China’s Vision for a New Silk Road

China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road initiative, unveiled in 2013, is really two plans combined to form a larger framework of new trade routes. The first of these is One Belt, which refers to the development of new infrastructure, particularly railroads and highways, to connect China’s interior provinces with Europe by way of Russia, Central Asia and the Middle East.

silk road

Of course, insufficient regional infrastructure has tempered expectations of increasing overland exports. But the bigger problem with One Belt is geopolitical: Eurasia is in a state of crisis, and several of the countries China borders will feel the crisis particularly acutely in the coming years.

Central Asia, a patchwork of states whose borders were drawn to make the countries more easily controlled from Moscow during the Soviet era, is hardly a promising market for Chinese goods. Furthermore, it is one of the most politically unstable regions in the world. One Belt is not a long march into prosperity – it’s a long march into disaster.

Read the rest of the article here

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Russia’s Strategy: Built on Illusion

Strong powers can underplay their hands and afford to make mistakes. Weak powers, on the other hand, need to exaggerate their power and be far more precise in its use. Power is like money; the less you have, the more you need to flaunt it and the fewer mistakes you can afford to make. But by trying to convince others that they have more power than they actually do, they run the risk of squandering a scarce resource. It’s nearly impossible to both flaunt power and preserve it at the same time.

russia

This is the core strategic problem of Russia. On the one hand, it is still trying to find its way more than 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, an event President Vladimir Putin has referred to as “the greatest political catastrophe” of the 20th century. In the lives of nations, a quarter of a century is not very long, and the reverberations of the catastrophe are still being felt. On the other hand, Russia lives in a complex and dangerous region, and appearing weak can be the biggest threat to its well-being. Therefore, like a wealthy person coming into hard times, Russia must simultaneously try to appear more powerful than it is and meticulously manage what power it has.

Russia’s Geographic Weakness

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has faced two fundamental problems. The first is geographic. The second, which we’ll return to later, is economic.

Russia’s main geographic problem is that it needs to maintain a buffer zone to its west to stem the risk of attack from the European Peninsula. Russia has been invaded three times, once by France and twice by Germany. In each case, it survived because of strategic depth. The Baltics, Belarus and Ukraine created the buffer zone that gave Russia room to retreat and exhaust the enemy. Although the weather also played a role, distance was the main challenge for attacking armies. Even in World War I, Germany was unable to sustain the gains it won. In the Napoleonic Wars and World War II, the enemy was ground down and defeated.

After World War II, Russia’s buffer zone expanded dramatically. A second tier of nations to the West – Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania – came under Soviet dominion. Soviet power pushed into central Germany. For the first time in its history, it had strategic depth such that an attack from the European Peninsula was unthinkable.

But maintaining the force that was needed to hold this deep buffer exceeded Soviet resources. The drop in oil prices, the inherent inefficiency in the economy, and the cost of defending what it had won in World War II had become unsustainable, and the Soviet Union collapsed. It first lost the deep buffer of Eastern Europe, and two years later, it lost the critical elements of its core buffer, the Baltics and Ukraine.

An argument can be made that given the situation on the European Peninsula, the threat to Russia has evaporated. But nothing in Russia’s history permits such complacency. In 1932, Germany was a weak and divided liberal democracy. Six years later, it was the most powerful military force in Europe. Russia understands the speed with which European (and American) intentions and capabilities can change. It must therefore continue to pursue strategic depth.

Read rest of the interesting article here

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Mossad's killing ways

A good writeup on the assassination of Hamas’ top leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh on January 19 at a hotel in Dubai allegedly by 11 members of Israel’s secret service organisation.  The whole operation by Mossad has many lessons for the Indian government to learn.

While dealing with terrorist supporting countries like Pakistan, an aggressive covert assassination program can go a long way in controlling the terrorism perpetrated by Pakistani supported terrorists on India.  Taking out select leaders of the rogue intelligence agency, ISI sponsoring the terrorism and leaders of JuD, LeT etc should be actively considered by India.

