen ready, the first Scorpene won't be delivered until 2015, with one each year after that until all six are delivered. That schedule is subject to change, and probably will, for the worse. 

According to Strategy Page, this is a not a good news because India's submarine fleet is dying of old age and new boats are not going to arrive in time. The plan was to have a dozen new subs in service by the end of the decade. At present, there will be (with a bit of luck) six of them in service by then. The procurement bureaucracy is still seeking a supplier for the second six diesel-electric subs. There's some urgency to all this because this year, five of India's 16 diesel-electric subs (10 Kilo and two Foxtrot class Russian built boats and four German Type 209s) were to be retired (some are already semi-retired because of age and infirmity). Type 209s are being kept in service but not allowed out to sea much for several more years, because of project delay. That leaves India with 14 subs. But in the next year or so several of the older Kilos will reach retirement age. Thus, by the time the first Scorpene arrives in 2015, India will only have five or six working subs. India believes it needs at least 18 non-nuclear subs in service to deal with Pakistan and China. India is also building and buying nuclear subs. India received a Russian Akula nuclear attack (SSN) sub earlier this year. This one is on lease with the option to buy. Indian SSNs and SSBNs (missile carrying boats) are under development, as they have been for decades.

According to comparative technical details publically available, the Scorpenes are similar to the Agosta 90B subs (also French) that Pakistan bought in 1990s. The first of the Agostas was built in France, but the other two were built in Pakistan. The Scorpenes purchase was seen as a response to the Pakistani Agostas. The Scorpene are a more recent design, the result of cooperation between French and Spanish sub builders. The Agosta is a 1,500 ton (surface displacement) diesel-electric sub with a 36 man crew and four 533mm (21 inch) torpedo tubes (with 20 torpedoes and/or anti-ship missiles carried). The Scorpene is a little heavier (1,700 tons), has a smaller crew (32), and is a little faster. It has six 533mm torpedo tubes and carries 18 torpedoes and/or missiles. Both models can be equipped with an AIP (air independent propulsion) system. This enables the sub to stay under longer, thus making the sub harder to find. AIP allows the sub to travel under water for more than a week, at low speed (5-10 kilometers an hour). The Pakistanis have an option to retrofit AIP in their current two Agostas.

While India was largely concerned with the Pakistani navy when the Scorpene contract was negotiated and signed, China is now seen as the primary adversary due to a new role assigned to India by the US. The Chinese subs are not as effective as the Pakistani boats; both because of less advanced technology and less well trained crews. India could use their Scorpenes to confront any Chinese attempt to expand their naval presence into the Indian Ocean. Thus the delays and cost overruns with the Scorpenes are causing quite a lot of commotion in India. But at the rate India is going, it will be nearly a decade before all six of the Scorpenes are in service. At that point, India would have about a dozen subs (including nuclear powered models under construction). China will have over 60 boats, about 20 percent of them nuclear. China does have a lot for its warships to deal with off its coasts and in the Western Pacific but it does retain the capability of putting more subs off the Indian coast than can the Indian Navy.

Monday, November 5, 2012

What are the short-term objectives of Baloch insurgents?

