April 14, 2012
Washington, Apr 14 (PTI)
India and the United States have announced a joint USD 125 million fund to carry out combined research in the field of clean energy.
As such three institutions each from India and the US have been selected for the US-India Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center (JCERDC), which is part of the US-India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy, announced during the November 2009 visit of US President Barack Obama to India.
While National Renewable Energy Laboratory, University of Florida and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have been selected from the US, three Indian institutions are the Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore, the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology-Hyderabad, and CEPT University-Ahmedabad.
Consortia researchers will leverage their expertise and resources in solar technology, advanced biofuels and building efficiency to unlock the huge potential of clean energy technologies that can reduce energy use, cut dependence on foreign oil, and accelerate the deployment of renewable energy sources, the US Department of Energy said.
"This innovative research programme will help promote clean energy, create jobs, and open export opportunities for US business," said David Sandalow, Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs in the Department of Energy.
"By bringing some of our best scientific and technical minds together, we can strengthen both our great nations," Sandalow said.
As part of a planned five-year initiative, the Energy Department will make USD5 million available in fiscal year 2012. The Department plans to make additional requests to Congress for up to USD 20 million over the next four years.
India has committed to funding USD 25 million over five years that will be used to support work by Indian institutions and individuals.
In addition, US and Indian consortia members have pledged over USD 75 million in matching funds, for a combined funding total of more than USD 125 million for joint research and development in solar energy, advanced biofuels and building energy efficiency.
In solar energy, the consortium's research will focus on sustainable photovoltaics, multiscale concentrated solar power, and solar energy integration.
In addition, the consortium will focus on development of sustainable advanced lignocellulosic biofuel systems.
They will also focus on the integration of information technology with building controls and physical systems for commercial and high-rise residential buildings.
Strategic Trends 2012
Key Developments in Global Affairs
Author(s): Myriam Dunn Cavelty, Jonas Grätz, An Jacobs, Prem Mahadevan, Daniel Möckli
Editor(s): Daniel Möckli
Series Editor(s): Andreas Wenger
Series: Strategic Trends
Publisher(s): Center for Security Studies (CSS), ETH Zurich
Publication Year: 2012
Publication Place: Zurich
Strategic Trends 2012 is the third issue of the Strategic Trends series. It contains a brief overview as well as chapters on China's uncertain peaceful rise, the strategic weakening of debt-ridden Europe, the persistence of armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, the geopolitical significance of unconventional oil and gas resources, and the militarization of cyber security.
Back in early February 2012, Vladimir Putin published the fourth op-ed of his presidential campaign: a lengthy treatise titled “Democracy and the Quality of Government” [ru]. About 1,500 words deep into that article, Putin proposed that the Russian parliament should automatically consider the legislative applications of any online petition successful in gathering more than one-hundred thousand signatures.
A few weeks later, Putin published the final installment of his platform, titled “Russia and the Changing World” [ru], where he wrote the following:
“The distinction should be clear between free speech and normal political activity, on the one hand, and illegal instruments of ’soft power,’ on the other. […] [T]he activity of ‘pseudo-NGOs’ and other structures operating on external support, pursuing the destabilization of one or another country, is unacceptable. […] We believe that influence on domestic politics and the public mood in other countries should be conducted only in the open — allowing actors to take full responsibility for their actions.”
From words to deeds
In late March, less than three weeks after Putin’s re-election to the Russian presidency, an online petition emerged, calling for stricter controls on foreign-funded Russian NGOs. Hosted at www.podkontrol.ru [ru], the petition calls on the government to adopt “the Law on the Foreign Financing of NGOs,” and has collected over 20,000 signatures in a little over one week (with more still pouring in).
Endorsed by 13 “affiliate organizations,” the initiative enjoys the support of pro-regime political groups like the Anti-Orange Committee, Dmitri Rogozin’s ‘Congress of Russian Communities,’ and Alexander Dugin’s ‘International Eurasian Movement.’
Podkontrol.ru argues that it is proposing nothing more than a Russian version of Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), an American law requiring the registration of all individuals and organizations acting on behalf of foreign interests. Borrowing the same language Putin used in February, the site warns that Russia is the target of foreign “soft power,” and that “billions of dollars are spent [on soft power efforts] to undermine the integrity of [Russia], and the stability of its political foundations.”
To support such a claim, the authors cite Assistant Secretary Philip Gordon of the United States State Department, who said publicly in March 2012 that the United States had spent over $200 million in Russia since 2009 “to promote democracy, human rights, and civil society,” and that the White House has asked Congress for $50 million of additional funding. Podkontrol.ru’s proposed legislation is described as follows:
“Staff members of organizations that receive money from foreign funds and agencies should be obligated to register with the Justice Ministry of the Russian Federation, as well as be subjected to a special audit by the tax authorities. There should be obligatory procedures for making information about the receipt of foreign funds and the sources of NGO staff earnings available to any citizen of the country, and published on the Justice Ministry’s website. In turn, all materials published by such organizations (regardless of the place they are published, whether on their own websites or in third-party media outlets) should be marked by special distinct signs.”
In the Russian blogosphere, one of the petition’s greatest advocates has been longtime anti-oppositionist blogger Stanislav Apet’ian (LJ user politrash_ru). In a March 26 post [ru] (roughly four days after the site appeared), Apet’ian first introduced his readers to Podkontrol.ru. Shortly thereafter, he followed up with a longer defense of the petition in an article [ru] for the onlinePublic Chamber Tribune, where he argued that existing transparency and reporting norms for Russian NGOs are too weak:
“[…] The mere fact that these reports are transmitted to the Justice Ministry clearly doesn’t mean that citizens can easily and understandably get informed, let alone ascertain by surname all the beneficiaries of foreign grants. […]“
Apetian also addressed comments by a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation and Agency for Social Information (ASI) Director Elena Topoleva-Soldunova [ru], who charged [ru] the petition’s authors with having proposed redundant legislation that reproduces controls on Russian NGOs already in place. Acknowledging that ASI’s website clearly indicates that it receives funding from USAID, Apetian points out that the websites of other prominent NGOs do not clarify their foreign sources of financing, singling out the ‘Za prava cheloveka’ Movement, ‘Obraz budushchego’ Fund, ‘Sakharovskoe Movement,’ and finally the Association ‘Golos’ (perhaps the best known target of anti-NGO activity in Russia today).
Assessing the call for more NGO controls
What should one make of Apetian’s case? It is indeed true that the website of ‘Golos,’ for instance, only publishes a list of its domestic and foreign “partners,” without indicating the nature of any financial relationships. Lev Ponomarev’s ‘Za prava cheloveka’ Movement, too, lists only its “partners,” without revealing its sponsors. (It’s worth noting that the websites of the ‘Anti-Orange Committee’ and the International Eurasian Movement also fail to reveal the sources of their financial support.)
If one visits the Russian Justice Ministry’s website, there are nearly 70,000 NGO-submitted reports published since 2009. The Ministry’s database [ru], however, does not return any results for ‘Golos,’ ‘Obraz budushchego,’ or the ‘Sakharovskoe Movement.’ While it does locate reports from the regional branches of Ponomarev’s organization, any specific data in the reports regarding amounts of income and spending appear to be redacted or missing.
