Water pincer against India

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China steps up its challenge to India by signing an accord with Pakistan to fund and build two mega-dams in Gilgit-Baltistan, which the United Nations recognizes as a disputed region and part of Jammu and Kashmir.

Brahma Chellaney, The Times of India, May 16, 2017

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China, which is working to re-engineer the trans-boundary flows of rivers originating in Tibet, has taken its dam-building frenzy to Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan, which is part of Jammu and Kashmir. In a new challenge to India, which claims Gilgit-Baltistan as its own territory, China will fund and build two Indus mega-dams at a total cost of $27 billion, according to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed in Beijing during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit. The MoU came the same day India announced its boycott of China’s “one belt, one road” (OBOR) summit, saying no country “can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Such is the mammoth size of the planned 7,100-megawatt Bunji Dam and the 4,500-megawatt Bhasha Dam that India does not have a single dam measuring even one-third of Bunji in power-generating-capacity terms. In fact, the total installed hydropower generating capacity in India’s part of J&K currently does not equal the size of even the smaller of the two planned dams in Gilgit. Still, Pakistan disingenuously rails against India’s modest hydropower projects in J&K and has sought fresh international arbitral tribunal proceedings against India over two projects, including the tiny 330-megawatt Kishenganga.

Even more striking is China’s hypocrisy: It bellicosely protested, almost on a daily basis, the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh, claiming it to be a “disputed territory”, although only Beijing disputes India’s control over Arunachal. It also held out threats against India jointly exploring with Vietnam for offshore hydrocarbons in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. Yet it has no compunctions about unveiling projects — under the “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” (CPEC) banner — in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, a UN-recognized disputed region.

C_6ju34UQAAiEYXCPEC — OBOR’s flagship programme, which will cement Pakistan’s status as China’s economic and security client — has become a convenient cover for Beijing to include major strategic projects, stretching from Gilgit-Baltistan to Pakistan’s Chinese-built Gwadar port. The Bunji and Bhasha dams are also claimed to be part of CPEC, which, by linking the maritime and overland “Silk Roads” that China is creating, will gravely impinge on India’s security. A grateful Pakistan has given China exclusive rights to run Gwadar port for the next 40 years.

The Bunji and Bhasha dams, which will largely benefit the dominant Punjab province, located downstream, are set to enlarge China’s strategic footprint in the restive, Shia-majority Gilgit-Baltistan. For years, China has stationed several thousand of its own troops in Gilgit-Baltistan, ostensibly to protect its strategic projects there, including upgrading the Karakoram Highway and building a new railway and secret tunnels. CPEC has spurred increased concern that Gilgit-Baltistan, like Tibet, could get overwhelmed by the Chinese behemoth.

Pakistani authorities are responding harshly to anti-CPEC protests in Gilgit-Baltistan, where the corridor is widely seen as opening the path to the region’s enslavement by China. The fact that China rules Gilgit-Baltistan’s Shaksgam, Raskam, Shimshal, and Aghil valleys — ceded by Pakistan in 1963 to cement its strategic alliance with Beijing — has only added to the grassroots resistance against Chinese projects, which extend to mineral-resource extraction.

Indeed, the Bunji and Bhasha dam projects are already facing grassroots resistance because they are viewed locally as instruments to expropriate Gilgit-Baltistan’s water resources for Punjab province. The Bhasha Dam alone will flood 200 square kilometers of Gilgit-Baltistan, displacing at least 28,000 residents and submerging some significant archaeological sites.

As China uses CPEC to turn Pakistan into a colonial outpost, its new dam projects in Gilgit promise to bring the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) under greater pressure. The paradox here is that China does not accept even the concept of water sharing but its activities in Gilgit are likely to impinge on the world’s most generous water-sharing treaty that remains a colossus among water pacts in the world.

The 57-year-old IWT has survived mainly because of India’s goodwill and full adherence, even as Pakistan violates the Simla peace treaty and canons of civilized conduct. China’s construction of dams in a disputed region is set to make Pakistan’s water relationship with India murkier. The IWT is binational but China has emerged as the third party through its Gilgit dam activities and upstream control of two of the six Indus-system rivers. The Chinese role will not only cast a pall on the IWT’s future but it could also deal a mortal blow to the treaty.

Brahma Chellaney is a geostrategist.

© The Times of India, 2017.