Pakistan’s populist Supreme Court is seized with the issue of insurgency in Balochistan. Every word of observations that the honorable judges utter during the proceedings turns into music for anti-Pakistan media. It is the very same media which has launched campaign against Pakistan in general and its security forces in particular. The basis for the sinister campaign is perceived brutalities of the security forces in Balochistan.
Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province, is no ordinary piece of land; its geographical location and its untapped mineral reserves make it a target of special interest among players of regional politics including the US, India, former Soviet Union, UAE and even Afghanistan. All these countries have one converging interest in Balochistan; the province should become an independent state in their geo-strategic interests. Located very close to the oil lanes of the Persian Gulf and having a common border with Iran and Afghanistan, Balochistan is strategically very important. Commanding almost the entire coast of the country – 470 miles of the Arabian Sea, and boasting of a deep sea port recently completed with Chinese assistance at Gwadar, Balochistan comprises 43 per cent of Pakistan’s total area but is home to just over five per cent of the population, 50 per cent of which are ethnic Pakhtuns. Balochistan has always been ruled autocratically by sardars (tribal chiefs) who have kept their people backward, illiterate and deprived.
These sardars have been extorting billions each year from big corporations, federal government and equal billions in the name of development funds. They remain up in arms against the government to keep the funds flowing. Their other sources of funding are money from regional players channeled as donations. Mainly three sardars of Bugti, Marri and Mengal tribes have been in revolt against the federation from time to time. These sardars used to inflame nationalist sentiments and demand for greater provincial autonomy and control over the province’s natural resources developed into a demand for independence. The armed insurgent group, Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has been active in acts of terrorism to keep the province destabilized for various long-term and short-term objectives which serve the interests of sole civil power and the states under its influence.
According to Institute for Study of Violent Groups, BLA was formed in 1999 and has 500 active members. Like many guerrilla and terrorist groups, the BLA has a structure comprised of both paramilitary and cellular components. The majority of the organization is composed of various units assigned to different training camps under various leaders, but some are assigned to urban cells and are responsible for the planting of explosives and reconnoitering targets. Some of the cells are ad hoc and once a BLA member has completed a mission, he may return to his paramilitary unit. There is no shortage of weapons in Balochistan available to the militants; many are regularly supplied from across Pakistan-Afghanistan border courtesy a host of “consulates” established for this very purpose. Other weapons are left over from previous conflicts in Afghanistan.  Common weapons in the region include Russian Kalashnikovs, RPGs (rocket propelled grenades), and various types of land mines.
Pakistan has always asserted that an “outside hand” is playing a role in the Baloch insurgency, though conclusive determinations are difficult to come by. One of the most widely cited examples of outside aid occurred in 1973 when Pakistan authorities entered the Iraqi embassy in Islamabad and uncovered a small arsenal of weapons, including 300 submachine guns and 48,000 rounds of ammunition. Akbar Bugti extended a helping hand in dismissal of ANP government and was made governor as a reward. He is the one who supervised the worst military operation against the insurgents. The government claimed that the arms were destined for Balochistan; these accusations were never proven. 
The BLA is not believed to have an organized recruitment effort in place; rather, the group is capitalizing on popular sentiment in the province and giving Balochs with nationalist tendencies a way to fight back at the government. The chief means of attracting poor, uneducated Baloch youths are the dozens of training camps believed to be in operation in the province. The group’s targeting and tactics are designed to reduce the economic incentive for the central government’s presence in the province.  Accordingly, sites where natural resources are harvested by the government are the most common target; these include natural gas pipelines and oil fields.  Soldiers and civilians working in government capacities in Quetta are also prominent targets, in addition to journalists.  The BLA has shown equal proficiency with both bombings and armed assault, though it appears that members prefer the use of RPGs as opposed to planted explosives, some of which appear to have been planted by younger members with little or no insurgency experience.
The insurgents and their sponsors may have disintegration of Pakistan and establishment of an independent state of Balochistan as their long-term objective but their short-term objectives are very clear; closing down of deep-sea port of Gwadar and failing Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. India and UAE have direct stakes in the first objective whereas the US does not want to allow the pipeline project to go ahead. Gwadar port has both strategic and commercial implications for UAE and India. Chinese involvement in building the port, aimed at generating economic activity in Balochistan and facilitating the Chinese to import oil and raw materials from the Middle East and Africa and export goods through a land corridor extending from Gwadar to China’s Sinkiang province, became the sore of many eyes. An oil refinery in Gwadar and recovering huge mineral deposits in the province to serve as the precursor of another enormous economic opportunity – a trade corridor for Central Asia, particularly for its oil and gas.
Dissident sardars rose up in arms in an effort to destroy the project and its profound impact on Balochistan’s economy for fear of losing their hold on the people. In a sustained campaign, aided and abetted by outside interests opposed to Gwadar port, fears were expressed that this was an effort to colonize Balochistan. In this backdrop, a low intensity insurgency festered in Balochistan for a few decades now.
India began meddling in Afghanistan in the mid-1970s in the post-Bangladesh era. By fostering an insurgency, India tried the same model in Balochistan – exploiting the disaffection between the state and the dissident sardars. The aim was to deny Pakistan the energy resources, bleed it economically, and fragment it ultimately. The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) – the most active insurgent group today, made its debut in 1973. Arms from the former Soviet Union found their way into the province and many insurgents were clandestinely trained and educated there. Down the road India became concerned at the development of Gwadar port which, besides making the Baloch people economically independent, was to be of strategic importance to the Pakistan Navy. India did not like the Chinese presence at Gwadar as this was to interfere with its desire of controlling the Indian Ocean region with its upcoming blue water navy. Leaders of Baloch insurgencies have publicly listed India among their sponsors. Brahamdagh Bugti, a BLA leader, said that he accepted assistance from India and Afghanistan to defend the Baloch nationalist cause.
Baloch Media Network quotes Wahid Baloch, President of Baloch Society of North America, as saying, “We love our Indian friends and want them to help and rescue us from tyranny and oppression. In fact, India is the only country which has shown concern over the Baloch plight. We want India to take Balochistan’s issue to every international forum, the same way Pakistan has done to raise the so-called Kashmiri issue. We want India to openly support our just cause and provide us with all moral, financial, military and diplomatic support.” Not to be left behind was the former RAW agent B. Raman who wrote this to Sonia Gandhi: “struggle for an independent Balochistan is part of the unfinished agenda of the partition”. With Afghanistan coming under US occupation, Mossad, MI6 and the CIA jumped into the fray with an agenda of Greater Balochistan, providing new partners to India.
Small pockets of local resistance mushroomed into organized foreign funded, armed groups, which were discretely supported by the three dissident tribal chiefs. As a hub for joint operations, India established a ring of 26 consulates along the Balochistan border in Afghanistan and Iran that began funding, training and arming the dissidents.
Interestingly, major stakeholders of insurgency are not the common people of Balochistan. The insurgent groups are led by the scions of the three rebel chiefs who are in line to succeed their aging patriarchs. The movement offers no substitute to the Sardari system. By creating instability through acts of terrorism they hope to chase the Chinese away and create obstacles for the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, which is opposed by Washington.
According to the analysis of Baloch Media Network, the selection of targets and use of modern weapons demonstrates quite clearly that the dissidents have been trained by military experts. Insurgencies of this magnitude cannot last without very large funds that the insurgents cannot raise on their own. According to an estimate the financial outlay for BLA alone is 50-90 million rupees per month. Reportedly, massive cash is flowing into their hands from Afghanistan through American defence contractors, CIA foot soldiers and free lancers. The Americans have developed an interest in Balochistan for several reasons. It is the only available route for transportation of oil and gas from Central Asian and Caspian Sea region after alternate routes via Russia or China were not found feasible. Then Balochistan itself had an estimated 19 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and six trillion barrels of oil reserves in addition to gold, copper and other minerals, making it attractive for exploration. Like the Indians, the Americans also did not like the Chinese breathing down their neck in Gwadar – so uncomfortably close to the oil lanes of the Straits of Hormuz and the US bases in the Indian Ocean, although at no point did Pakistan and China contemplate Gwadar to become a Chinese military base. Balochistan shares a long border with Iran along Iranian Balochistan, which is inhabited by a large Baloch population.
Look at the demand of Baloch sardars which was accepted for political expedience; remove army cantonments and garrisons from Balochistan. The armed forces are virtually absent from Balochistan yet they are held accountable for act of brutality unleashed by the terrorists. The BLA have all the characteristics of a foreign funded terrorist organization. It has massacred thousands of innocent civilians simply in order to spread fear and keep the province destabilized to serve foreign interests. Its victims include Punjabi settlers and even Baloch youth itself. Its tactics are the very same employed by Mukti Bahini in East Pakistan insurgency. They kill, loot and vandalize in the garb of security agencies’ personnel and successfully manipulate the obliging media. Yet it has not been declared a terror outfit because it is sponsored by CIA, MI5 and RAW besides intelligence agencies of UAE and Afghanistan. The reasons are obvious.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

RealPolitik: Pakistan reaches out to Russia to change the contours of a unipolar world.....


When President Putin postponed his visit to Pakistan in 2012, the most jubilant countries were India and the US but it was subsequently revealed that this postponement did not mean anything to lift the spirits of Cold War adversaries now turned into allies. The on-going visit to Russia by Gen Raheel Sharif, Pakistan's most powerful stakeholder is a sufficient indication of realpolitik. Cold War adversaries are switching partners and the events are unfolding so swiftly that it has become difficult to keep track of who will be whose friend after Americans pack up from Kabul and leave. One thing is for sure; foes of yesterday will be compelled by the realities of realist politics of today to switch sides and embrace each other.

Russia of today is the successor of Soviet empire of yester-years, though reduced to much smaller in size. Russia, and then the USSR, which played for centuries the Great Game for gaining influence and foothold in Central Asia and get a direct access to Kabul finally lost the Game to the West in the battlefields of Afghanistan. Along with this defeat, it also lost its imperial glory by ceding a sizable portion of its territory to independent Central Asian States. It, however, seems that it never gave up its ambitions on Afghanistan; it has been watching with amused interest the plight of NATO forces in Afghanistan. It had read the writing on the wall and was confident that NATO would not meet a fate different from what it itself encountered after a decade-long war of 1980s.

Russia under Putin has revived its hope in Afghanistan and is moving to deepen its geo-economic ties with South Asia as a whole, with Pakistan serving as a gateway for energy trade to the entire subcontinent in advance of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2014. Badly bruised by harsh treatment meted out by the Americans, Pakistan feels compelled to look towards not only its old friend China but also its longtime adversary, Russia. If India after having been in the cold during Cold War can warm up to the US, why can’t Pakistan hope to be friends with Russia? This is what the realist politics is all about. For Pakistan, Russia can not only help the civilian government in Islamabad to shore up its economic record, it can also offer an alternative source of military hardware to the country’s armed forces. Diversifying its sources of military supplies has taken on new-found importance for Islamabad given Washington’s increasing reluctance to supply the full spectrum of arms and China’s continued inability to meet all of Pakistan’s requirements.