Daria Miloslavskaya [ru], another member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation and Director of The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, insists that the petition calls for already-existing legislation. The most recent major revision to the legal obligations of non-state organizations in Russia is Federal Law #18 [ru], signed by Putin in January 2006. 18-FZ, as it’s called in Russian, enacted a series of controversial amendments to legal codes affecting NGOs, vastly complicating the operations of foreign-dependent organizations.
In early 2008, Human Rights Watch published a 76-page report, titled “Choking on Bureaucracy” [en], documenting “the corrosive impact” of 18-FZ.
Miloslavskaya also argues that Podkontrol.ru’s authors misinterpret FARA. She explains[ru]:
“[…] There is no concrete mention of NGOs [in FARA], therefore those who try to present [FARA] as a ban on the activity of NGOs with foreign funding either don’t understand the subject, or they intentionally mislead their audience. […]“
It is worth noting that FARA was drafted in 1938 in the context of the looming Second World War, and was designed to target German fascist propaganda. Equally remarkable is the fact that there have been no successful criminal prosecutions under FARA in nearly fifty years, since well before the end of the Cold War. Meanwhile in contemporary Russia, Miloslavskaya is scheduled to lead an online seminar on April 2, offering lessons in “the particulars of NGO reporting to the Ministry of Justice in 2012″ at the website www.portal-nko.ru [ru], designed to help NGO leaders better navigate the country’s already numerous regulatory hurdles.
This is a cross post from Global Voices.
For further information on the topic, check out the following publications:
Finally, you can refer to this ISN Special Issue, titled NGOs and Think Tanks in Russia and China.
Surveillance cameras seem to be springing up everywhere in Switzerland. But who and what exactly are the electronic eyes watching?
Following the first study on the impact of public video surveillance in 12 European countries, security and police experts say people should not overestimate the technology, and dispel “big brother” fears.
The scene is familiar from television police dramas: A camera homing in on an individual in an anonymous crowd of people, the close-up of a face fills the screen. Police officers compare it with the computer profile of a wanted person and - bingo, they match!
In reality the technology has not quite reached this level of sophistication and lags behind the world of fiction.
“Luck may be on your side if a bank robber appears at the counter without covering up his face,” says Olivier Guéniat, commander of the Jura cantonal police.
“But things get a lot more complicated if the man is wearing a hat or hood, or even a balaclava.”
What’s more the quality of the image is often poor, and at nighttime video cameras are virtually useless, according to Guéniat.
As for automatic face recognition this is largely a gimmicky feature in a world of science fiction.
“Trials have been carried out in underpasses of German railway stations for years with similar technology. We are nearly there with this method, especially when tracking a crowd moving in one direction,” says Francisco Klauser of Neuchâtel University’s institute of geography.
It becomes a lot trickier when trying to identify faces in an airport lounge or in a public square, Klauser adds.
The assistant professor is an expert, having written his thesis and several academic articles on the subject. He co-edited a special publication of the Information Polity journal focusing on the impact of video surveillance of the public space in 12 European countries.
The authors of the study found that closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems have become part of our everyday life only 15 years after the introduction of the first cameras in Britain, which was at the forefront. It has been noted that in London a person is filmed 300 times a day on average.
Switzerland counts up to 150,000 cameras in public spaces, it is estimated. And hardly surprising for a country which is seen as a model for direct democracy, there have been local votes on the issue, notably in Lucerne, St Gallen and Renens, a suburb of Lausanne.
" There is a tremendous ignorance about the inefficiency of surveillance cameras. "
Olivier Guéniat, police commander
While cameras can be helpful to identify the perpetrator of a crime, experts are wary of a possible preventive impact.
“All the studies carried out in England – among them a number of excellent ones – show the crime rate dropping and a perception of improved safety at least to begin with,” says Klauser.
“But the impact rapidly reduces after five to seven months,” he adds.
Police commander Guéniat confirms that question marks remain over the deterrent effect of CCTV. Banks with video surveillance are still the target of raids and as for street crime, a few months after the cameras are installed things go back to normal.
“It is illusory to believe that problems go away because cameras are watching,” Guéniat says.
He nevertheless acknowledges that the electronic eyes can in certain cases be “fiendishly efficient” as they gather information which can then be used to develop a strategy in a certain crime case.
“There is no point setting up surveillance cameras everywhere. Too much information makes you blind and the footage can’t be examined,” he says.
Apart from the fake cameras it is also impossible to have experts behind the scenes keeping their eyes on the screens 24 hours a day.
“At airports or shopping malls there is often a systematic real-time screening of the video material. But even that isn’t enough. Staff have to be available to intervene immediately in the event of violent incidents or theft,” says Klauser.
" Surveillance is rather chaotic if I dare say so. "
Franciso Klauser, Neuchâtel University
Video surveillance can be most helpful in monitoring the traffic on motorways, he adds. Fixed cameras have been set up on almost every motorway stretch in Switzerland to spot accidents and to organise help from a central desk.
“The cameras are also equipped with software that can spot objects. This has been working very well for the past ten years,” he says.
Swiss Federal Railways, apparently the biggest user of video surveillance, welcomes the technology.
A customer survey showed that three out of four respondents felt safer in trains with CCTV systems than carriages without surveillance.
The number of violent incidents against their staff has been decreasing as a result. It dropped to 147 cases in 2010 from 278 in 2005, according to a statement by the Federal Railways.
The state-run company adds that surveillance is part of its security policy on commuter trains including the presence of personnel during certain times of the day and at weekends as well as police patrols in the stations.
No reason to join in the conspiracy theories of “Big brother is watching you” inspired by George Orwell’s famous novel 1984?
“This will remain in the realm of science fiction. There is no centralised surveillance system in Switzerland,” says Klauser.
“Surveillance is rather chaotic if I dare say so. Projects are launched left, right and centre and nobody seems to have an overview about how many cameras there are and how the material is exploited,” he adds.
Neither he nor police commander Guéniat are concerned about a totalitarian system watching over every move of its citizens.
“There is only a small minority of people who are really afraid. And most of all, there is a tremendous ignorance about the inefficiency of surveillance cameras.”
Marc-André Miserez, swissinfo.ch
(Adapted from French by Urs Geiser)
The 26/11 Mumbai attack was carried out by highly trained terrorists who were given training into paramilitary courses by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a US attorney has said.
"...this (Mumbai attack) was, in fact, the handiwork of highly trained terrorists who had gone through the LeT paramilitary courses," US Attorney Neil H MacBride said in a submission to a US District court in Virginia, which sentenced 24-year-old Pakistani national Jubair Ahmad for aiding LeT.
Ahmad was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment yesterday for providing material support to LeT by making a propaganda video for the terror group, helping it with recruitment and fundraising.
Based in US for the past few years, Ahmad had himself received two levels of LeT training and was in regular communication with Talha Saeed, the son of the LeT founder Hafiz Saeed.
"For years before his arrest, Ahmad engaged in trade-craft to conceal his activities on behalf of LeT. He used coded language, avoiding talking openly about LeT, and he maintained the lowest possible profile," MacBride said.
Though based in US, the purpose of Ahmad was to incite violence against India in particular Kashmir.
Ahmad "advocated violence, almost exclusively against the Indian army in Kashmir."
According to US attorney, Ahmad received first two levels of paramilitary training from the LeT - Dora Suffa and Dora A'ama.