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Why a Stable Balance of Power in Asia Calls for a Resurgent Japan

The international spotlight on Japan’s prolonged economic woes has helped obscure one of Asia’s farthest-reaching but least-noticed developments – the political rise of the world’s third-largest economy. By initiating national-security reforms and seeking a more active role in shaping the evolving balance of power in Asia, Japan wants to stop punching below its weight and take its rightful place in the world.

Japan’s quiet political resurgence is reflected in various ways – from the government strengthening security arrangements with the United States and building close strategic partnerships with other major democracies in the Asia-Pacific region, to a grassroots movement at home pressing for changes in the country’s U.S.-imposed pacifist constitution.

Tokyo’s recent landmark deal with South Korea to settle a bitter history dispute over wartime “comfort women” promises to open up greater diplomatic space for it in East Asia.

Already, Japan’s passive chequebook diplomacy is giving way to a proactive approach focused on the Asian mainland and the oceans, including the western Pacific and Indian Ocean. Japan is shoring up ties with other major Asia-Pacific democracies, from Canada and Australia to India and Indonesia.

The single biggest factor driving Japan’s political rise is the ascent of a muscular China.

Japan is the world’s first constitutionally pacifist nation. The constitution’s Article 9 says, “land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.” No other national constitution in the world goes so far as to bar acquisition of the means of war or to renounce “the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.”

The American postwar success in disarming Japan by disbanding its military, imposing a 1946-drafted constitution and overhauling its education system, however, engendered its own challenges. It did not take long for the United States to realize that it had gone too far in creating a demilitarized Japan.

In 1953, then-U.S. vice-president Richard Nixon called the constitution “a mistake.” That reflected a changing U.S. approach toward Japan, owing to America’s Cold War with the Soviet Union, the Communist takeover in China and the protracted Korean War. Through a major reinterpretation of the very constitution it had imposed, the United States encouraged Japan to reconstitute its military as “Self-Defence Forces” in order to make the country the linchpin of America’s Asian strategy.

Japan’s recent constitutional reinterpretation to assert its right to collective self-defence is small in comparison. Tokyo has also relaxed its long-standing, self-imposed ban on export of arms, thus opening the path to building closer security co-operation with other Asia-Pacific democracies.

With Japan’s nationalist impulse to play a bigger international role now rising, its domestic debate on national-security and constitutional reform is set to intensify. However, further national-security reform beyond what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has carried out is linked – from a legal standpoint – to constitutional reform.

The Japanese constitution is unique in that it defines no head of state. It stripped the emperor of all but symbolic power. This was by design: The United States wanted to have the emperor as merely the symbol of Japan so that it could use him during the 1945-52 occupation years without the monarch being able to rally his people.

Likewise, the force-renouncing Article 9 was designed to keep Japan as America’s client state so that it would never pose a threat to the United States again.

But today, U.S. security interests would be better served by a more confident and secure Japan that assumes greater responsibility for its own defence and for regional security.

The Japanese constitution, however, is among the hardest in the world to revise. It is doubtful that any proposed constitutional change – even after winning approval with the mandated two-thirds vote in both chambers of parliament – can secure majority support in a national referendum in order to take effect.

The large protests against Mr. Abe’s 2015 security legislation permitting the Self-Defence Forces to engage in “collective defence” were a reminder that the U.S.-instilled pacifism remains deeply rooted in Japanese society. A 2014 survey revealed that just 15 per cent of Japanese (compared with almost 75 per cent of Chinese) were willing to defend their country – the lowest figure in the world.

Make no mistake: Enduring peace in Asia demands a proactive Japan. If Japan fails to carry out further reforms of its postwar institutions and policies to meet the new regional challenges, it could erode its security.

Having spawned the problem that Japan now confronts – how to cast off the constitutional albatross – the United States must be part of the solution. Its own geostrategic interests demand that Tokyo play a proactive role in regional affairs and do more for its own defence, within the framework of the U.S.-Japan security treaty. If the United States were to openly support constitutional revision in Japan, it would help blunt criticism from the country’s powerful pacifist constituency and from China.

Constitutional and national-security reform in Japan will help underpin the central goal of America’s Asia-Pacific strategy – a stable balance of power. Although rising powers tend to be revisionist powers, a politically resurgent Japan, strikingly, is seeking to uphold the present Asian political and maritime order.