To understand the potentials of Pak-Russia friendship, we will have to make an assessment of the present state of US-Russia relations. This subject has dominated the foreign policy debates of both the major contenders of power in next presidential elections of the US which are just round the corner. The Obama administration is being harshly criticized by the opponents for its increased focus on its Pacific Century and allocation of future military and political resources to contain China. In their view, Russia under president Putin is a much greater threat to American ambitions than China. According to Foreign Policy, Russia is the major counterweight to American power and influence. A huge country that straddles what the great geographer Halford Mackinder called the Eurasian “heartland” is sure to operate with substantial effect in the world. A country with thousands of nuclear weapons, still-substantial armed services, and a cornucopia of natural resources will have its innings in high politics. Republican presidential candidate, Romney’s assertions about Russia should be seen less as stale strategic thinking and more as a critique of Barack Obama’s looming “Pacific shift,” which implies that China has moved into position as our top geopolitical foe. Yet Beijing, in the throes of modernization and heavily weighed down by a massive population, increasingly urgent energy needs, and a troubled political transition can hardly be seen as new No. 1 geopolitical foe of the US.

According to this analysis, China’s military is still decades away from having any kind of ability to project force over meaningful distances. The 100-mile width of the Taiwan Strait could just as easily be a thousand miles, given China’s lack of force-projection capability. Even the quite large People’s Liberation Army is full of question marks, with few substantive changes evident since it got such a bloody nose during the 1979 war with Vietnam. To be sure, the Chinese navy is very innovative, with its emerging swarms of small, short-ranging missile boats. And Chinese hackers are among the best in the world. But these capabilities hardly form the leading edge of a global military power.

This, by implication, suggests that with Russia’s greater capabilities, and intentions so clearly and so often inimical to American interests, the smart geopolitical move now would be for Washington to embrace Beijing more closely, giving Moscow a lot more to think about on its eastern flank. This was a strategic shift that worked well for President Richard Nixon 40 years ago, when he first played “the China card”; it might do nicely again today.

The present US-China relations do not suggest any potential conflict given the fact that U.S. trade with China amounts to more than half a trillion dollars annually — more than ten times the level of Russo-American economic interaction. And Beijing also serves as a major creditor. It simply makes little sense to provoke China, as Obama’s announced Pacific shift already has. If Romney is right about the return of post-Soviet Russia as the world’s bête noire, then any American Pacific shift should be more about alliance with, rather than alienation of, Beijing.

The Russian stance on the issues of US intervention in Syria for regime-change clearly suggest the divergence of interests of both the countries. With reinstallation of president Putin in Moscow, hopes that Russia will support any American initiative are fading away. According to a report by Brookings, the US has a list of demands which Russia may not accept. These include further reductions of nuclear arms, including non-strategic nuclear weapons; a cooperative NATO-Russia missile defense arrangement; joint efforts to deal with the proliferation challenges posed by North Korea and Iran; and consultation on steps to bolster security and stability in Central Asia as the NATO coalition prepares to withdraw its military forces from Afghanistan. The United States is trying to explore ways to increase trade and investment relations with Russia, which could help build a foundation for a more sustainable relationship.

President Putin’s re-election is considered a major challenge to smooth-sailing from the American point of view. Mr. Putin spent his formative years in the 1980s as a KGB officer. As his rhetoric during the election campaign made clear, he holds a wary skepticism about U.S. goals and policies. For example, his comments suggest he does not see the upheavals that swept countries such as Georgia, Ukraine, Tunisia or Egypt as manifestations of popular discontent but instead believes they were inspired, funded and directed by Washington. This may seem like a paranoiac view, but Mr. Putin has made so many allusions to it that it is hard to conclude that he does not believe it. That is a complicating factor for the bilateral relationship.

According to Brookings, Mr. Putin’s experience as president dealing with the Bush administration was not a happy one. In 2001-02, he supported U.S. military action against the Taliban, including overruling his advisers to support the deployment of U.S. military units into Central Asia; shut down the Russian signals intelligence facility in Lourdes, Cuba; agreed to deepen relations with NATO; calmly accepted the administration’s decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; and agreed to a minimalist arms control agreement that fell far short of Moscow’s desires. In his view, he received little in return. His perception is that Washington made no effort to accommodate Moscow’s concerns on issues such as the future of strategic arms limits, missile defense deployments in Europe, NATO enlargement, relations with Russia’s neighbors in the post-Soviet space or graduating Russia from the Jackson-Vanik amendment.

As against yesterday, Mr. Putin faces a tougher opposition at home. Soviet and Russian leaders in the past resorted to the image of a foreign adversary—all too often the United States—to rally domestic support, and one can see aspects of that in Mr. Putin’s campaign rhetoric. But the constituency to whom that appeals is already largely on Mr. Putin’s side. He may conclude that he can focus better on his domestic challenges if his foreign policy results in more positive relations with countries such as the United States. The upshot is that Mr. Putin’s return can and probably will mean more bumpiness in the U.S.-Russia relationship. He will pursue his view of Russian interests. On certain issues, those will conflict with U.S. interests, and Washington and Moscow will disagree, perhaps heatedly.

In this state of US-Russia relationship, Pakistan sees its opportunity in warming up to Russia after 2014. Despite postponement of much-awaited visit of president Putin to Pakistan,the two significant visits of Pakistan’s army and air chiefs to Russia give some indications of the future Pakistan-Russia relations.

According to an assessment of warming up Pakistan-Russia relations carried out by Reuters, bilateral visits alone don’t transform ties, and especially ones with a troubled history behind them. And then there is India to be factored in, both for Russia and Pakistan.  Moscow has long stood in India’s corner from  the days of the Cold War to its role as a top weapons supplier to the Indian military, still ahead of the Israelis fast clawing their way into one of the world’s most lucrative arms markets. A nuclear-powered submarine has just sailed from Russia to be inducted into the Indian navy - a force-multiplier in the military with the sub’s ability to stay beneath waters long and deep and far from home. But the stepped up Russia-Pakistan diplomacy suggests a thawing of ties at the very least. And at another level, by raising the quality and quantity of these exchanges, is Russia signaling it will pursue a multi-vectored policy in a fast changing South Asia? Tanvir Ahmad Khan, a former Pakistani foreign secretary who was also once the country’s ambassador to Moscow, says the two countries are on the verge of ending a “long history of estrangement” and that two factors have led to this landmark development. One is that there is now a national consensus in Pakistan to engage Russia earnestly, and two, “Vladimir Putin’s Russia has read the regional and global scene afresh and recognized Pakistan’s role as a factor of peace and stability.”