Once he completed the first two levels, Ahmad was interested in the third stage, Dora Khasa or the "advanced course," but was denied permission as he was too young skinny. After having been turned away, and after the passage of time and distance, Ahmad continued to express a desire to complete the advanced LeT training.
In July 2010, when he was 23 years old, Ahmad told an associate, "I had gone to do the Khasa. Brother Nisar sent me back. He said, 'You are too young right now.'... There was a lot of enjoyment (there)."
"When the associate asked if he intended to try again, Ahmad replied, 'God willing.'," the US attorney said.
"He had the specific intent to influence the conduct of a government (in this case the Indian government), by intimidation or coercion or because he wanted to retaliate against them. Ahmad did not commit this offense by accident. He did not commit it for pecuniary gain or because he really liked and admired Talha Saeed," the US attorney said.
I have received many queries from my readers asking for my comments on the security implications of normal economic relations with Pakistan.I will categorise them as follows:
LOW SECURITY IMPLICATIONS: Trade in goods. Expansion of bilateral trade in goods can reduce the trust deficit between the two countries and facilitate a forward movement in improving the comfort level. Its security implications will be the least in the form of an increasing flow of Pakistani intelligence personnel and jihadi leaders to India under the cover of businessmen for establishing contacts with leaders of organisations such as the Indian Mujahideen (IM), for funding them and for giving them instructions. These threats could be managed by the intelligence agencies which have a long experience of dealing with Pakistani intelligence activities in Indian territory and have a good data-base on this.Trade in goods would not enable the ISI to destabilise our economy.
MEDIUM SECURITY IMPLICATIONS
Trade in services and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).This could enable the Pakistani intelligence to acquire a key presence in sensitive sectors of our economy such as banking, telecommunications, information technology etc and use the presence to disrupt our economy and collect strategic intelligence regarding our economic deficiencies that could be exploited by them.Our intelligence agencies are not yet in a position to deal with such threats effectively and do not have a good data-base on the likely threats and modus operandi of the Pakistani agencies.Even in the case of China, we went slow in these two sectors and even now our intelligence agencies have strong concerns over the wisdom of our allowing Chinese telecom and internet companies a presence in India. It has taken our intelligence agencies nearly 15 years to build up a data-base on Chinese companies with suspected links to their intelligence.They managed to build the data base because they got a lot of data from the intelligence agencies of Western countries which closely monitor Chinese companies.Such data-sharing will not be possible in the case of Pakistani companies which have a little presence in the economies of Western countries. We should, therefore, go slow and build up the capabilities and data-bases of our agencies before we allow Pakistani companies in these fields.
HIGH SECURITY IMPLICATIONS
Foreign Institutional Investments in our stock markets. This has the highest security threat.Allowing either China or Pakistan to invest in our stocks will give them a capability to disrupt our economy through manipulation of their stock holdings.Our intelligence agencies will always be against any FII by either Pakistani or Chinese investors in our stock markets.Should not be allowed.( 14-4-12)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org . Twitter @SORBONNE75 )
The US is committing a serious mistake in imposing fresh food sanctions against North Korea for attempting to launch a rocket on April 13,2012, in defiance of international appeals not to do so and in violation of its past commitments not to do so in return for a resumption of food aid.
2.The launch---which the US described as an attempt to test a long-range missile and North Korea projected as an attempt to put a satellite in orbit to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of his grand-father Kim Ul-Sung--- failed. After the launch, the second stage failed to separate from the first and the rocket disintegrated.
3. It was a double humiliation for North Korea, its leaders and people. The first humiliation arose from the failure of the rocket and the second from the fresh food sanctions sought to be imposed on North Korea at the instance of the US for trying to test the rocket.
4. The double humiliation has come at a time when Kim Jong-Un, who succeeded his father as the ruler four months ago, seemed to have consolidated his position. On the eve of the launch, he assumed the posts of the First Secretary of the Korean Workers’ Party, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission and the First Chairman of the National Defence Commission, a newly-created post.
5. North Korea has had rocket/missile failures in the past which it never admitted and instead projected as a success. This time, it had to admit the failure, because, in a rare act of transparency in an otherwise closed society, Kim Jong-Un had about 150 foreign journalists invited for the launch at the risk of any failure becoming public knowledge.
6. This act of transparency seems to have had two objectives. Firstly, to convince the world that North Korea was placing a satellite for peaceful purposes in orbit and not testing a long-range missile as alleged by the US and South Korea. Secondly, to attempt an opening up of the closed North Korean society.
7. This act of transparency required great courage on his part.It should have been rewarded by the opponents of North Korea led by the US in order to encourage him to continue on the path of gradually opening up North Korea. Instead by seeking to strengthen the food sanctions for attempting to launch the rocket, the US is unwittingly proving to the North Korean leadership that its experimenting with transparency was unwise.
8.North Korea may now reverse its experimentation with transparency and any hopes of a wind of change in North Korea under the new ruler will stand belied.By humiliating Kim in the eyes of his people, the US has lost any chance of experimenting with a new policy which would have had the objective of encouraging Kim Jong-Un to gradually come out of his shell. ( 15-4-12)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )
I’ve followed Chris’s work for many years, and come to admire his capacity for seeing around corners with unusual prescience. He was warning of a housing bust, and explained precisely how it would play itself out, fully two years before the reality dawned on everyone else.
Here is why I think his new book is important. In the last decade, something astonishing has happened that has escaped the attention of nearly every American citizen. In the past, and with good reason, we were inclined to imagine that if we were living here, we were living everywhere. We were used to being ahead. The trends of the world would follow us, so there wasn’t really much point in paying that close attention. This national myopia has long been an affliction, but one without much cost. Until very recently.
One symptom of the change is that it used to be that the dollars in your local savings account or stock fund paid you money. The smart person saved and got rewarded. It seemed like the American thing to do. It is slowly dawning on people that this isn’t working anymore. Saving alone no longer pays, thanks largely to a Federal Reserve policy of zero-percent interest.
But that’s not the only reason. There’s something more fundamental going on, something that Mayer, author of the absolutely essential and eye-opening book World Right Side Up, believes is going to continue for the rest of our lifetimes and beyond. The implications of his thesis are profound for investors. It actually affects the lives of everyone in the digital age.
Mayer points out that sometime in the last 10 years, the world economy doubled in size at the same time the balance of the world’s emerging wealth shifted away from the United States and toward all various parts of the world. The gap between us and them began to narrow. The world’s emerging markets began to make up half the global economy.
When you look at a graph of the US’s slice of global productivity, it is a sizable slice, taking up 21 percent, but it is nothing particularly amazing. Meanwhile, emerging markets make up 10 of the 20 largest economies in the world. India is gigantic, larger than Germany. Russia, which was a basket case in my living memory, has passed the UK. Turkey (who even talks about this country?) is larger than Australia. China might already be bigger than the United States.
Check these growth rates I pulled from the latest data, and compare to the US’s pathetic numbers: Malaysia and Malawi: 7.1%; Nicaragua: 7.6%; Dominican Republic 7.8%; Sri Lanka: 8.0%; Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Brazil, and Peru: 8.5%; India: 8.8%; Turkey and Turkmenistan: 9%; China: 10%; Singapore and Paraguay: 14.9%.
Then there’s the measure of the credit-default swap rating, which is a kind of insurance against default. The French rate is higher than Brazilian, Peruvian and Colombian debt. In the last 10 years, the stock markets of those Latin American countries far outperformed European stock markets. Also, many emerging economies are just better managed than the heavily bureaucratized, debt-laden economic landscape of the US and Europe. As for consumption, emerging markets have already surpassed the United States.