Washington thus ought to aid the continued political rise of this status quoist country, which is determined to reinvent itself as a more competitive and secure state.

Brahma Chellaney is a professor of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research and author, most recently, of Water, Peace and War.

© The Globe and Mail, 2016.

Cracks on the Chinese Wall

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Jiayuguan, the first pass at the western end of the Great Wall of China.

China’s Ethnic Tremors

Brahma Chellaney
Column internationally syndicated by Project Syndicate, August 8, 2011
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In the face of spreading civil unrest among China’s Uighur population, the Chinese government’s love-fest with its all-weather ally, Pakistan, may be starting to sour. Indeed, the authorities in China’s Xinjiang province are charging that a prominent Uighur separatist that they captured had received terrorist training in Pakistan. No less embarrassing for Pakistan, the charge came while its intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, was holding talks in Beijing on securing greater Chinese support to blunt the growing U.S. pressure on Islamabad.

No country has done more than China to prop up the Pakistani state – support that has included transfers of missiles and nuclear-weapons technology. By playing the Kashmir card against India in various ways – even deploying People’s Liberation Army units in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir near the line of control with India – China has clearly signaled in recent years its desire to use its alliance with Pakistan to squeeze India. Given the level of China’s strategic investments in Pakistan, the bilateral relationship is unlikely to change.

Yet the charge of supporting Uighur terrorism, even if leveled only by local Chinese officials, reflects China’s irritation with Pakistan’s inability to contain the cross-border movement of some Uighur separatists. China, however, confronts not a proxy war or even foreign involvement in Xinjiang, but rather a rising backlash from its own Uighur citizens against their Han colonizers.

And the Uighurs are hardly alone. Even in Tibet – where resistance to Chinese rule remains largely nonviolent and there is no alleged terrorist group to blame – China is staring at the bitter harvest of policies that have sought to deny native minorities their identity, culture, language, and the benefits of their own natural resources.

To help Sinicize China’s minority lands, the government has used a strategy made up of five key components: cartographic alteration of ethnic-homeland boundaries; demographic flooding of non-Han cultures; historical revisionism to justify Chinese control; enforcement of cultural homogeneity to blur local identities; and political repression. The Manchu assimilation into Han society and the swamping of the locals in Inner Mongolia have left only the Tibetans and the Turkic-speaking Uighurs as holdouts.

But the renewed Tibetan revolt since 2008, the Uighur rebellion since 2009, and the recrudescence this year of large-scale protests by ethnic Mongolians in Inner Mongolia have shown that the strategy of ethnic and economic colonization is beginning to backfire. While a monk-led campaign on the Tibetan Plateau continues to challenge the Chinese crackdown, several dozen people have been killed in Xinjiang since last month as Uighur-Han clashes have spread from the desert town of Hotan to the Silk Road city of Kashgar.

Xinjiang, bordering Afghanistan, Russia, the countries of Central Asia, and the Kashmir areas occupied by Pakistan and China, was annexed by the newly established People’s Republic of China in 1949, a year before it began its invasion of Tibet. That put an end to the East Turkestan Republic in Xinjiang, which Muslim groups, aided by Josef Stalin, established in 1944, while World War II was raging. In the six decades since then, millions of Han Chinese have moved to Xinjiang, sharpening interethnic competition for land and water, not to mention control of the region’s abundant hydrocarbon resources.

The Great Wall was built by the Ming Dynasty (1369-1644) mainly to demarcate the Han Empire’s political frontiers. Today’s China, however, is three times as large as it was under the Ming – the last Han dynasty – with its borders having extended far west and southwest of the Great Wall.

Thus, Han territorial control is now at its zenith: Xinjiang’s cultural capital, Kashgar, is closer to Baghdad than to Beijing, and Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, is almost twice as far from the Chinese capital as it is from New Delhi. Indeed, forced assimilation in Tibet and Xinjiang began only after China created a land corridor between these two regions by gobbling up India’s 38,000-square-kilometer Aksai Chin, part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, following an invasion of India in 1962.

Yet China’s policies are now exacting rising internal-security costs, as the resurgence of separatism in several regions shows. Given that the restive homelands of ethnic minorities make up 60% of the PRC’s territory – together, Tibet and Xinjiang constitute nearly half of China’s landmass – internal-security problems loom much larger than they do next door, in India.