Pakistan’s compulsion to diversify its foreign partners lies in its present ties with the United States which have soured so much that Pakistan can no longer be considered as an ally, ready to do its bidding as in the proxy war against the Red Army in Afghanistan. And India’s ties with the United States, on the other hand, have been transformed, with Washington virtually legitimizing it as the world’s sixth nuclear weapon state, something that even Russia never went as far to support during all the years as close allies. And if India and the United States are holding ever so advanced  joint military exercises (there is one going on now in the Rajasthan desert which has a border with Pakistan) and considering multi-billion dollar defense deals as part of a new booming strategic relationship, Russia and Pakistan are also looking at launching  military exchanges. Last year the commander of the Russian ground forces, Col-Gen Alexander Postinov, was in Pakistan and according to Pakistani newspapers discussed with Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani the possibility of expanding defense ties by holding joint military exercises, exchanging trainees and trainers and selling and buying weapons, although it seems these were to be confined to counter-terrorism equipment.

It may be interesting to know that the 50 JF-17 Thunder fighter planes that China is supplying to Pakistan use a Russian engine, and it’s likely that Russia gave the green signal for China to go ahead. New Delhi was probably not impressed, but it has kept its silence. Russia is also reported to have indicated its willingness to get involved in the 1,640 km TAPI project bringing piped gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and into energy-starved Pakistan and India, a project that has been hanging fire for years. Russian investors were also interested in the Thar coal project which involves developing a large energy complex in Sindh province to produce 6,000 MW of coal-based power and introduce to the country the concept of gasification and production of liquid fuel from coal.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan make a difficult triangle….

Hussain Saqib

Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia make a very complex triangle of relationships. Unfortunately, Pakistan can enjoy good relationships with only one of them. Our strategic compulsions, however, do not allow us to abandon any one of them. Iran is Pakistan’s Western neighbor and sits on the periphery of Pakistan’s most troubled province, Balochistan. Iran has a Balochistan of its own and figures in the international conspiracies to carve out an Independent Balochistan comprising Pakistani and Iranian Balochistan. Jundullah, an anti-Iran terrorist group operating from Pakistan is sponsored and funded by the CIA. Pakistan has to collaborate with Iran to fight and neutralize separatist elements in Balochistan.
Iran holds the key to regional peace; Afghanistan being center of gravity. Iran has its stakes and influence in non-Pashtun Afghanistan. It has military ties with India and its Chabahar port, very close to Gwadar, was built by India to encircle Pakistan, in line with its strategic objectives. If Pakistan antagonizes Iran, it risks increased Indian influence on its West and South-West. It will be a tough task with India all poised to assume greater role in Afghanistan after NATO drawdown of troops. It may be kept in mind that in order to develop Chabahar port, India has already built road infrastructure on Iran-Afghanistan border spending $750 million which will provide an access to Central Asia from Iran and neutralize the positive outcome of Gwadar port for Pakistan. It is for this reason that India and US are investing funds in Balochistan insurgency to prevent Pakistan and China from taking advantage of Gwadar. Gwadar will only be useful after Pakistan build roads and rail infrastructure in Balochistan which, given the intensity of insurgency, is not possible for Pakistan anytime soon.
Pakistan’s geo-strategic location is very interesting. It is very close to the mouth of Strait of Hormuz and every ship carrying all oil for East of Pakistan passes through North Arabian Sea i.e. Pakistan’s territorial waters. Any tension in the region and an imminent clash of interest of the world with Iran will direct impact Pakistan’s economic, political and strategic stability.
Pakistan is an energy deficient country. The natural answer to this problem is import of gas from Iran for which IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline project was initiated. Fearing incidental benefits of this project to China and also under US pressure, India is already out of this project. Pakistan is also under immense US pressure to abandon the project and concentrate on a very unfeasible TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline project. Pakistan has yet not abandoned IP project and is a target of fury of US and its allies. Though Pakistan is still a part of the deal but its lukewarm response is already frustrating Iran.  Any delay in launching the pipeline project will cost Pakistan Iran’s goodwill
Another difficult development is Iran’s pursuit of its nuclear program. This also threatens the regional peace with India and Pakistan already in possession of nuclear capabilities. Iran’s nuclear program threatens Israel and the US-Israel nexus can go to any limit to deprive Iran of this capability.
This is where the Saudi strategic interests figure in. Saudi Arabia has been Iran’s traditional adversary. These adversarial relationships were under wraps prior to 1979 when both the countries were America’s Cold War allies but the these adversarial relationships intensified after Iran was ruled by religious clergy whose religious beliefs are opposed to those of Saudi Arabia. Both the countries have not fought any war so far but they are in proxy war since 1979 and the battle field, unfortunately, has been Pakistan. Sectarian violence intensified in Pakistan causing deaths and bitterness and polarizing Pakistani society. Saudi Arabia does not approve of Pakistan’s close relations with Iran and tries to drive wedge between the two neighboring countries. Increased attacks on Hazaras of Balochistan and other Shia pilgrims by pro-Saudi extremists outfits is a clear indication that Saudi Arabia can go to any limit to teach Pakistan a lesson for its Iran relations.
Iran’s nuclear program is viewed a direct threat, not only to Israel but also Saudi Arabia and its allies. Recent troubles in Bahrain against the ruling regime supported by Saudi Arabia triggered under Iranian influence played a great part in further worsening Iran-Saudi Arabia relationships. It is generally assumed that any possible strike on Iran’s nuclear installations will have a tacit approval and support of Saudi Arabia. There were rumors in the recent past that Saudi Arabia had offered Israel to use its airspace for aerial attacks on Iran.
Pakistan’s economy depends on Saudi Arabia in more than one ways. Nearly 60% of foreign remittances, a life blood for Pakistan’s economy, come for Pakistani diaspora working in Saudi Arabia and its allied countries. These workers not only bring petro-dollars, they also harbor close sympathy with these Arab countries. This gives a great leverage to Saudi Arabia to meddle in Pakistan’s affairs directly and also through right-wing clergy funded by Saudis. This clergy was strengthened in Afghan jihad through massive donations which promoted Wahabi Islam and its violent side in Pakistan. The extremists in Pakistan are still sympathetic to Saudi Arabia and derive strength from its religious policies of intolerance.
In addition to this, Pakistan has to depend on Saudi oil to power its economy which is available on deferred payments. Saudi Arabia is practically a US-satellite country. Pakistan often uses Saudi influence to reach out to the US in difficult times. Like other financial institutions, Saudis also extend economic cooperation to Pakistan when it is approved of by the US.
Saudis are suspicious of the current regime in Pakistan and are apprehensive of its pro-Shia policies. They think that PPP government is playing a dual role; trying to please both Iran and Saudi Arabia. The space created by this suspicion is proactively being filled by India which worries Pakistan. Saudi Arabia was visibly unhappy over the closure of NATO supplies for such a long period. The Saudi decision to hand over Mumbai attack suspect to India was pressurize Pakistan to come to terms with the US, and by implication with Saudi Arabia.
This situation is a cause of concern for Pakistan’s security establishment. It cannot afford to annoy Saudi Arabia for economic and political reasons. Warming up of Saudis to India is another cause of concern. As for Iran, it was never a reliable friend for a variety of reasons but it could have been kept in good humor had Saudi-Iran standoff not caught Pakistan. India is building bridges with Pakistan’s friends; Afghanistan is already hostile and has traditionally been a safe haven for anti-Pakistan elements of all hues, including Baloch nationalists. In this situation, Iran can be a source of more worries if it keeps annoying international community. It could be even more worrisome if it repairs its relationship with India after the recent banning of Iranian oil in Indian waters and India’s jumping the IPI ship.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Galbraith was the original author of Indo-US nuclear cooperation in 1962…..