“These trends,” writes Mayer, “will become more pronounced over time. The creation of new markets, the influx of hundreds of millions of people who will want cellphones and air conditioners and water filters, who will want to eat a more varied diet of meats and fruits and vegetables, among many other things, will have a tremendous impact on world markets.”
Why does he see the trends as creating a “world right side up”? Because, he argues, this represents a kind of normalization of the globe in a post-US empire world. The Cold War was a grave distortion. In fact, the whole of the 20th century was a distortion too. Going back further, back to 1,000 years ago, we find a China that was far advanced over Western Europe.
I read Mayer’s prognostications with an attentive ear, for several reasons. His book is not the result of thousands of hours of Internet surfing or cribbing from the CIA World Factbook. He is an on-the-ground reporter who will go anywhere and do anything for a story about emerging wealth. The result is the kind of credibility that can’t be gained any other way.
But there is another reason. Mayer is often cited as one of a handful of people who saw what was happening in the housing market in the mid-2000s and issued several lengthy and detailed warnings. Not only did he foresee the bust, but he explained why the boom was taking place. He saw a perfect storm brewing with a combination of subsidized loans, too-big-to-fail mortgage agencies and a Federal Reserve policy that was designed to distort capital flows. He called it like few others.
This is not because he is a magic man. It is because he is schooled in solid economic theory — this becomes obvious in page after page — and also because he is intensely curious to discover the workings of that theory in the real world. In his way of thinking, if we can’t understand or expect change, we can’t understand markets, much less anticipate their direction.
Another thing: Mayer is less interested in big aggregates like GDP (and other such “economic monstrosities”) and more interested in taking a “boots-on-the ground view, a firsthand look.” His aim: “stay close to what is happening and what we can understand in more tangible ways.” And he seems close to everything: cement factories, the hotel industry, ranches and farms, coal and cellphone companies, financial houses, glassmakers, water purification companies — all the stuff that makes up life itself.
And what he discovers again and again are localized institutions that are cooperating globally (trade!) to build capital, wealth and new sources of progress that no one planned and hardly anyone anticipated. Here is the story of the building of civilization as it has always happened in history, but tracked carefully and precisely in our times.
In this book, he uses this combination of smarts plus fanatical curiosity to examine all the main contenders for the future: Colombia, Brazil, Nicaragua, China, India, the UAE, Syria, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Mongolia, Argentina, Russia, Turkey, central Asia, Mexico and Canada. Here he finds innovation, capital, entrepreneurship, creativity, a willingness to try ideas and a passion for improving the lot of mankind.
His reporting defies conventional wisdom at every turn. Page after page, the reader will find himself thinking, That’s amazing. Nicaragua is not socialist. Medellín, Colombia (the “city of eternal spring”), is not violent. Brazil is no longer a land of rich and poor, but rather home to the world’s largest middle class. China is the world’s largest market for cars and cellphones; even in the rural areas you can buy Coke and a Snickers bar. India is the world’s leader in minting new millionaires. Cambodia (Cambodia!) ranks among the world’s most powerful magnets for investment capital. Mongolia has one of the world’s best-performing stock markets.
He also discovers many large American companies that have seen the writing on the wall and opened up factories, manufacturing plants, financial services and retail shops all over emerging markets. These companies are attracted by the intelligence of the workers, the relatively unregulated and low-tax legal environment and the cultures that have a new love for enterprise. And the returns are there too. The bottom line is sending a signal for them to expand.
It’s particularly intriguing to read about how all these emerging- market entrepreneurs overcome terrible and destructive bureaucracies — they exist everywhere! — that try to gum up the works, as well as bureaucrats who know nothing of business yet have the power to kill it off. Yet their very inefficiency is the saving grace. They can’t control the future. The brilliance of the market somehow finds the workaround.
Mayer’s main interest is in finding investment opportunities, and he lays them out in great detail here. If you think about it, this is just about the best vantage point from which to examine a new and unfamiliar world. Commerce is the driving force of history, the road map of where we’ve been and where we are going. To track down the profitable trade is likely to provide more valuable insight than all the academic speculations.
This is a very exciting book. It weaves history, geography, economics and firsthand reporting into a marvelous tapestry, one that is as beautiful as art and as complex and varied as the world itself has become in our times. A fine stylist, Mayer offers some fantastic one-liners in every section (“Change is like a pin to the balloons of conventional wisdom”) and his detailed stories give you the sense that you are traveling alongside him, like walking with Virgil in Purgatorio and Paradiso in one trip.
Mayer quotes Marco Polo: “I have not told half of what I saw.” In the same way, I’ve not told even 5 percent of what’s in this extraordinary tour of the world most people don’t know has come to exist only in the new millennium. There is no way a short review can do this book justice. There is so much wisdom packed in its pages. It is a meaty and enormously credible look at a world most people have never seen. In ten or twenty years, people will point to this book and say: this guy chronicled and understood what few others did.
Executive Editor Laissez Faire Books for The Daily Reckoning
April 13, 2012
Washington has been most upset with honest defense minister Antony for not succumbing to US Trojan horses .India has no plans as of now to either join the US-led joint strike fighter (JSF) programme or buy the F-35 `Lightning-II' fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) when it finally becomes operational.
"We cannot have two types of FGFA. We have already launched preliminary work for our FGFA after inking the $295 million preliminary design contract (PDC) with Russia last month,'' said a top defence ministry official soon after.
India rightly decided not to buy American F-16's or F/A-18's for the biggest defense tender in its history -- a $10 billion-plus contract for 126 multi-role combat aircraft. Following field trials, it instead shortlisted the Rafale, made by France's Dassault, and the Typhoon, produced by a European consortium. And finally opted for Rafale .Many rightly feel that we could have made Rafale production a profitable joint venture ; some Latin nations are thinking of going for Rafale copying us , since except French Airforce no one has bought Rafale.
But we all know how Indians look for fat commissions and Indian are still at best traders , 26 year old Tetra truck deal .How we even buy Chinese light lamps , room heat blowers etc .Our IT billionaires in software have invested little in computer hardware manufacture .So our industrial production index is plummeting , so will artificially upped economic growth ..It has been in decline since the reality sector needing cement , iron and some simple equipment is slowing down .
One of the main reasons for the Indian corporate media barrage against both Antony and Gen VK Singh ( by agents of rams suppliers )was to malign them , egged on by their masters in USA.
Below is a good piece from Kolkata Telegraph on the subject of how Antony fell afoul of the Americans .
Also what would have happened if India had opted for F-35 , astronomical rising costs .US Military-Industry complex is a major tool of exploitation by financiers and bankers .Hundreds of billions have been spent in Star wars programme which was used to browbeat naïve Gorbachev to surrender , without yet any real successful shot at bringing down missiles .It is still being used to frighten Russia and Iran , but Putin and Tehran know better .At the end is a piece on F-35 are escalating prices .
Cheers .Gajendra 13 April , 2012
LIFTING THE LID
- A.K. Antony and the problem of corruption
Diplomacy: K.P. Nayar Kolkata Telegraph
“Will Minister Antony resign?” More than any other, this is the one question that I have been asked by Americans in recent weeks about the defence minister who has been in the news for the better part of this year. Most of the people asking this question have some connection with the military-industrial complex in the United States of America or the country’s defence and strategic community.