After the disastrous policy by the ex-Prime Minister IK Gujral who shut down the Counter Intelligence Teams of R&AW, its time India flexed its muscles.  A few targeted killings will send a strong message across to our neighbours that their transgressions will not be tolerated anymore.  The only way to stop terrorism is to increase the cost on the sponsors.  They slap you and you gouge out both their eyes and bash their face up badly.  That’s how you respond to terrorism and not by getting apologetic about it.

But it needs leaders with guts and conviction to take up such measures.  Do we have any of them?  Our leaders are either busy dividing us on caste, religion, region etc or sucking up to minorities.  Anyone out there who can implement these measures?

According to a report in the Telegraph, the group, which included a woman, entered the hotel dressed as businessmen and tennis players, and managed to strangle Mabhouh inside his room. The assassins arrived in Dubai carrying French, German, Italian and Swiss passports, and checked into different hotels, says the report. They used fake names like Gail Folliard, Kevin Daveron and Peter Elvinger.

They met later at a shopping mall, and communicated with each other before that via a ‘command centre’ in Austria, says the report. Traveling under the alias of Mahmoud Abdul Ra’ouf Mohammed, Mabhouh was spotted at the Dubai airport by a member of another surveillance team, who had waited hours for him.

Meir Dagan – The current head of Mossad

After he checked into the al-Bustan hotel, one of the hit squad dressed as a tennis player accompanied him in the lift, and followed him to his room, the daily said. The information was then passed on to Elvinger, the group’s leader, who promptly checked into the room across the corridor from Mabhouh, says the Telegraph.

Soon, another surveillance team arrived to keep a check on the target, who left the hotel half an hour later. The group tried to take advantage of his absence and attempted to break into his room, while the woman and Daveron kept a look out for other guests. The police have not released footage of what happened next, but the assassins somehow managed to force or fool Mabhouh into opening his door, and suffocated him, said the paper. They then locked the door from inside and left.

The team left Dubai on different flights over the span of the next 12 hours, and fled to various destinations including Frankfurt, Hong Kong and South Africa [ Images ], said the Telegraph. Mabhouh’s dead body was discovered over twelve hours later, and his killers, ‘a professional team that is highly skilled in these kinds of operations’, were thousands of miles away by that time, said the daily.

Read the full article here

And now, Dubai has threatened to issue an arrest warrant against the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu if Mossad’s complicity in the assassination is proved.   It would be good for Dubai to first explain as to what the leader of a global terrorist organisation was doing in its country?  It would be better for even Britain who is now blowing hot and cold against Israel to see why most of the terror plots in the world today are being hatched on their own soil and why most of the terrorists seem to have some connection with Britain?

Countries like Britain and Dubai seem to be in the crosshairs of global terrorism and it would be good for these respective governments to get their houses in order before pointing their fingers at others.  As for Mossad, its job is to keep its people and country safe.  And to chase down anyone who hurts their people/country and kill them like dogs.  Three cheers to Mossad for a job well done.

Some good reading on Mossad in the Telegraph paper here – “Mossad’s license to kill“.  How i really wish our so-called external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) would grow some balls and do their job properly than being caught with their pants down.

Above pictures source:  FPP & Wikipedia

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Payback time

Its payback time as the monster spawned, aided and abetted by succesive Pakistani governments, military and the rogue spy agency, ISI is coming to haunt them.

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The fire that Pakistan so used to burn India has finally engulfed its own house.  Sad, but there is not much being learnt by Pakistan even when every city of it is being bombed by the monsters they helped create to spread terror in India and Afghanistan.

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Has Pakistan learnt anything from this horrific events in the past 10 odd days when close to 300 people have been killed in a wave of violence?  Nothing much seems to have change according to this article.

Times might be tough for the ordinary people of Pakistan, but business has never been better for the traders of Gun Alley. Here, less than 50 miles from British forces in Afghanistan, across lawless terrain deep inside Pakistan’s border, all that an Islamic militant could ever want for jihad is freely available.