The United States encouraged India in early 60s to develop a nuclear device to fight China without comprising its commitments as a Soviet ally. In the era of Cold War, as we all know, India was a bitter opponent of the USA and a close ally of USSR. India remained staunch ally of USSR till disintegration of the Soviet empire in 1991. During Afghan jihad (1979-89), when Afghans were fighting Soviet occupation forces with the help of Pakistan, US and Saudi Arabia, India was a sworn enemy of the US. Due to its alliance with USSR, India was a target of Afghan fury during and after the jihad. In fact, Taliban regime which came into being after departure of Soviet Army was opposed to India and was allied with Pakistan. It was due to pro-Pakistan regime in Afghanistan that the country was considered a strategic depth by Pakistani strategists.

Americans are, however, warming up to India in spite their past relations. This warming up is taking place at the expense of Pakistan which has so far remained more allied than the NATO allies of the US. Some analysts dub this sudden change of hearts as a compulsion of realist politics; Pakistan has outlived its utility after Afghanistan end-game and the US needs India to contain China in the Pacific.

But it has now been emerged that the US was trying to win Indian hearts from the very beginning. There are two factors which brought the two countries together; John Kenneth Galbraith, the American Ambassador to India appointed by President Kennedy and India’s humiliating defeat in Indo-China War of 1962. Galbraith befriended Nehru during his tenure. He rendered great help to India in its hour of distress and kept Pakistan away from taking advantage of India fragile position as a result of devastating defeat at the hands of Peoples Liberation Army.

It was the same Ambassador Galbraith who was very close to former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. This friendship was carried forward by his son Peter W Galbraith till Benazir's tragic assassination.

According to an article by Bruce Riedel, an analyst and a career CIA officer in The National Interest, Indi-China war also posed a crisis for America’s young president, John F. Kennedy, who had entered office determined to build a strong U.S. relationship with India. But his attention that fateful autumn was diverted to a more ominous crisis—the one involving Soviet efforts to place nuclear missiles in Cuba—that unleashed a dangerous nuclear face-off with the Soviet Union. Thus, Kennedy confronted two simultaneous crises, one far overshadowed by the other at the time and also later in history.

According to this article, when Kennedy became president in January 1961, the United States and India were estranged democracies. In the 1960 presidential campaign, Kennedy promised a departure from Eisenhower’s foreign policy and as a senator had sponsored legislation to increase food aid to India. And so it wasn’t surprising that as president he sought to woo India and its leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, into a closer relationship with Washington that didn’t require any formal anticommunist commitment from India. He sent his friend John Kenneth Galbraith to New Delhi as U.S. ambassador. Like presidents before and after, he tried to befriend both India and Pakistan and had invited Pakistan’s president Mohammad Ayub Khan to visit the United States twice during his thousand days in office. The Kennedy team hailed Pakistan as a reliable ally against communism and a model for development in the Third World.

But it was the India relationship that most preoccupied Kennedy as he contemplated U.S. relations with South Asia. Galbraith’s appointment put a Kennedy man and a firm advocate of his New Frontier at the center stage of U.S.-Indian relations. No president since has sent such a close friend and high-powered representative to New Delhi as ambassador.
According to Bruce Riedel, the most important development in the relationship emerged with the Chinese invasion of India in October 1962 to seize control of territories it claimed along the 3,225-kilometer border. The Chinese forces, superior in leadership and weapons, routed the Indian Army, which retreated in confusion from the Himalayas. The situation was most precarious in India’s easternmost regions, which were linked to the rest of the country only by a narrow land connection north of what was then East Pakistan. After maintaining its neutrality in the Cold War for fifteen years, India found itself the victim of a Chinese invasion it was powerless to halt. Nehru was devastated. He reluctantly turned to the United States and Britain, asking for immediate supplies for the Indian Army. In his panic, he also requested the deployment of American bombers to repulse the Chinese advance. America unexpectedly found itself arming both Pakistan and India, with no assurance they would not use the weapons against each other.

It is clear from Galbraith’s diary that Washington was surprised by the Chinese invasion. But, with the U.S. bureaucracy fixated on the life-and-death duel over Cuba, Galbraith was given almost no instructions from the White House or State Department during the key period of the Indo-Chinese crisis. Thus, he became the main decision maker on the American side, a role he relished. Working closely with his British counterpart, as U.S. diplomats typically do in South Asia, Galbraith fashioned a response that backed India and delivered much-needed military assistance to the Indians. Once a request for aid was formally transmitted, the first American shipments of military support arrived by air four days later. British support came as well.

Chinese intentions were impossible to decipher. After their initial victories, they paused for several weeks. Then they attacked again with devastating results, driving the Indians back in the East. Had they pressed on in the most vulnerable sector, they could have cut off Assam and eastern India and linked up with East Pakistan. Even Calcutta was at risk. Nehru asked for more aid—a dozen squadrons of American fighters and two squadrons of bombers—to redress the imbalance. In his desperation, he sought direct American military intervention, at least in the air. This would have meant war with China.

There ensued many anxious moments in New Delhi, Washington and London until China unilaterally announced a cease-fire on November 19, 1962. Kennedy never had to answer the request for air power. The war was over; India was humiliated; Nehru was devastated. But U.S.-Indian relations were better than ever before. America’s approval ratings among Indians soared from 7 percent at the start of the war to 62 percent at the end.

Galbraith’s Memoirs make it clear that, even as he faced the Chinese threat, he had to devote an equal measure of his energy and skill to managing Indo-Pakistani relations. Pakistan promptly sought to exploit India’s distress. Ayub’s government suggested to the American embassy in Karachi that Pakistani neutrality in the war could be assured by Indian concessions in Kashmir. Implicitly, an Indian refusal would bring Pakistan into the war. China tried to sweeten the deal by offering a nonaggression pact with Pakistan. Galbraith writes that throughout the crisis:

My concern . . . was about equally divided between helping the Indians against the Chinese and keeping peace between the Indians and Pakistanis. . . . The nightmare of a combined attack by Pakistan and China, with the possibility of defeat, collapse and even anarchy in India, was much on my mind.

In short, at a defining early moment in U.S.-Indian relations, when China and India were military adversaries, America found itself trying to manage the Indo-Pakistani rivalry to avoid Armageddon in India. Pakistan was outraged that America was arming its rival and wanted to be bought off in Kashmir. Working with his American and British counterparts in Karachi, Galbraith persuaded India and Pakistan to begin a dialogue on Kashmir. Nehru reluctantly agreed. Galbraith describes him as a much-diminished prime minister. He had devoted his entire life to Indian independence but now was forced to rely on Washington and London. American C-130s were delivering vital military aid, and an American aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise, was visiting Madras to show tangible support.