The reality, howsoever unpalatable, is that few defence ministers can survive after incurring the personal displeasure of an American defence secretary, unless they are defence ministers in Russia and China or in countries like Iran or North Korea, which are in various stages of confrontation with the US.
A.K. Antony attracted the wrath of the Obama administration last year by his determined refusal to receive the then defence secretary, Robert Gates, who tried to inject himself into a US delegation that was to travel to India for the second round of the “strategic dialogue” between New Delhi and Washington. Gates wanted to lobby with Antony on behalf of American companies, which were then in the running for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft being sought by the Indian air force, the biggest military aviation deal hitherto.
Antony made it clear to his cabinet colleagues, who were persuaded by the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to plead the case of the Pentagon’s civilian head, that if Gates arrived with Clinton he would go to the remotest location in Kerala where even his mobile phone had no signal for the duration of the American’s stay in New Delhi. Kerala was then in the middle of its state assembly election campaign, which gave Antony enough of an excuse to be in his home state.
The defence secretary did not give up. Gates used the ruse that he was demitting office in July and that he wanted to make a farewell call on Antony: at that point, April was being considered for the strategic dialogue, which eventually had to be postponed because of the defence minister’s insistence that he will not meet Gates as long as the aircraft contract was at a sensitive stage in the acquisition process.
Pentagon officials have told reporters on background that “the defence secretary was informed that it would be suicidal” for Antony to meet Gates and that this message was conveyed by Indian diplomats in Washington, who were negotiating the strategic dialogue arrangements with the Obama administration at that time.
At the end of April 2011, American companies were eliminated from the race for the multi-role combat planes, the US ambassador, Timothy Roemer, resigned the next day, and Gates lost any further interest in making his farewell call on Antony. The strategic dialogue eventually took place in July last year without a top-level defence participation.
After an unstated policy of having no ministerial exchanges in defence for 50 years — except on a solitary occasion, that too botched — US defence secretaries have lately taken exceptional interest in their Indian counterparts and senior Indian ministers in the last decade. The most famous of such exchanges was when Donald Rumsfeld, who was predecessor to Gates, called on the deputy prime minister, L.K. Advani, at his hotel on a Sunday in a well publicized effort to highlight a new chemistry in their ties.
Rumsfeld felt somewhat proprietary about the new defence relationship that the administration of George W. Bush considerably advanced with India, but luckily for New Delhi, he did not stay at the Pentagon long enough to see Washington’s hope of bagging the much-sought-after combat aircraft deal crumble into dust. There is no saying how the mercurial Rumsfeld would have reacted to such a disappointment. Gates, a man of great dignity, took the setback in his stride, at least in public.
The Pentagon is not alone in being disgruntled by Antony’s ways. He has consistently refused to visit Israel, which interchangeably shares the first or second spots with Russia among the sources of arms imports for India.
As if to add injury to insult, last month the defence ministry blacklisted Israel Military Industries for 10 years for allegedly paying bribes to secure contracts in India. IMI is not just another arms-seller. It is owned by the government in Tel Aviv, a leading weapons manufacturer for Israel’s defence forces.
It was not expected that Tel Aviv will take the ban lying down. Additionally, the ban by Antony’s ministry has cast a shadow over plans by the Netanyahu government to privatize IMI. There are now question marks about the timing of the privatization: if the world’s number one arms buyer — India — has found IMI unsuitable to do business with, it could have ramifications for investors seeking to buy into the company.
Those familiar with New Delhi’s lay of the land in such matters were not, therefore, surprised when grumblings of discontent, which began as whispers after Antony rebuffed Gates, grew louder following the rejection of American bids for the multi-role combat aircraft. It was not entirely unexpected that after the decision against the Israelis, Antony would be put in a spot by a steady flow of news stories and purportedly thoughtful op-ed articles.
The Americans and the Israelis are not alone in being at the receiving end of Antony’s efforts in full throttle to do what he can to curb corruption in defence purchases and create a level playing field. Singapore is a country with which India enjoys a relationship that is totally free of trouble. That has not, however, prevented Antony from banning Singapore Technologies Kinetics from future contracts for a decade.
This land systems and specialty vehicles company has launched an all out bid to clear its name, including recourse to the Supreme Court. It has also threatened to seek international arbitration, creating an irritant in bilateral relations.
Russian defence suppliers who have had a free run of New Delhi’s procurement process for many decades have similarly been slapped with punitive sanctions as part of Antony’s anti-graft drive. The defence minister has further angered Swiss, South African and many more arms manufacturers, lining up a formidable array of forces, all of which would be glad to see him move out of his present job.
Typically, nobody is criticizing Antony for cracking down on corruption. Instead, the strategy of those who want him out of the way is to attack Antony for slowing down the modernization of the armed forces by creating bottlenecks in arms purchases, and for creating a trust deficit between the civilian and uniformed segments of the defence establishment. All in all, the effort is to show up the defence minister as a man incapable of running an enterprise as vast and complex as the one for which he is tasked with providing leadership.
The age controversy about General V.K. Singh, the army chief, was the best thing that Antony’s detractors could have hoped for. Unfortunately for the defence minister, both propriety and constitutionality demand that he cannot truthfully tell his side of the story.
For instance, Antony personally believes that the army chief is not lying about his age and that General Singh was born in 1951. Similarly, the General has been a steadfast ally of Antony in what the latter is trying to do about corruption in the defence establishment. It may be a hard idea to sell, especially after a sensational story about troop movements, but the personal warmth and respect for each other between Antony and Singh are nothing short of total. Which is why there has been no move to dismiss the army chief or get him to resign. Even though Antony believes that General Singh made a mistake about his date of birth, an episode from his own past prevents Antony from doing anything about it except to follow the letter of the law. Antony was chief minister of Kerala when a similar controversy dogged the state government.
Raman Srivastava, an Indian Police Service officer of the Kerala cadre who became director-general of the state police and later headed the Border Security Force, was at the centre of this controversy. A mere five months separate him and his brother, Vikram Srivastava, an IPS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre, who became director-general of the Central Reserve Police Force: a biological impossibility since both the brothers were born of the same mother.
As chief minister, Antony did not allow the Kerala cadre officer to change his date of birth. There is no way he would have acted any differently with General Singh. What is more, it is Antony’s estimate that there are at least 3,000 such cases of incorrect birthdays in government service records. That is a Pandora’s Box, which is best left shut.
Ministry to review F-35 order annually
The F-35 fighter jet (Joint Strike Fighter), which Turkey and other countries plan on purchasing. REUTERS photo
Turkey’s F-35 jet orders in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) F-35 project will be analyzed on an annual basis by the Defense Industry Executive Board, Turkish Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz has told Reuters.
Turkey, along with other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Australia, Norway, Canada and Denmark, had announced that it would order 100 F-35 fighter planes, but many partner countries are backing out due to recent delays in delivery and price increases for the jets by the United States.
When asked by Reuters whether Turkey would proceed with its F-35 orders, Yımaz saidTurkey would order two F-35 jets in 2012 and that the decision would be reviewed on an annual basis by the Defense Industry Executive Board.
He added that the delays were due in large part to the fact that the F-35 jet was still undergoing development.