While India celebrates its diversity, China seeks to impose cultural and linguistic uniformity, although it officially comprises 56 nationalities. And, in enforcing monoculturalism, China is also attempting to cover up the cleavages within the Han majority, lest the historical north-south fault lines resurface. In fact, China is the world’s only major country whose official internal-security budget is higher than its official national-defense budget.

This fixation on what the government calls weiwen, or stability maintenance, has spawned a well-oiled security apparatus that extends from state-of-the-art surveillance and extra-legal detention centers to an army of paid informants and neighborhood “safety patrols” on the lookout for troublemakers. Although the challenge of weiwen extends to the Han heartland, where rural protests are increasing at the same rate as China’s GDP, the traditional ethnic-minority lands have become the country’s Achilles heel.

Uighurs, Tibetans, and Mongolians in China face a stark choice: fight for their rights or be reduced to the status of the Native Americans in the United States. With or without external assistance, the readiness of an increasing number of them to stand up to China’s decades-old policy of ethnic and economic colonization does not augur well for weiwen.

Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, is the author of Asian Juggernaut and the forthcoming Water: Asia’s New Battlefield.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.

India’s biggest problem is its old and tired leadership

Financial Times, July 20, 2011

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Corruption in India is not only pervasive but threatens to reach predatory levels. This has spurred pessimism in some quarters about India’s future. Such gloom, however, misses the larger picture.

No nation’s potential can be measured by one yardstick alone. Corruption poses a serious challenge to India, but to contend that it will block India’s great-power ambitions is to forget history. The United States, for example, rose as a world power in spite its robber barons. And now China is demonstrating that rampant corruption is no barrier to a country’s dramatic rise on the world stage.

The pessimists also miss out one key development in India – there is already a public backlash against corruption that has galvanised judicial activism, sent several important politicians to jail, put the government on the defensive, and created new crusading icons. Contrast this with the Chinese system, which reeks of unbridled and unchecked corruption, with the public helpless.

In world history, periods of rapid economic growth have often been accompanied by rising wealth and income inequality and widespread corruption. It took the US more than half a century to bring the era of robber barons to an end, although big-bucks corruption still remains a challenge. In India, the backlash against crooked politicians and entrepreneurs – and the public campaign for cleaner politics and business practices – has started in earnest barely two decades after the advent of rapid growth.

India’s economic and military rise is threatened neither by corruption nor by its ethnic diversity. India has demonstrated that unlike the traditionally homogenous societies of East Asia, a nation can manage diversity – and thrive on it. As one of the oldest and most-assimilative civilisations in the world, India can truly play the role of a bridge between the East and the West.

Rather, India’s rise is threatened by a political factor – a leadership deficit, which is compounded by a splintered polity. India is still governed by a pre-independence leadership – an anomaly even in Asia, where age is supposed to be wisdom. India today boasts the world’s oldest head of government and oldest foreign minister. Old, tired, risk-averse leadership can hardly propel any country to greatness. Worse, India’s coalition federal governments, which have become a norm, tend to function by the rule of parochial politics – in fact, by the lowest common denominator.

Yet, democracy remains India’s greatest asset. It not only helps instil fear among the corrupt, but also makes India’s future less uncertain than China’s.

The writer is professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, and the author of ‘Asian Juggernaut’ and ‘Water: Asia’s New Battlefield’.

(c) FT, 2011.

Deception by the Boatload

Brahma Chellaney
CNN World/”Global Public Square”

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China’s announcement that its first aircraft carrier is ready to set sail as early as the end of this month has refocused attention on the country’s naval ambitions. So, too, has the Pakistani defense minister’s disclosure that his country recently asked China to start building a naval base at its strategically positioned port of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea.

Both revelations underscore China’s preference for strategic subterfuge.

After it bought the 67,500-ton, Soviet-era Varyag carrier — still little more than a hull when the Soviet Union collapsed — China repeatedly denied that it had any intention to refit it for naval deployment. For example, Zhang Guangqin, Deputy Director of the Chinese State Commission for Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense, said in 2005 that the Varyag was not being modified for military use. However, work to refit the carrier had already begun in Dalian, China’s main shipyard.

In order to deflect attention from the real plan, the state-run media reported plans to turn the Varyag into a “floating casino” near Macau. And, to lend credence to that claim, the two smaller Soviet-era aircraft carriers that were purchased with the Varyag in 1998-2000 were developed into floating museums.