Galbraith suggested to Kennedy in one of his private letters that the United States and United Kingdom seize the opportunity to quietly move toward a Kashmir settlement. Galbraith opposed a territorial settlement; he envisioned a much more subtle deal that would transform the entire nature of South Asian politics, a fundamental rapprochement based on regional cooperation that would make Kashmir largely irrelevant.

JFK was determined to keep a strong alliance with Pakistan even as he improved ties with India. But as U.S. arms flowed to India in the wake of the Chinese invasion, the U.S.-Pakistani connection began to sink. Islamabad did not want an ally that armed both sides. It had not joined SEATO and CENTO to see American arms flowing to its archrival, India. Ayub feared the American arms sent to India were rapidly diminishing his qualitative advantage over his rival, and he was right.

Not surprisingly, Pakistan turned increasingly to China. After the border agreement, Pakistan signed an aviation agreement with the Chinese, which broke an American-inspired campaign to isolate that communist nation. Pakistan International Airlines began regular flights between Dacca and Shanghai. The Kennedy team responded with the first of what would become a long list of sanctions on Pakistan—canceling a deal to upgrade the Dacca airport.

The Sino-Indian war had one other major consequence: India moved closer to its decision to develop a nuclear deterrent. Nehru had begun a nuclear-power program early after independence and acquired reactors from the United States and Canada. But he insisted India would use them only for peaceful purposes. His worldview held the use of nuclear weapons to be unthinkable. But in the wake of the Chinese invasion, the first Indian voices emerged in favor of a nuclear-weapons program. The opposition party called for the development of the bomb to deter further Chinese aggression. Nehru still demurred, but the path to a peaceful nuclear-explosive test had begun.

Meanwhile, the Americans also came to realize that the United States and India likely would need the bomb in order to stop another major Chinese invasion. In 1963, Kennedy met with his military advisers shortly before his death to review options in the event of another Chinese attack. Secret tapes record Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara telling Kennedy, “Before any substantial commitment to defend India against China is given, we should recognize that in order to carry out that commitment against any substantial Chinese attack, we would have to use nuclear weapons.” Kennedy responded, “We should defend India, and therefore we will defend India if she were attacked.”

THE KENNEDY era underscores several key points about U.S. diplomacy in South Asia. First, it is virtually impossible to have good relations with both India and Pakistan. We may want them to stop being rivals, but they can’t escape their history and geography. Almost every American president has sought to have good ties with both, though none really has succeeded because it is a zero-sum game for two rivals who cannot abide America being their enemy’s friend. When we give one country a substantial gain, like the 2005 U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, the other feels hurt and demands equal treatment.

Second, China is our rival for influence in the region because it has the capacity to frustrate American goals. For Pakistanis, China is the “all-weather friend” that they can rely on, unlike the unreliable and quixotic Americans. China provided Pakistan with key technology to build the bomb in the 1970s while America was trying to prevent Pakistani acquisition of nuclear weapons. Today, Beijing is building new reactors to fuel the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal in the world in Pakistan.

Friday, July 20, 2012

America’s Pacific Century is not about China alone…..

Hussain Saqib

When President Obama revealed America’s intentions to shift focus from Middle East for an expanded engagement in Asia, the analysts thought unanimously that this new focus comes amid growing concerns among America's regional allies that its leadership role in the Asia may be fading – just as China has begun to enhance its military and assert claims to territories in the East and South China Seas. This move and sweet-talk of America’s Pacific Century led many to believe, for solid reasons, that the Clash of Titans in the Pacific was imminent.

To put the plan into action, the new US Defense Strategic Review was finalized showing the emphasis on challenges in the Asia-Pacific region and the goal to foster progress in the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa. This can be considered as a strategy to counter attempts by China and Iran to block US power projection capabilities in areas like the South China Sea and the Strait of Hormuz. US President Obama, who unveiled the new strategy at the Pentagon, highlighted the re-orientation of the US’ strategic focus towards the region: “We will be strengthening our presence in the Asia Pacific, and budget reductions will not come at the expense of that critical region.” Officials in the Pentagon are particularly concerned about the rise of China’s military power and efforts to broaden its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, which could jeopardize America’s military dominance in the region.

China is purchasing and developing a new generation of weapon systems that US officials fear are designed to prevent US air and naval forces from projecting power into the Far East. According to US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the smaller and leaner force envisaged will be shaped to operate flexibly in the region. The document itself expresses this re-orientation and indirectly addresses the Chinese government: “US economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities.  The growth of China’s military power must be accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region.”

US plans for global dominance apart, the analysts now believe that America’s loss of interest in the Middle East is not about China alone. The oil-rich Middle East is losing its importance due to its terminally declining oil reserves. According to a report carried by The National Interest, a confluence of developments—including rising prices and production costs, declining reserves, and the availability of alternate fuels and unconventional sources of oil—will decisively undermine the defining role of the Middle East in the global energy market. Meanwhile, the United States has vital interests at stake elsewhere in the world at least as pressing, if not more so, than its interests in the Middle East. These include thwarting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, fighting transnational terrorism and maintaining stability in key strategic locations of the world.

The comparative advantage in producing oil is based on four factors. First, Middle Eastern oil is the cheapest in the world to produce because of simple geology, most Middle Eastern oil is a superior product, Middle Eastern oil developers benefit from economies of scale because the cheap oil there is so plentiful and the Middle East’s dominance of oil production and reserves makes it “too big to fail,” which effectively lowers producers’ risks. Other than the Middle East’s comparative advantage in oil production and the world economy’s need for oil to power transport, the region would not be as strategically important otherwise. But this comparative advantage in oil production is eroding because oil-production costs in the Middle East are certain to rise and some oilfields producing continuously for eighty years are rapidly maturing (meaning they are almost past their peak production). This is pushing the producers to develop new production capacity in other regions and through unconventional methods. Middle East now accounts for only 46 percent of remaining reserves of oil and liquid natural gas ultimately recoverable with conventional means and that is only “proven” reserves.

With these developments, the Middle East suddenly becomes a minor player. Since 1945, the United States has sought to prevent any single power from dominating the Middle East’s oil supplies and supported anticommunist monarchies and autocracies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, among others, during the Cold War. The U.S. military’s Central Command, formed in 1983, has a forward headquarters in Qatar, and the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain. This military infrastructure guarantees a long-term U.S. military presence in the region. Those policies now make less sense in light of the brewing realities in the world oil market. These developments—the world’s increasing energy efficiency and the Middle East’s loss of its comparative advantage in oil production, the region will no longer be able to act as the “central bank of oil,” and it will forever lose the ability to credibly threaten to wield oil as a weapon. The sword of Damocles that has implicitly hovered over the West since the 1970s will be gone.

However, the US interests in the Middle East will remain intact because the region is considered a hotbed of terrorism and may become a major locus of WMD proliferation. But South Asia hosts terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, that threaten the United States more directly. Middle East has two of the world’s most important choke points for ocean-going trade: the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz. But governments in the region, heavily reliant on exports, have strong interests in keeping trade routes open. Despite Iranian leaders’ recent threats, no government is likely to cut off its own economic lifeline voluntarily. Meanwhile, the Malacca Strait in East Asia will remain important for a diverse array of ocean-going trade for the foreseeable future.