Pentagon also delays F-35 orders
Meanwhile, the U.S Pentagon announced that it would also delay its orders for 179 F-35 jets by five years. The U.K. said it would disclose the number of jets it wants to order by 2015, while Italy said it was planning to decrease its orders by 30 percent.
As part of its “B plan,” Yılmaz said they were working on modernizing the F-4 model and would begin studies and plans to create a domestic Turkish prototype fighter jet.
In response to a question regarding the price increases for the jets, Yılmaz said: “At present the cost of a single jet for Turkey is about $120 million. In 2002 we had estimated that the average cost of an F-35 jet would be around $40 million-50 million, but today the price has reached $120 million.” k HDN
April 12, 2012
Wang Lijun was the Deputy Director of the Public Security Bureau in Tiefa in the Liaoning province from 1992 to 1995. From 1995 to 2000, he held the same position in Tieling city, also inthe Liaoning Province. In 2000, he was promoted as the Director of the Public Security Bureau in Tieling. From 2003 to 2008, he served as the Director of the Public Security Bureau of Jinzhou city in the same province. During this period, Bo Xilai was the Governor of the province.
2.Wangwas transferred along with Bo to Chongqing in 2008, and became the head of the Public Security Bureau there.On February 2,2012, Wang was shifted from the Public Security Bureau to a post dealing with education and environmental affairs. There was speculation that his transfer was due to an enquiry initiated against him on charges of corruption during his earlier posting in Tieling. Four days later, Wang travelled to Chengdu in the Sichuan province, visited the US Consulate and remained there for nearly 24 hours.He then left the Consulate on his own.
3.Boxun, a Chinese language web site run by an overseas Chinese group, alleged that Wang had carried with him to the US Consulate documents alleging the involvement of Bo and other senior Government and party officials in corruption. The Public Security Bureau of Chongqing sent a large armed police party to Chengdu to surround the US Consulate.They were withdrawn on the orders of the Chinese Foreign Office.Qiu Jin, Vice Minister For State Security, took custody of Wang as he came out of the Consulate and took him to Beijing for interrogation.
4.It was not clear as to why the US Consulate did not grant asylum to Wang if he had asked for it, thereby forcing him to leave the Consulate and surrender himself to the Vice-Minister for State Security.On February 9, several overseas Chinese-languagewebsites posted an open letter allegedly written by Wang accusing Bo of corruption and having criminal links.It was not clear when he wrote that letter.
5.The Information Office of the Chongqing Municipality started a campaign for discrediting Wang by alleging that he was "seriously indisposed due to long term overwork and intense mental stress and had been authorized to undergo vacation-style medical treatment.”
6.In the inner circles of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Wang incident and reports of his making allegations of corruption against Boreportedly led to criticism of the style of functioning of Bo and his advocacy of "core socialist values" and a "red culture movement" in Chongqing.
7.BoXilai was absent from the opening session of the National People's Congress(NPC) on March 8. Although he attended the subsequent sessions and spoke to local and foreign journalists,his absence on the opening day triggered off speculation that he had fallen into disfavour. This speculation was confirmed on March 15 when Bo was replaced as the Chongqing Communist Party Secretary following public comments by Premier Wen Jiabao about the need for Chongqing officials to seriously reflect on the Wang Lijun incident. Wen cautioned about the dangers of a new Cultural Revolution.
8. While Bo was removed from the posts occupied by him in Chongqing, he was not removed from the more important posts of member of the Party Central Committee and Politburo, which gave him status and power at the national level. Thus while he lost his power at the regional level, he retained his power at the national level.
9. Following his removal from the Chongqing posts, Chinese microblogs started speculating that Bo’s removal indicated a power struggle in the party and that, in fact, there had been a coup attempt by some supporters of Bo, includingformer Minister of Public Security Zhou Yongkang. These rumours were not proved correct. President Hu Jintao stuck to his programmes to visit Seoul for the Nuclear Security Summit, New Delhi for the BRICS summit and Cambodia on a bilateral visit. Foreign dignitaries continued visiting China without any changes in their programmes. Zhou appeared in public on many occasions. It was thus clear that there was no political struggle in Beijing as alleged by many microblogs.The Chinese authorities strongly condemned the rumours being spread through the Internet of a power struggle in the party and appealed to the people not to believe such rumours.
10. Almost simultaneously, there were rumours that Wang had told US Consular officials at Chengdu during his stay in the Consulate that Neil Heywood, a British businessman found dead in a Chongqing hotel room in November last year, had been poisoned on the orders of GuKailai, wife of Bo, who is a lawyer, contradicting claims by Chinese authorities that the 41-year-old businessman had died of an alcohol overdose. Following this, there were reports that the British Government had started pressing Beijing to reopen the investigation into the death of Heywood. According to the Agence France Presse, before his visit to Chongqing, Heywood used to work for a consultancy firm floated by some ex-officers of the MI-6, the British external intelligence agency.
11.The CPC Central Committee announced on April 10,2012, the party’s decision to suspend Bo Xilai, from the Politburo and the Central Committee of the CPC on charges of serious violations of party discipline. The Ministry of Public Security separately announced the re-opening of the investigation into the death of Heywood and the arrest of Bo’s wife in this connection.
12.The State-Controlled Xinhua news agency disseminated the following report on April 10: “As Comrade Bo Xilai is suspected of being involved in serious discipline violations, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has decided to suspend his membership of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau and the CPC Central Committee, in line with the CPC Constitution and the rules on investigation of CPC discipline inspection departments. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC will file the case for investigation.” The Xinhua alerted Chinese readers that the People’s Daily, the party daily, will be coming out with a commentary on Bo’s suspension the next day.
13.Intriguingly, the Reuters news agency disseminated news of Bo’s suspension before Xinhua officially announced it. This gave rise to speculation in the Net as to how Reuters got the news. Was it briefed by the Party or did someone aware of the decision leak the news before it was officially disseminated by Xinhua?
14. On April 11, the People’s Daily launched a two-pronged campaign, firstly, to demonise Bo and appeal to the people for maintaining stability and development and solidarity with the Party and Government and secondly for projecting that the party and Government officials and the people of Chongqing have been supporting the Central Committee decisions on Bo.
15. A commentary in the Daily that sought to explain the decisions stated inter alia as follows: “This(Bo’s suspension) fully displays the respect for fact and the rule of law, and is entirely consistent with the Party's basic requirement of strict discipline on its members and the Party's governing philosophy of running state affairs according to law.This also showcases the Party's determination to keep its purity, and the clear stand of the Party and government to safeguard Party discipline and the laws of the state. This will gain support from all members of the Party and the public.”
16.It added: “Based on the facts made public so far, the Wang Lijun incident is a serious political event leaving very negative impacts at home and abroad, and the death of Neil Heywood is a serious criminal case involving the family and close staff of a Party and state leader.The CPC Central Committee, with Hu Jintao as the general secretary, has resolutely moved to investigate into related events, seriously handle the situation and inform the public promptly, displaying the strong sense of responsibility to the cause of the Party and people as well as firm commitment to the socialist rule of law.The facts have proven that the CPC stands for the people, accepts their supervision, never compromises on corruption and will probe and punish any violations of law and discipline.”
17.It further said: “China is a socialist country ruled by law, and the sanctity and authority of law shall not be trampled. Whoever has broken the law will be handled in accordance with law and will not be tolerated, no matter who is involved and no matter what position he is in.There is no privileged citizen before the law. The Party does not tolerate any special member who is above the law. No one can interfere with law enforcement and anyone who violates the law could not be at large.”