The first official acknowledgement that China was turning the Varyag into a fully refurbished, deployable aircraft carrier came this month, just when it was almost ready to set sail. And the acknowledgement came from General Chen Bingde, the chief of the People’s Liberation Army, in an interview with Global Times, the Communist Party’s hawkish mouthpiece.

Subterfuge is also apparent in China’s plans at Gwadar, where a Chinese-built but still-underused commercial port opened in 2007. From the time construction of the port began, Gwadar was widely seen as representing China’s first strategic foothold in the Arabian Sea, as part of its strategy to assemble a “string of pearls” along the Indian Ocean rim. It was known that Gwadar, which overlooks Gulf shipping lanes and is near the Iran border, would eventually double as a naval base. Yet, all along, China continued to insist that Gwadar’s only role was commercial.

Not surprisingly, then, Pakistani Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar’s public comments about a naval base at Gwadar deeply embarrassed China’s government. At the end of a recent visit to Beijing with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Mukhtar reported that the Chinese government was more than happy to oblige whatever requests for assistance the Pakistani side made, including reaching an agreement to take over operation of the Gwadar port after the existing contract with a Singaporean government company expires. China also made a gift to Pakistan of 50 JF-17 fighter jets.

More importantly, Mukhtar disclosed that Pakistan had asked China to begin building the naval base. “We would be…grateful to the Chinese government if a naval base is…constructed at the site of Gwadar for Pakistan,” he announced in a statement. He later told a British newspaper in an interview: “We have asked our Chinese brothers to please build a naval base at Gwadar.”

After Pakistan revealed the plans for a naval base, China responded with equivocation, saying that “this issue was not touched upon” during the visit. Given China’s proclivity for strategic stealth, even its work on the Gwadar port was launched quietly. Moreover, China does not wish to deepen the concerns that it aroused in Asia last year by openly discarding Deng Xiaoping’s dictum, tao guang yang hui (“conceal ambitions and hide claws”). On a host of issues, including its territorial claims in the South China Sea and against Japan and India, China spent 2010 staking out a more muscular position.

On these issues, too, the gap between Chinese officials’ words and actions is revealing. For example, China persisted with its unannounced rare-earth embargo against Japan for seven weeks while continuing to claim in public that no export restrictions had been imposed. Like its denials last year about deploying Chinese troops in Pakistani-held Kashmir to build strategic projects, China has demonstrated a troubling propensity to obscure the truth.

The Global Times, however, has not been shy about advertising China’s interest in establishing naval bases overseas. In a recent editorial, “China Needs Overseas Bases for Global Role,” the newspaper urged the outside world to “understand China’s need to set up overseas military bases.”

The insurrection against Pakistani rule in the mineral-rich southern province of Baluchistan may impede China’s plan to turn Gwadar into an energy transshipment hub to transport Gulf and African oil to western China by pipeline. But the insurgency is no barrier to China’s use of Gwadar to project power in the Middle East and East Africa, and against peninsula India. Indeed, to get into the Great Power maritime game, China needs Gwadar to redress its main weakness – the absence of a naval anchor in the Indian Ocean region, where it plans to have an important military presence.

What was touted as a floating casino is now being launched as the floating centerpiece of China’s growing naval prowess. In fact, with a second and larger aircraft carrier currently under construction, it may not be long before China displays its naval capabilities by dispatching a carrier battle group to the Indian Ocean – if not basing one at Gwadar.

Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, is the author of Asian Juggernaut and the forthcoming Water: Asia’s New Battlefield.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.

Three lessons from Chicago trial

Brahma Chellaney
The Economic Times, June 13, 2011

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The verdict in the Chicago trial, which coincided with CIA Director Leon Panetta’s unannounced departure for Pakistan, holds three important lessons for India.

The first lesson is that it was wrong on New Delhi’s part to expect the U.S. to try and legally corner the ISI for its role in 26/11 or to help bring to justice the perpetrators of those grisly attacks. The U.S. has its own foreign-policy interests and compulsions. Since its daring raid that killed Osama bin Laden, it has sent four high-level delegations to Islamabad, including one led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The flurry of visits has been intended to repair its relationship with — not discipline — Pakistan.