The United States is also committed to Israel’s security. If Iran succeeds in building a nuclear weapon, Israel could face a potential existential threat—the same threat fellow U.S. allies in East Asia, including South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, have been facing from North Korea since 2006. Once again, U.S. interests in the Middle East are no more, and probably less, important than U.S. interests in other regions.

The changing realities of the world energy market do not mean the United States can or should ignore the Middle East. In the final analysis, it is now only Iran which can lead to extended stay of America in the Middle East. Once Iranian threat to Israel is neutralized, US can pay its full attention to Asia Pacific which is its new-found darling to deal with growing economic and military might of China. This will define its relations with India and Pakistan. With Iran continuing to defy the dictates of American World Order, US presence in South Asia will be imperative. This will be quite a distraction from its focus on its Pacific Century.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The looming Clash of Titans in the Pacific…..

The First World Naval War (FNWW) is around the corner and the battlefield is none other than the South China Sea. The FNWW will be a lot different from the naval wars fought so far between big powers in the last century. The future war will be fought between US and China but the gallant warriors will be replaced by the unmanned vehicles aided by super sensors and driven by artificial intelligence. Strategic location of the war theater has pitched China against its neighbors who are under the US influence. There are phenomenal realignments which could translate into another bi-polar world like the one which came into being post-WWII? Professor Samuel Huntington, in his famous book, Clash of Civilizations...., predicted a war between China and Vietnam sometimes close to 2010 over the maritime resources of South China Sea. In view of Huntington, this would be a war within a civilization; but the later evidence suggests that South China Sea will be a hotbed of a much broader international conflict. Analysts have their fingers crossed but given the economic growth and fast industrialization of China, the world is already on the road to its cherished dream of bipolarity.

The U.S. is not oblivious to the potential conflict and has adopted a new approach to any potential war with China. The U.S. Department of Defense has been told that, for the foreseeable future, there will be no more large-scale land campaigns. The air force, navy, and marines responded with a plan (AirSea Battle) that has been in the work for years. The new strategy is designed to cope with the rising power of China in the Pacific. AirSea Battle involves tighter planning and coordination of navy, marine, and navy forces, plus the development of some new weapons and tactics and cooperation with allies.

AirSea battle concentrates on military operations. But these will be heavily influenced by economic factors. For example, during World War II the United States was a largely self-sufficient “continental power.” That has changed. The U.S. is now like much of the rest of the world, China included. If there were a maritime blockade of China, the U.S. and many other Chinese trading partners would suffer severe economic disruptions. There would be massive unemployment for all concerned and that would happen despite energetic efforts by everyone to find alternative sources to goods no longer available because of the disruption of the China trade.

Let us look at the potential fighting elements. These are unmanned vehicles like UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), UUVs (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles), and USVs (Unmanned Surface Vehicles) which are radically new technologies. There are already examples of all three in service. There will be more and they will change everything by incorporating more powerful artificial intelligence (AI) and new weapons. Others are Super Sensors like Sonar, Artificial Intelligence, All-Electric ships, Stealth technology, Composites, Networking, Space Based Services, Nanotech, Laser weapons, Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles.

Two years ago many missile experts in the U.S. Navy believed that the long rumored Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile, the DF-21D, was operational. As far as anyone knows, or will admit, the complete system has not been tested. There are hints that there were some tests three years ago and that all the components of the system were present and working. There are photos of DF-21Ds on TELs (transporter erector launcher vehicles) and announcements of new units activated for the 2nd Artillery Missile Brigade, equipped with DF-21 missiles. In theory, such weapons are possible and for China they are an ideal way of attacking American carriers. It's an expensive way to hit a carrier, since each of these missiles costs over $20 million. But if you have to get it done that's a reasonable price. In the future the price will come down a bit and anti-missile systems available to warships will be better at dealing with them. Guided warheads could also be launched from space satellites. You can see where this is going and there will be a lot more of it this century.

The shift of American focus from South Asia, Afghanistan, Middle East and Iran to Pacific Ocean is clear signal that two giants are all set to collide somewhere in the Pacific and the trigger of conflict is in the center of South China Sea dispute. Being aware of this eventuality long ago, China had started building its Navy and brought it from under the shadow of PLA (Navy) to China Navy and making it the second largest after the US Navy. A pre-requisite to this development was economic growth which China achieved by becoming the second largest economy. The imminent conflict will, therefore, be between the Number One and Number Two. And if this conflict takes place in a period of decade from now, it would between equals.

A report carried by The National Interest, says that as China develops complex economic and strategic interests in Africa and the Middle East, freedom of navigation through the Indian Ocean and much of the Pacific will concern Beijing mightily. But unsurprisingly, there is discomfort with sharing maritime security responsibilities close to home. Considering the relative strength of those patrolling the waters—mainly Japan and the United States—the Chinese fear that in times of crisis, access to critical sea lines of communication could be blocked. Or worse, Beijing might be forced to compromise on its long-held logic of sovereignty over a region that extends far beyond what international law permits.

Before it can dominate the seas, China has much catching up to do. The combined weight of twenty-one of the world’s biggest navies is 6.75 million tons. Remove the United States Navy (USN), and that leaves the global fleet 46 percent lighter at about 3.63 million tons. Though not the most accurate gauge of naval prowess, the skewered weight distribution—combined with the USN’s pound-for-pound superiority—cannot bode well for a rising power wary of the status quo. Unfortunately, what China has to show for three decades of naval modernization are a handful of nuclear-powered attack- and ballistic-missile submarines that lag behind those of the world’s premier navies, an aircraft carrier they’re only beginning to learn how to use and anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM). Only the ASBM really gives Beijing an edge over the competition.

The Pentagon reports the highly maneuverable missile has a range of one thousand miles. Considering even the next generation of naval fighter aircraft will lack the range to return to their carriers if launched further than six hundred miles from their intended target, denying potential adversaries’ access to a significant portion of the Western Pacific looks possible. But for the near future, blue-water ambitions are likely to remain unfulfilled. A refurbished Soviet-era aircraft carrier, ASBMs and a few unstealthy nuclear submarines won’t allow the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to conduct complex operations far from its shores, even if China’s sailors can master their new boats.

Given the bulk of what the PLAN presently fields, the implications are likely to be felt closer to home. The large fleet of Song, Ming and Romeo class diesel-electric submarines, catamarans, Landing Platform Docks, and other short-range and shore-based weapons will influence the day-to-day choices nearby countries will make—especially whether to align more closely with China or the United States. China is eager to see its maritime neighbors embrace its naval-modernization effort. Such support is now vital after the apparent loss of Burma as an alternative energy corridor, which has led some in Beijing to question the prudence of banking on vastly expensive and highly tenuous relationships to secure resources.