18.Thecommentary called on the people to maintain a high level of ideological unity with the CPC Central Committee with Hu as the general secretary, and hold high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
19.Urging the people to stick to the overall work principle of "seeking progress while maintaining stability," the commentary said people should focus their attention on economic and social development, and work together to overcome difficulties.
20.It added: “We should strive to safeguard the favorable situation concerning China's reform, development and stability, make new achievements in building a moderately prosperous society in all aspects, and speed up the socialist modernization drive, thus to welcome the 18th CPC national congress."
21.An opinion piece in the same issue of the People's Daily called for consolidated confidence in China's fight against corruption despite the fact that it is a "long-term, complex and arduous task."
22.It said: “"Some corrupt individuals instruct their spouses, children, mistresses, friends or even relatives to receive bribes on their behalf, or receive remarkable personal bonuses through facilitating third-party business activities."
23."Some deliberately commit corruption overseas, transfer embezzled money and assets abroad, or secretly obtain citizenship from foreign countries," it alleged.
24.The article contributed by the Beijing-based Center for the Studies of the Socialist Theory System with Chinese Characteristics appealed to the peopleto have full confidence in the CPC-led anti-corruption work, because the Party has the resolution to succeed, and its strong leadership will prevail.
25.The two articles carried by the People’s Daily had the objective of discounting speculation that Bo’s suspension indicated an ideological struggle in the party between reformists led by Hu and Wen and a New Left consisting of Bo and his followers which challenged the deviations from the core socialist principles by the reformists.The two articles sought to project that the suspension of Bo and the arrest of his wife were purely due to corruption and other illegal acts committed by them and had nothing to do with any ideological differences. Despite this,many netizens believe that ideological differences were the prime motive for the suspension of Bo and that allegations of corruption and illegalities were being used as a pretext to justify his suspension.
26.Despite the party’s efforts to project that things were normal in Chongqing after the suspension of Bo and that the local people had hailed his suspension, reports started coming in of demonstrations and acts of violence in Chongqing, resulting in the People’s Armed Police being called out to maintain law and order.
27.In a commentary, Radio Free Asia, funded by the US State Department, reported as follows: “The clashes were not obviously connected to the purging of ousted populist Chongqing ruling Chinese Communist Party chief Bo Xilai from high-ranking posts, but began around the same time as his ouster announcement via the official Xinhua news agency late on Tuesday.The riots were triggered by a decision to merge Wansheng district with neighboringQijiangcounty earlier this year, according to online reports. Residents of Wansheng District are worried their living standards and economic conditions will be hit by the merger, said the reports.”
28.Bo can be dismissed only by a plenary of the Central Committee.After the completion of the investigations against him and his wife, the plenary is expected to be convened to decide on his dismissal. Indications are that the reformists are in a majority in the Central Committee. The dismissal of Bo is a foregone conclusion.
29.Bo was a regionally popular and populist leader of the New Left in the Party, who was aspiring to become a member of the nine-member Standing Committee of the Politburo during the Party Congress later this year, which will pave the way for the succession of Hu and Wen. With Bo out of the way, the New Left will be without a leader of the same charisma and calibre and will not be able to challenge the reformists.
30.The prevailing nervousness in Beijing reflected in the articles of the People’s Daily is not due to fears that the Leftists may strike back causing political instability, but due to fears of the unpredictability of the millions of netizens who are emerging as an active force in China’s political landscape. The netizens are changing the complexion and force of the political mainstream. Bo was an iconic hero to many of them. The Party will be more worried about Bo’s followers in the virtual than the real world.The nervousness of the reformists will continue till the new leadership takes over from Hu and Wen and is firmly in position. Uncertain months are ahead for the Chinese leadership.
31.This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article of March 17 titled BO XILAI: FALL OF AN AMBITIOUS REGIONAL PARTY FUNCTIONARY at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers50%5Cpaper4967.html ( 13-4-12)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )
April 11, 2012
April 11, 2012 | 0903 GMT
By Robert D. Kaplan
Some years back, when I left Niamey, the capital of Niger, and headed north on a rutted, dirt track it was as if the country disappeared on me. There was no police, no sign of authority, nothing. Flash floods had left the road completely washed out in places, with the wheels of large trucks half-sunk in mud, drivers stuck for days on the side of the road. Here there were only Tuaregs, the "blue men" as they were called, on account of the color of their dazzling robes and the blue vegetable dye ("nila") they smeared on their bodies. The Tuaregs, a pastoral Berber people, were lords of the Sahara; it's better to have a Tuareg with you than a GPS device, went the saying of U. S. Army Special Forces with whom I was embedded.
My experience heading north from Timbuktu in Mali was even more extreme. Though it connotes the back of beyond, Timbuktu was actually a cosmopolitan locale -- complete with a museum of medieval Islamic manuscripts, a few decent restaurants and satellite dishes -- compared to where I was going.
I was off to Araouane, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north from Timbuktu into the desert. Araouane was a name on a map, as though it were Cleveland or some place. But nobody in Timbuktu -- and certainly not in Bamako, the Malian capital very far away to the southwest -- knew anything about Araouane, and if anyone still lived there. It took 14 hours and numerous breakdowns in the fine sand to reach Araouane, a huddle of ruins on a cosmic emptiness where only women, children and old men lived -- the Tuareg men were out conducting raids and commerce on caravan routes throughout the desert. Here the Malian state did not exist.
There is a geographical lesson here. Scan a map of the Sahara from the Atlantic Ocean to the Horn of Africa and you will see Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad, countries that encompass this desert comparable in size to the United States. Then notice where the capitals of these countries are located: crouched far away to the south, inside the Sahelian plain, where they are demographic and environmental extensions of coastal West Africa -- and also where the local political elites whom the Europeans discovered are located.
You can drive from Cotonou in Benin on the Gulf of Guinea, due north for hundreds of kilometers to Niamey, and the landscape will change relatively little -- compared, that is, to the concentrated differences that you encounter further on. For soon after leaving Niamey and heading north or northeast the landscape evolves into utter desert. A similar situation ensues after leaving these other capitals. European colonialists in drawing these boundaries decreed that the desert would be ruled not from a central point in the desert itself, as previous Berber cultures had done, but from a distant, coastal-oriented periphery in the Sahelian plain.
This situation would make governance in the hinterlands difficult under the best of conditions. But in this part of Africa the conditions are the worst, since the level of institutional development and transportation links is abysmal, and it is mainly through roads and institutions that hinterlands are governed. There is little economic activity in the desert compelling governments to maintain more than a light footprint there. These aren't countries so much as city-states -- Nouakchott, Bamako, Niamey, Ndjamena -- with armies that try to keep some order in the far-flung, far less populated reaches. State armies never have ruled this desert; rather, they have maintained for much of the time a stable cease-fire with the Tuaregs there (often through integration of key Tuareg fighters into local military bases).
Democracy has complicated the situation, even as it has helped jump-start a tradition of better governance. As one diplomat in Bamako once explained to me, with democracy there was more pressure on local politicians to spend money in the populous south, near the capital, because that's where the votes are. And without aid to the desert communities to the north, governance cannot ultimately follow.