In fact, Panetta, who is due to replace Robert Gates as defence secretary on July 1, delivered a positive message to Islamabad that the U.S. wants to rebuild a trusting, constructive relationship. Washington may be unhappy with Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts. But the last thing it wants to do is to spotlight the ISI’s terror role in a third country, India, when the CIA needs the ISI more than ever to cut a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban, whose top leadership is ensconced in Pakistan.

The second lesson is about the Chicago trial itself. The prosecution — the Federal Bureau of Investigation — had a subtle political focus. It was more interested in securing Tahawwur Hussain Rana’s conviction on the Denmark-related charge than on the more-serious 26/11 charge. Furthermore, the prosecution directly and through its star witness David Headley sought to shield the ISI brass from getting linked with 26/11.

A junior ISI functionary, one Major Iqbal who served as Headley’s handler, was indicted and made the fall guy, without any effort by the prosecutors to delve into the issue whether the ISI’s leadership was in the loop on the 26/11 operation. Headley actually contradicted himself in his testimony, claiming the ISI brass was not aware of the operation, yet admitting that Iqbal’s commanding officer and the wing of the ISI they worked for knew about the 26/11 planning.

Although the case helped highlight the impunity with which serving and retired Pakistani military officers have been aiding Lashkar-e-Taiba, the prosecution was reluctant to go beyond the role played by Iqbal. The prosecution also declined to examine the military antecedents of a Lashkar leader, Sajid Mir, who was caught on tape directing the killings in Mumbai by phone during the terrorist strikes.

The prosecution, of course, did not examine the key question — whether 26/11 could have been prevented had the FBI stopped Headley’s terrorist activities in time? Despite having received six warnings over seven years about Headley’s Lashkar connections, the FBI did not arrest him because he was working as a U.S. agent. Headley, a former drug trafficker with a history of previous arrests in the 1980s and 1990s, reportedly continued to work as a paid U.S. informant even beyond 26/11 until evidence surfaced in October 2009 of his involvement in a plot to target a Danish newspaper that had published cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

It was thus no accident that the prosecution buried material evidence about Headley’s ties with U.S. law-enforcement agencies. This has left the key issue hanging: Was 26/11 preventable?

The verdict may reopen old wounds between India and the U.S. over Headley, including the failure to arrest him in time or share with India sooner the intelligence the U.S. had on him. And even after he was arrested in Chicago in 2009, it took months before America granted Indian investigators limited access to question him. Headley’s plea bargain has saved him the death penalty and extradition to India.

The 26/11 acquittal sets back the plaintiffs’ case against ISI in the New York civil suit —in which the ISI chief has been named as a defendant — and facilitates Islamabad’s bid to strike a deal with Washington in that matter.

The third lesson is about India’s own lack of response to 26/11. India did not take the smallest of small steps after 26/11. Instead it responded by fashioning a new counterterrorism tool — dossier bombing. It also delivered lists of Pakistan-based terrorists.

Can such bureaucratic exercises make Pakistan reassess its strategic calculus and abandon a foreign policy that relies on jihadist adventurism? The answer came recently from the Pakistani foreign secretary, who publicly mocked the dossiers as interesting “literature” but not evidence. In fact, after bin Laden’s killing, he heaped scorn on India’s demand that Islamabad arrest and prosecute all the 26/11 perpetrators, calling the demand “a familiar line,” “outdated,” and a line of thinking “mired in a mindset that is neither realistic nor productive.”

Islamabad indeed has had the last laugh: The Pakistan-based masterminds of 26/11 remain untouched and the terrorist-training camps near the border with India continue to operate, yet New Delhi has returned to square one by resuming political dialogue at all levels. U.S. Assistant Secretary Robert Blake recently thanked India for resuming “full comprehensive dialogue” with Pakistan by dropping both its conditions — “that those who had been responsible for the Mumbai bombings had to be brought to justice and the trials had to be completed; and then that there had to be visible progress by the Pakistanis to stop cross-border infiltration.”

The role of the Pakistani state agencies, including the ISI and navy, in scripting 26/11 is clear. It is time the culpability of Indian decision-makers in letting Pakistan off the hook over 26/11 came under public spotlight.

(c) The Economic Times, 2011.

China’s Strategic Subterfuge

By Brahma Chellaney
Mint, June 10, 2011

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The announcement that China’s first aircraft carrier is ready to set sail as early as this month-end has refocused attention on the larger Chinese naval ambitions. So also has the Pakistani defence minister’s disclosure that his country recently asked China to start building a naval base at the strategically positioned Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. More important, the dual revelations underscore China’s preference for subterfuge in making strategic moves.