In the weapons section of Smuggler’s Bazaar – a medieval market where heroin, fake identities and killers for hire can be found for less than the price of a second-hand car – guns, bombs and suicide belts are also in ready supply.

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At this market on the outskirts of the frontier town of Peshawar – a dusty, violent place of narrow alleys and murderous intrigue, within 90 minutes’ drive of the capital Islamabad – the discerning Holy Warrior can choose from AK-47s, mortars, anti-tank missiles and assorted explosives for suicide bombs.

Every item of hardware on sale in these mud-walled shops is in perfect working order. If you want proof, the traders will willingly give you a demonstration of their firepower.

And that’s not all. Terrorists can buy military secrets here, extracted from laptops looted during ambushes on Nato convoys travelling through the treacherous Khyber Pass. Many outline Nato operations against Taliban targets in terrifying detail.

Replicas of Nato military uniforms are also on sale. Over cups of sweet tea, Islamic militants arrive here from all over Pakistan and Afghanistan to buy the means to achieve their barbaric aims.

Pictures source: Boston Globe.  More pictures at the website.

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Is G-20 the new G-7 ?

Time changes, people change, economies change and the powers wielded by countries change.  There was a time when Britain ruled half the world, today its nowhere.  There was a time when the US was the undisputed economic champion, today that aura is on the wane.

Weight_of_the_World_Economy

Its in these changing times we wonder if a group that consists of countries like Italy, Canada etc wield any power when the world is going throught the worst recession (courtesy the developed countries).  Of course the US, Japan and Germany are also a part of the G-7 group of countries, but do they really have any clout?  The G-7 as usual came out with a statement asking China to re-value it currency and hardly anyone cared a hoot.

After decades in charge, the club of rich, industrialised nations is fast losing sway as a share of global economic power shifts towards big developing countries. That was a lesson of the Group of Seven’s meeting in Istanbul at the weekend, when the absence of China showed the G7 could no longer tackle the world’s economic problems on its own.

Finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the G7 implored China in a diplomatically worded statement to let the Chinese currency rise, as they have done for several years. But China showed no sign of complying, and the G7 spent much of its time to discussing whether it should meet less often, with less pomp and perhaps with fewer public statements.

G7 statements have all too often “interested nobody because there’s no follow-up most of the time”, said Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund.

Read the full article here

The G-7 or the group of Industrialized countries comprise

Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, United States

The G-20 comprises of

Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa,  South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, European Union

A G-7 official hit the nail on the head when he mentioned

The moment you have to tell people you are still relevant, it’s because you are not relevant,”

Above picture source: Astrocrush

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The Greatest Ever?

The Federer Express chugs on, merrily eclipsing all the records in his way and at the same time winning over friends and opponents with his ruthless display on the court.

Roger Federer finally broke the 14 Grand Slams record of Pete Sampras by winning the Wimbledon this weekend beating Andy Roddick of the US in a 5 set thriller.  The final set went on for an astonishing 95 minutes.

cup-federer-main-630

I was expecting to see another sobbing Federer at the end of the match, but it seems he managed to keep his emotions under perfect control.   An amazingly cool and composed player who very rarely loses his cool both on and off the pitch.  For a growing up kid, there is no better role model in Roger Federer.

He’s never been seen to yell either at the opponent / match officials, doesn’t spit on the ground, is modest about his achievements, but sometimes he does surprise us with his comments about the absolute confidence he has in his own game.

roger_federer

It would be easy to say that Federer won the last remaining Grand Slam, the French Open simply because Rafael Nadal was knocked out early in the tournament. And that Federer didnt have to meet his most decisive opponent in the finals.  But the fact is that it doesnt take away the sheen from his achievements.

Roger Federer’s Grand Slam victories

2003 – Wimbledon
2004 – Australian Open
2004 – Wimbledon
2004 – US Open
2005 – Wimbledon
2005 – US Open
2006 – Australian Open
2006 – Wimbledon
2006 – US Open
2007 – Australian Open
2007 – Wimbledon
2007 – US Open
2008 – US Open
2009 – French Open
2009 – Wimbledon

For a person who has achieved possibly everything that men’s singles tennis has to offer, it would be very tempting to either walk away from it all or to find motivation to save that one next set point or match point.   But knowing the champion that Federer is, am sure he will be back to entertain us, to show us the sheer joy of winning and most importantly that you dont need to be a brash, abusive, megalomaniac to be a champion.