The most effective government I experienced in the Tuareg lands of the Sahara was Algeria's. A few years ago I spent a month in Tamanrasset, in Algeria's extreme south, as far from the capital of Algiers on the Mediterranean as it is from Lagos in Nigeria on the Gulf of Guinea. Algeria is a real state, with a highly professional army and institutions. But it was the Algerian army that ruled Tamanrasset and its environs, not civilian government bureaucrats. Security, even in this principal city of the central Sahara -- ruled by a Mediterranean, North African state no less -- was tenuous. Algeria as such, much as Niger and Mali as such, ended far, far away, closer to the capital.
The Tuareg dilemma, in which these Berber semi-nomads have recently conquered the northern half of Mali and may even threaten neighboring countries, is not completely solvable. The modern European state system is an ungainly fit for what obtains in the Sahara Desert. However, it is not out of the question that in the near future, through the building of better roads and more robust institutions -- things that come with economic growth and democracy -- governments in places like Bamako and Niamey can extend development deep into the desert, even as the Tuaregs are granted a reasonable degree of autonomy. An independent Tuareg state of the Sahara might then exist more formally -- and the West will still have allies to combat al Qaeda in the region.
The problem in Mali, where junior army officers have overthrown the elected government ostensibly because of its failure to control the Tuaregs in the north, is not only one of a dictatorship replacing a democracy. The problem is also one of fleeting central authority itself. In his classic work on development theory, Political Order in Changing Societies (1968), Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington noted that many governments in places like Africa cannot simply be classified as democratic or authoritarian, because their most "distinguishing characteristic" is sheer "fragility," no matter who is in charge. They have few institutions as such, and it is sturdy bureaucracies rather than elections that truly define a system.
So Mali and its neighbors will totter on. There may be elections in Bamako, or there may not be. Tuareg raiders may control the desert interior, or a battalion of southern-led soldiers from the capital may do so. The real fundamental drama will play out gradually, outside the strictures of media accounts. This drama will be about how, and whether, Africa's recently impressive economic growth rates can lead to the creation of larger middle classes. It is larger middle classes that lead, in turn, to more efficient and vigorous government ministries, and to more professional militaries, so that hinterlands might be brought under control and artificially drawn borders made more workable. The Saharan countries, in this regard, are a more extreme version of the larger African challenge, as the desert has created the largest dichotomy of populations within the continent.
And this will be hard. For example, the fact that the capital city of Luanda, on the coast, is booming because of offshore oil wealth does not mean that the sprawling Angolan interior in southern Africa is doing likewise. The same can be said for a recently and weakly rejuvenated Mogadishu, and whether or not it affects the rest of Somalia. The African challenge, or at least an aspect of it, is to extend good governance and development far beyond the capitals.
Read more: Africa's Tuareg Dilemma, by Robert D. Kaplan | Stratfor
April 10, 2012
“After World War II, when the United States represented more than one-third of the world product and had an overwhelming preponderance in nuclear weapons, many considered it a global hegemon, but nonetheless the United States was unable to prevent the “loss” of China, roll-back Communism in Eastern Europe, prevent stalemate in the Korean War, stop the “loss” of North Vietnam, or dislodge Castro from Cuba.”--------Joseph S. Nye Jr.
The United States in an uncanny repeat of the above power limitations stated above finds itself in a similar situation in 2012. After two decades of unquestioned unipolar domination of the world following the disintegration of the Former Soviet Union, the United States contextually finds itself in a situation where its global strategic dominance stands diminished.
The United States military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan failed to produce decisive results. Iran continues to be a complex strategic and military challenge for America. North Korea stands untamed and defiant. With an impoverished NATO, the United States stands virtually alone strategically and politically.
The United States in military terms today continues to be the mightiest power in the world and will continue as such for a couple of decades more. Global strategic and military power is highly concentrated in the United States with overwhelming asymmetry over its nearest rivals.
Despite the predominant superiority in global military power and force projection capabilities, what is emerging in a discernible manner to analysts’ both within the United States and in the international community is that the United States is presently unable to influence the global political and strategic landscape decisively or with that power induce outcomes favourable to the United States. The most notable current example is Pakistan today of US strategic dominance diminishment.
In a major way, this can be traced to the global shift of economic power away from the United States and Europe to the rising Asian powers represented by China, India, and Japan. The significant point to note is that in stark comparison, while the United States and European economies were adversely impacted by the global financial crisis of 2008, the economies of China and India not only weathered the 2008 global financial crisis but maintained and sustained appreciable rates of economic growth.
Comparatively again one can witness another trend in tandem and that is Asian military expenditures increased significantly with economic growth while European countries defence expenditure was scaled down due to economic problems, The United States under pressure of Congressional cuts will be executing troop reductions, limiting new defence equipment acquisitions and shelving weapons development projects.
Perceptionally, with such trends becoming a reality, the United States global strategic dominance is seriously impacted as a brief regional survey below would indicate.
In Europe, the Transatlantic Alliance in the shape of NATO is virtually being rendered redundant----the theme of an earlier SAAG Paper of mine. European countries and NATO Allies of the United States have become wearied of United States military interventions as in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya as these have been economically costly. European countries may no longer be strategic assets for any future US military interventions and hence as a tool for US strategic dominance.
In the Middle East, the United States seems to have lost its strategic dominance for a number of reasons. The US military intervention in Iraq brought no tangible strategic or political victories for America. On the contrary, the Iraq military intervention strategically belittled America in regional perceptions that even after a decade of intense military engagement the United States seems to have been stymied by local armed militias.
Strategically, the Middle East is also witness to traditional US allies embarking on trajectories independent of American interests. Iran still figures prominently in American strategic cross-hairs as it could not be tamed because of its conventional military power and a lurking nuclear deterrence at its disposal.
In South Asia, he US military intervention in Afghanistan has yet to throw up decisive political and military results. The limitations of US military power come to the fore in Afghanistan and US tactically expedient US foreign policy which was Pakistan-centric so far adversely impacted US Forces military fighting strategies.
Asia Pacific has once again jumped into US strategic focus after a decade of strategic neglect by the United States because of its military distractions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The stupendous rise of Chinese military power in the last decade and its emphasis on accretion and upgradation of its strategic assets, blue water navy and stealth bombers besides advances in cyber warfare and space warfare have unnerved the United States.
The United States strategic pivot to the Asia Pacific and East Asia is particular specifically concentrates on the US containment of the perceived China Threat.
But more significantly, the US strategic pivot defines the beginning of the decline of the global strategic dominance of the United States. The US strategic pivot to Asia Pacific comes at a heavy strategic cost as the United States to give it military shape has been forced to draw-back from US Forces presence in Europe and the Middle Eat
Arguably, Europe does no longer face serious military threats but the Middle East still presents a number of flash-points with global dimensions. Except for Israel, the Middle East continues to be dominated by strong anti-US sentiments and also the relocation of the Al Qaeda.
Global strategic dominance of the United States stands diminished and this may grow further as increased cuts in US defence expenditure materialise.
What is being stressed in this discussion is only the diminishing of United States strategic dominance in crucial strategic regions of the world and not the decline of United States power, which is a separate and contested issue of debate.
Strategic dominance is incomplete without economic power, without overwhelming political influence and without sizeable military boots on the ground in critical strategic regions. United States would be unable to achieve strategic dominance by just a reliance on its shock and awe use of its naval and air force predominance or its force projection capabilities.