Thursday, December 13, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: The Politics Of Surgical Strikes -The hyped jingoi...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: The Politics Of Surgical Strikes -The hyped jingoi...: Indian Army soldiers. Photo Credit: US DoD, SGT Mike MacLeod, Wikipedia Commons. Lt Gen DS Hooda (retd) is right when he talks about ...

The Politics Of Surgical Strikes -The hyped jingoistic ‘surgical’ action did nothing to deter Pakistani ‘misadventure’

Indian Army soldiers. Photo Credit: US DoD, SGT Mike MacLeod, Wikipedia Commons.

Lt Gen DS Hooda (retd) is right when he talks about needless hype over operations like the surgical strikes. Note, of course, that he is not arguing that such strikes are wrong, but that the accompanying hype, often aimed at playing to the political gallery, undermines their military value.

There is, of course, the larger question as to the very nature of the so-called surgical strikes of September 29, 2016, that had been launched to avenge the Uri militant strike of September 18. Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Ranbir Singh who, as DGMO, announced the strikes, responded to Hooda by saying  that the strikes were a successful tactical operation that  had conveyed a message to  Pakistan.

Lt Gen Ranbir Singh’s statement is not borne out by facts. Pakistan did not stop its ‘misadventures’ as he quaintly put it. Almost two months later,  on November 29, Jaish militants attacked an Army base in Nagrota and in the ensuing shootout 10 soldiers, including three officers were killed.

The Nagrota strike was far more serious than the Uri one. Unlike Uri, which is very close to the LoC and more vulnerable, Nagrota is somewhat inland. More important, it is the headquarters of the huge 16 Corps and should thus have had a much higher level of protection.

But by far the more damaging was the fact that the Indian Army did not react to this provocation. If the surgical strikes after Uri were meant to deter further Pakistani ‘misadventure’, the only way it would work as a strategy, would be if the Army hit Pakistan hard every time it launched an attack.

The next year, 2017, there were several attacks across the LoC attributed to Pakistani jihadis and forces. In one, an Indian patrol was attacked in Krishna Ghati sector of the Poonch district, killing two soldiers. In December, a Pakistani Border Action Team (BAT) came half a kilometre into Indian territory and killed four soldiers, including a Major.

Early this year, there was another Jaish attack on the Sunjuwan camp housing soldiers and their families, a few kilometres to the east of Jammu City. As many as 11 soldiers and a civilian were killed and 20 injured.  Yet, there was no reaction comparable to the surgical strikes. So it is evident that  the strikes did not deter Pakistan.

You can draw many conclusions from this. One is that the Indian policy of surgical strikes was flawed to start with. Perhaps publicising it the way it was done was not a good idea. Or, the Army had not thought through its strategy because if it was aimed at sending a signal that India would no longer sit back and tolerate attacks such as the ones on Pathankot and Uri,  the Army needed to demonstrably hit back at Pakistan every time jihadis or BAT attacks took place.

Clearly, there are hazards in the latter policy. If demonstrable strikes take place, the two countries could get locked into an escalatory cycle which could eventually lead to war. That neither side wants this is evident from the fact that their cross-LoC activity remains limited. Even episodes of cross-border bombardment that occasionally take place on the LoC or the border in Jammu, usually end in a ceasefire. That is why, it is important to keep a tight control on the escalatory framework. The way of doing this earlier was to keep the retaliatory cycles secret and not let them enter the political or electoral cycles in either country because hype tends to be the hand-maiden of politics. That the strikes were politicised is no secret. Whether it is in the speeches of BJP leaders or the posters that came up, the strikes were widely featured in the Uttar Pradesh state Assembly elections of 2016.

At the end of the day, there is the challenge of deterring Pakistan. It is one thing to deter it from the point of view of nuclear weapons and large-scale conventional conflict, and quite another to make it cease and desist from sending groups of militants in the name of ‘political support’ to the Kashmiri militancy.

India has not yet found the formula of dealing with them. The so-called surgical strikes were mooted as the solution, but they have clearly not worked.

Having initiated a policy, it was important for the Army to follow through with that policy, which it did not, because the main purpose of the strikes was to make a political statement which was aimed at the UP elections. The Indian challenge was neatly side-stepped by Islamabad which simply denied that such strikes took place and did not feel compelled to respond to the Indian action in word or deed.

New Delhi certainly has the option of using military retaliation every time the Pakistanis act. The politicians do not mind basking in the glory of the strikes because they took out a few terrorist launching pads for no loss of life. But escalation, even a larger skirmish, always has the possibility of going awry and putting pressure on the government to enhance the level of violence when things don’t go according to plan. We cannot be sure just how Islamabad will react and we should not exaggerate our capabilities with regard to Pakistan. In such matters, sober realism is the best approach, and this would tell us that we need a different menu of options when it comes to bringing down and eliminating the violence in Jammu & Kashmir.

This article originally appeared in The Tribune.

By Observer Research Foundation By Manoj Joshi


Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Hard times ahead for a politically divided Timor-L...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Hard times ahead for a politically divided Timor-L...:   Timor-Leste started the year in political chaos and ended it with a return to the confrontational politics of the past. Cooperation...