All rise for the greatest tennis player ever.  Roger Federer.

Above pic source:  Din and Noise & IBNLive

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Is Ban Ki Moon the world's most dangerous Korean?

Ban-Ki-Moon

At least Jacob Heilbrunn of Foreign Policy magazine thinks so.  According to him…

Even in this unimpressive company, though, Ban Ki-moon appears to have set the standard for failure. It’s not that Ban has committed any particularly egregious mistakes in his 2½ years on the job. But at a time when global leadership is urgently needed, when climate change and international terrorism and the biggest financial crisis in 60 years might seem to require some—any!—response, the former South Korean foreign minister has instead been trotting the globe collecting honorary degrees, issuing utterly forgettable statements, and generally frittering away any influence he might command. He has become a kind of accidental tourist, a dilettante on the international stage.

As secretary-general, Ban’s soporific effect has never left him. One U.N. watcher told me that Ban is like the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no one around to witness its crash—if you don’t hear him, does he really exist? Aside from his role as a subsidiary of South Korea, Inc.—lining his office walls with Samsung televisions and hiring his South Korean buddies as senior advisors—his imprint has been negligible. Even Ban seems aware of what a nonentity he is: Last August, speaking to senior U.N. officials in Turin, he described his management style as elevating teamwork over intellectual attainment. But he went on to bemoan his difficulty overcoming bureaucratic inertia, ending with a gnomic admission of general defeat: “I tried to lead by example. Nobody followed.”

Read the full rant here. Also Read Vijay Nambiar’s defence of Ban ki Moon in page 3 and of Mark Leon Goldberg’s defence in page 4.

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Burqa not welcome in France

French President Nicolas Sarkozy believes that Burqa (the veil worn by muslim women worldwide) “is not a symbol of religion, but a sign of subservience for women“.

burqa

Iam a great believer in democracy and freedom of choice.  If a woman wants to wear a burqa, she should be free to wear it and if she doesn’t want to, she shouldn’t be forced to,  even though her religion or elders in her family / society want her to wear it.

But then, how do you decide if the woman who has been indoctrinated all her life that the burqa is essential for her to project her religious identity wears the same even after she grows up?

Was reading the debate in CNN-IBN where Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of MIM party of Hyderabad, India defended the burqa on the same lines as the Christian nuns who cover their heads and the Jewish men who wear a skull cap.

Most importantly, what i simply cant understand is to why only women have to wear it?  Why dont the men also wear the burqa if indeed the women are forced to wear it to protect their modesty?  Do men have no modesty? Or is it that the woman’s modesty is more precious that the man’s?  If yes, who decided that?

What do you think?  Do you agree with Sarkozy’s comment that “women behind the burqa are cut off from social life and deprived of identity?

PS: Comment moderation has been enabled as there is a chance of this discussion going out of hand.  If all that you want to comment is something hateful, you may as well forget it as i will never approve that comment.  Put your point forth sensibly and it will be posted.

Above picture courtesy: The Muslim Woman

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China's Dollar Trap

An interesting article by Paul Krugman in New York Times

Back in the early stages of the financial crisis, wags joked that our trade with China had turned out to be fair and balanced after all: They sold us poison toys and tainted seafood; we sold them fraudulent securities.

But these days, both sides of that deal are breaking down. On one side, the world’s appetite for Chinese goods has fallen off sharply. China’s exports have plunged in recent months and are now down 26 percent from a year ago. On the other side, the Chinese are evidently getting anxious about those securities.

But China still seems to have unrealistic expectations. And that’s a problem for all of us.

Read the full article here.

Lots of work related pressures mean that iam quite sporadic here.  As for the little time i have on hand, iam sometimes found here.

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