Whatever China is deliberating is not very clear but it is understood that China is well aware of high cost of miscalculation. China should understand that a stronger navy should allow Beijing to throw its weight around with greater ease. But if Chinese naval modernization is spurring others in the region to do the same—and if some of its more powerful neighbors look more than capable of playing catch-up—it is difficult to decipher what advantage the PLAN hopes to wield in the long term. Hegemony in the Pacific and Indian Oceans seems unlikely. Anything less could leave Beijing more isolated and vulnerable in a powerful, distrustful backyard.

The U.S. Navy is rethinking how it will use its submarines in a future Pacific War. According to Strategy Page, a campaign against Chinese shipping is unlikely, in part because of what actually happened during the last great anti-shipping campaign, which occurred during World War II (1939-45). After the war, the U.S. analyzed its operations against Japanese shipping and found that submarines were important, but not the only weapon effective against shipping. Some 8.9 million tons of Japanese shipping was sunk or so seriously damaged (disabled) at the end of the war. Submarines accounted for 54.7 percent of this. But 16.3 percent was attributable to carrier-based aircraft, 14.5 percent to land- based planes and 9.3 percent to mines (most dropped by B-29s). Less than one percent was due to surface gunfire, and the balance of 4 percent was caused by accidents. Because of their ability to operate in enemy-controlled (mainly by land-based aircraft) waters, submarines accounted for about 60 percent of the damage until the final months of the war. Then, during late 1944, carrier task forces went deep into enemy controlled areas, defending themselves against land-based warplanes and sinking a large numbers of ships. After April, 1945 Japanese shipping was restricted to the Korean and Manchurian runs and to shallow coastal waters. At this point the naval mines dropped by B-29s in Japanese harbors and inland waterways accounted for 50 percent of all ships sunk or damaged. That was then, but sixty years later the United States is able to monitor large ocean areas and has aircraft that are able to hit anything that's spotted.  

The report says that the U.S. has adopted a new approach to any potential war with China. The U.S. Department of Defense has been told that, for the foreseeable future, there will be no more large-scale land campaigns. The air force, navy, and marines responded with a plan (AirSea Battle) that has been in the work for years. The new strategy is designed to cope with the rising power of China in the Pacific. AirSea Battle involves tighter planning and coordination of navy, marine, and navy forces, plus the development of some new weapons and tactics and cooperation with allies.

AirSea Battle has been widely accepted, as China continues to make all its neighbors nervous. That's because the Chinese name for China translates as "middle kingdom" as in "China is the middle of the world." The Chinese government, a communist dictatorship by any other name, is using nationalism to keep its pro-democracy opposition off balance. China has border disputes, expressed or implied, with all its neighbors. This has made the neighbors uneasy, especially as Chinese military forces have been modernized and more aggressive over the last decade. While Air-Sea Battle was developed to keep the United States out of extensive land combat (the navy still has commandos and marines for brief operations ashore), those kinds of wars tend to show up when you least expect, want, or are prepared for them. For the moment, U.S. military planners believe they can avoid a large land war.

The U.S. Navy has been studying (and war-gaming) the situation and that included an examination of American submarine use since World War II. After the 1960s, the U.S. shifted to using only nuclear propelled submarines. During the Cold War (1948-91), American subs were meant for use in defeating the growing Soviet (Russian) fleet. That force disappeared in the 1990s. At that point the Chinese fleet got larger and modernized, but is still nowhere near the size of the Soviet Navy. But this time the U.S. was facing a major trading nation. Unlike Russia, which was largely self-sufficient (or could get what it needed overland from neighbors), China requires thousands of ships a year to handle exports and imports. Like Japan during World War II, China is vulnerable here. Discounting the significance of economy in the conduct of war is always a very costly miscalculation. AirSea battle concentrates on military operations. But these will be heavily influenced by economic factors. With the U.S. is now dependent on other nations like much of the rest of the world, China included, the U.S. and many other Chinese trading partners would suffer severe economic disruptions if there were a maritime blockade of China. This could trigger the risk of nuclear war.

The Chinese Navy is the second largest naval service in the world, only behind the United States Navy. With a personnel strength of over 250,000, the PLAN also includes the 35,000-strong Coastal Defense Force and the 56,000-strong PLA Marine Corps, plus a 56,000-strong PLA Naval Air Force, operating several hundred land-based aircraft and ship-based helicopters. As part of its overall program of naval modernization, the PLA Navy is moving towards the development of a blue-water navy. There is a significant strategic rethinking and the new strategic threats include possible conflict with the United States and/or a resurgent Japan in areas such as the Taiwan Strait or the South China Sea. At the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the PLAN, 52 vessels were shown in maneuvers off Qingdao in April 2009 including previously unseen nuclear submarines. The demonstration was seen as a sign of the growing status of China, while the CMC ChairmanHu Jintao, indicated that China is neither seeking regional hegemony nor entering an arms race. Adm. Robert F. Willard, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, called the PLAN's modernization "aggressive," and that it raised concerns in the region. Japan has also raised concerns about the PLAN's growing capability and the lack of transparency as its naval strength keeps on expanding. China has entered into service the world's first anti-ship ballistic missile called DF-21D. The potential threat from the DF-21D against U.S. aircraft carriers has reportedly caused major changes in U.S. strategy. The PLAN's ambitions reportedly include operating out to the first and second island chains as far as the South Pacific near Australia, and spanning to the Aleutian islands, and operations extending to the Straits of Malacca near the Indian Ocean.

The future Chines fleet will be composed of a balance of assets aimed at maximizing the  fighting effectiveness. On the high end, there would be modern destroyers equipped with long range air defense missiles (Type 052BType 052CType 051C); destroyers armed with supersonic anti-ship missiles (Sovremenny class); advanced nuclear powered attack and ballistic missile submarines (Type 093Type 094); advanced conventional attack submarines (Kilo and Yuan); aircraft carriers and large amphibious warfare vessels capable mobilizing troops at long distances. On the medium and low end, there would be more economical multi-role capable frigates and destroyers (upgraded LudaLuhuJiangwei IIJiangkai); fast littoral missile attack craft (HoujianHouxinHoubei); various landing ships and light craft; and conventionally powered coastal patrol submarines.

Ronald O'Rourke of the Congressional Research Service reported that the long term goals of PLAN planning include: assert or defend China’s claims in maritime territorial disputes and China’s interpretation of international laws relating to freedom of navigation in exclusive economic zones (an interpretation at odds with the U.S. interpretation); protect China’s sea lines of communications to the Persian Gulf, on which China relies for some of its energy imports; and assert China’s status as a major world power, encourage other states in the region to align their policies with China, and displace U.S. regional military influence.

The developments are interesting and clearly explain the shift of focus in US global ambitions. It also explains how and why US is warming up to its Cold-war adversary, India and why is it in a hurry to offload its Afghanistan baggage. It, in part, should also explain US’s dumping of its Cold-war ally; Pakistan. It sometimes becomes clear why the Chinese Muslim province is perpetually at war with tracks of unrest leading to Pakistan’s restive regions where TTP is fighting Pakistan at the behest of India and the US. There are indeed no long-term foes and friends in realist politics.