After it bought the Soviet-era, 67,500-tonne Varyag carrier— which was not fully complete when the Soviet Union dismembered— China repeatedly denied it had any intention to refit it for naval deployment. For example, Zhang Guangqin, vice-director of the Chinese State Commission of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense, said in 2005 that Varyag was not being modified for military use. However, work to refit Varyag had already begun earlier in Dalian, China’s main shipyard.

Yet, to deflect attention from the real plan, the idea to turn Varyag into a “floating casino” off Macau was put forward through the state-run media. And to lend credence to this idea, the smaller two of the three Soviet-era aircraft carriers, including Varyag, bought by China during 1998-2000 were developed into floating museums—one of them briefly before the carrier itself was scrapped. The first official acknowledgement that China was turning Varyag not into a floating casino, but into a fully refurbished, deployable aircraft carrier came this week, just when it became almost ready to set sail.

Subterfuge is also apparent in China’s additional plans at Gwadar, where a Chinese-built but still-underused commercial port opened in 2007. From the time it began constructing the port, Gwadar was widely seen as representing China’s first strategic foothold in the Arabian Sea and being part of its strategy to assemble a “string of pearls” along the Indian Ocean rim. It was known that Gwadar, which overlooks Gulf shipping lanes, would eventually double up as a naval base. Yet all along, Beijing continued to deny Gwadar had any role other than commercial.

So Pakistani defence minister Ahmed Mukhtar’s public comments on a naval base at Gwadar deeply embarrassed Beijing. Mukhtar accompanied Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani during a recent trip to Beijing. At the end of the visit, Mukhtar reported that whatever requests for assistance the Pakistani side made, the Chinese government was more than happy to oblige, including agreeing to take over operation of the Gwadar port upon expiry of an existing contract with a Singaporean government company. Beijing also decided to gift Pakistan 50 JF-17 fighter jets.

More important, Mukhtar disclosed that Pakistan had asked China to begin building the naval base. “We would be…grateful to the Chinese government if a naval base is…constructed at the site of Gwadar for Pakistan,” he announced in a statement. He later told a British newspaper in an interview: “We have asked our Chinese brothers to please build a naval base at Gwadar.”

After Pakistan spilled the beans on the planned naval base, Beijing responded with equivocation, saying, “this issue was not touched upon” during the visit. Given China’s proclivity to make strategic moves by stealth, even its work on the Gwadar port was launched quietly. So how can work on a naval base be publicized in advance?

China also does not wish to deepen the concerns it aroused in Asia last year by openly discarding Deng Xiaoping’s dictum, tao guang yang hui (conceal ambitions and hide claws). On a host of issues, including its territorial claims in the South China Sea and against India and Japan, China spent 2010 staking out a more-muscular position.

No less revealing was the gap between China’s words and the reality. For example, it persisted with its unannounced rare-earth embargo against Japan for seven weeks while continuing to blithely claim the opposite in public—that no export restriction had been imposed. Like its denials last year on two other subjects— the deployment of Chinese troops in Pakistani-held Kashmir and its use of Chinese convicts as labourers on projects in some countries too poor and weak to protest—China has demonstrated a troubling propensity to obscure the truth.

The Chinese Communist Party’s hawkish mouthpiece, Global Times, however, has not been shy about advertising China’s interest in setting up naval bases overseas. In a recent editorial titled, “China needs overseas bases for global role,” the newspaper urged the outside world to “understand the need of China to set up overseas military bases”.

The insurrection in the mineral-rich, southern province of Baluchistan against Pakistani rule may impede Beijing’s plan to turn Gwadar into an energy trans-shipment hub transporting Gulf and African oil to western China by pipeline. But the protracted insurgency is no barrier to China’s plan to use Gwadar to project power in the Gulf and eastern Africa and against peninsula India. Indeed, to get into the great-power maritime game, it needs Gwadar to plug its main weakness—the absence of a naval anchor in the Indian Ocean region, where it plans to have important military presence.

In fact, with a second and larger aircraft carrier currently under construction, it may not be long before China shows off its naval prowess by dispatching a carrier battle group to the Indian Ocean.

Brahma Chellaney is professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi.

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