Hard times ahead for a politically divided Timor-Leste


Timor-Leste started the year in political chaos and ended it with a return to the confrontational politics of the past. Cooperation between the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) and the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin), which had together run the country since 2015 under a ‘government of national unity’, was shattered following the July 2017 elections.

The aftermath of the elections saw Timor-Leste enter 2018 with a majority opposition alliance, which blocked the minority Fretilin government’s budget and called on President Francisco ‘Lu-Olo’ Guterres to install it in office. Guterres — who is also President of Fretilin and was elected with key cross-party support in the final months of the government of national unity — refused. Instead, he called fresh elections for May 2018.

The 2018 elections returned the opposition Alliance of Change for Progress (AMP) coalition — comprised of the CRNT, the People’s Liberation Party and the Kmanek Haburas Unidade Nasional Timor Oan (or KHUNTO) — as the new government. But following allegations of corruption against eight proposed ministers, Guterres refused to swear them in.

Three other proposed ministers refused to be sworn in as a show of support for their colleagues, leaving Timor-Leste without ministers of finance, health and natural resources, among others. Guterres also refused to enact the government’s proposed 2019 budget. The government in turn refused to approve a visit by Guterres to the Vatican, saying that domestic matters took precedence.

Guterres’ rejection of the budget reflected his concern over Timor-Leste’s financial sustainability and opposition to the government’s use of central bank funds to further its ambitious Tasi Mane development project. The government required an unavailable two-thirds majority to overrule the President’s veto.

The government intended to establish a liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing plant on Timor-Leste’s Tasi Mane south coast to kick-start a petrochemical industry that could provide jobs and income into the country’s future. But the Greater Sunrise joint venture partners, who hold the rights to develop the energy reserves, rejected the proposal as unfeasible. A major issue was the plan to build a 150-kilometre undersea pipeline, which would have had to cross the deep-sea Timor Trough.

The Timor-Leste government spent US$350 million in October 2018 to purchase ConocoPhillips’ 30 per cent stake in Greater Sunrise. And in late November, an agreement was reached for the government to buy Royal Dutch Shell’s 26.56 per cent stake for US$300 million, bringing the government’s total holding in the project to 56.56 per cent.

Yet Timor-Leste’s 2005 Petroleum Activities Law restricts the state to a maximum of 20 per cent equity in the project. Timor-Leste may need to sell some of its stake to a new partner, possibly from China or South Korea.

The remaining Greater Sunrise partners, Woodside Petroleum and Osaka Gas, oppose the idea of a south coast processing facility. If the plan is to proceed, this could leave the roughly US$5 billion cost of development to the Timor-Leste government, or to new partners.

The government’s purchase of a stake in Greater Sunrise followed the establishment of a permanent maritime boundary between Australia and Timor-Leste in March 2018. The agreement allocated 70 per cent of the revenue from Greater Sunrise to Timor-Leste if the LNG is processed there, or 80 per cent if it is processed at an offshore facility.

Processing the LNG onshore is a key ambition of government Special Representative Xanana Gusmao, who was the country’s first president and second prime minister. As Timor-Leste’s key political figure, Gusmao coordinated opposition to the former Fretilin government and brought together the parties of the 2018 AMP government.

The governments that Gusmao led or effectively controlled since 2007 have withdrawn well beyond sustainable amounts from the country’s US$17 billion sovereign wealth fund — the Petroleum Fund. Successive budgets have spent between two and three times the sustainable limit, meaning the government has drawn on capital as well as interest from the fund.

Income into the fund is reducing as oil fields in the Timor Sea dry up, with the last field expected to close by 2022. The Petroleum Fund currently pays for 95 per cent of all state activities, which in turn supports more than 70 per cent of all economic activity. Yet at current rates of government spending, the Petroleum Fund will be fully depleted before the end of the 2020s. This outlook has led to — and in turn, is exacerbated by — the government’s push to gamble on investing in Greater Sunrise and the Tasi Mane project.

The high cost of this development set against a limited financial reserve and its questionable prospects of success have motivated Fretilin and the incumbent Guterres to be more financially cautious. Meanwhile, historical disputes between Gusmao and the three parties he was able to bring into alliance against Fretilin continue to mark their relations, only compounded by increasingly stark differences in their approach to how best secure Timor-Leste’s challenged future.

Damien Kingsbury is Personal Chair and Professor of International Politics at Deakin University.

This article is part of an EAF special feature series on 2018 in review and the year ahead.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Will Israel leave Australia’s back door open for ...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Will Israel leave Australia’s back door open for ...: Australia should be careful to ensure defence cooperation with Israel does not leave a back door open for Chinese infiltration. The h...

Will Israel leave Australia’s back door open for Chinese infiltration?

Australia should be careful to ensure defence cooperation with Israel does not leave a back door open for Chinese infiltration.

The hosting of the Israel-China Innovation Conference in Jerusalem on 24-25 October 2018 highlighted the growing ties between Israel and China.

Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan attended the conference, as did Alibaba’s Jack Ma and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The Conference was sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (which sits with the Prime Minister). There were representatives from 13 different Chinese and Israeli government agencies. Wang is the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit Israel since President Jiang Zemin’s visit in 2000.

Wang emphasised Israel’s importance to China, saying “Israel leads the world in electronics, information technology, modern medicine, and agriculture… China is still striving to achieve modernisation.”

Leading Chinese tech companies, such as Huawei, Legend and Xiaomi, have established operations in Israel. In 2017, 34 Chinese companies were investing in Israeli companies, up from 18 in 2013. This amounts to around US $500 to $600 million or approximately 12 per cent of the total capital raised by all Israeli startups between 2013 and 2017.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it his mission to improve relations with China. In 2017, he travelled to China where he met President Xi Jinping and the two agreed to upgrade the relationship to a Comprehensive Innovation Partnership (during the trip 25 cooperation agreements were signed valued at around $2 billion). Netanyahu wants a free trade agreement between the two countries by 2019.

Wang and Netanyahu led the fourth meeting of the China-Israel Innovation Committee, which is an intergovernmental meeting aimed at improving cooperation in economy and trade, science and technology, health, agriculture, environmental quality, education and academy.

Another important example of the increased cooperation between Israel and China was the Technion Institute of Technology, Israel’s equivalent of MIT, opening a joint venture in Shantou Province with Shantou University in 2017. The event was attended by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, who had donated US $130 million to the Technion in 2013.

Netanyahu’s commitment to open the Chinese market to Israeli companies explains why there has been a boom in economic terms between the two countries. In 2017, the volume of trade between the two countries totalled $9.67 billion – with Chinese exports to Israel twice as large as Israeli exports headed the other way. China is now Israel’s second largest trading partner after the US.

With China seen as a key market, the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry has established six economic offices in China (by comparison, Israel has four in the US). In 2017, the two countries opened direct flights from Tel Aviv to Shanghai and from Tel Aviv to Chengdu, which may explain why in 2017, Israel received over 110,000 Chinese visitors.

The Israelis have reportedly made it clear to the Chinese that defence technology is off the table, although healthcare, sustainable development equipment, bio-technology, medical equipment and precision farming, are all fair game. Notably, the Israelis say nothing about ‘dual use’ products.

The problem with the improved relationship is that one doesn’t know how the Chinese will exploit the technology, especially innovations relating to artificial intelligence and civilian cybersecurity (around 120 Israeli hi-tech companies receive Chinese investment).

In a remarkable op-ed, Gilad Cohen, the Deputy Director General for Asia-Pacific Affairs at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, discounted the growing criticism appearing in the Israeli media over the extent of China’s penetration into Israel.

In September 2018, Shaul Chorev, the former deputy commander of Israel’s navy and chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, warned as to the danger of Chinese penetration, specifically the fact that the Shanghai International Port Group would manage Israel’s port of Haifa for 21 years, starting from 2021.

Similarly, Ephraim Halevy, the former head of Israel’s national intelligence agency, has gone on record saying that growing Chinese influence is a threat to Israeli national security. This may explain why Dorit Salinger, Israel’s Commissioner of Capital Markets has blocked Fosun’s $462 million attempt to acquire Phoenix Holdings, an insurance and financial group.

Cohen’s response to such concerns was dismissive, arguing that Israel has nothing to worry about when it comes to China as Israel “is not a country like Djibouti or Somalia”. Cohen further emphasised the economic aspect of the relationship before also pointing out that Israel is committed to penetrating the Far East.

In a separate op-ed, Cohen described criticism over Duterte’s visit as “superficial and exaggerated”. Like his boss Netanyahu, Cohen seems to only see dollar signs when it comes to relationships with Asian nations – in the op-ed on Duterte, Cohen notes the economic potential of six million Filipino Christian pilgrims to Israel.

The commitment to earn hard cash may also explain why Netanyahu conveniently ignores China’s relationship with Iran, his bĂȘte noire. In other words, money and politics trump ideology.

Israel’s domestic debate about Chinese penetration has parallels with Australia.

It is increasingly recognised that our greed has allowed the Chinese to outmanoeuvre and outplay us. This highlights the need to look at who our allies and friends are working with, to ensure that we don’t get infiltrated through the back door.

Malcolm Turnbull and Benjamin Netanyahu worked hard to improve relations between the two countries, with Netanyahu in February 2017 becoming the first Israeli prime minister to visit Australia.

Later that year, Australia and Israel signed a defence industry cooperation memorandum, with one of the aims being to set up the Australia-Israel Defence Industry Cooperation Joint Working Group. The goal was for Australia to benefit from Israel’s world-leading innovation in cyber technologies, because as part of Australia’s investment in defence, the government has allocated more than $1.6 billion to expand Australia’s innovation capabilities.

As Australian policymakers and businesses increasingly take the view that Chinese penetration of critical infrastructure assets should be curtailed, there will be more questions over the extent of China’s investment and presence in Israel.

For their part, Israeli policymakers must eventually decide whether greed trumps values, friendship and allies.

Isaac Kfir