Feb 18, 2012

An India-China Military Conflict?

By Bhaskar Roy

There have been projections among some Indian experts and think tanks that a limited Chinese attack along the unresolved Sino-Indian border may be imminent. This view cannot be totally faulted. They are based on China’s aggressive official and semi-official postures and warning to India, especially on the sovereignty of Tawang, an important Buddhist pilgrim town in India’s north-east state of Arunachal Pradesh.

China claims officially the whole of Arunachal Pradesh as its territory. The official Chinese media, have started referring to Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet. This is a very important shift in China’s nomenclature of Arunachal Pradesh. This is an effort to now make this Indian state a historical part of Tibet which China militarily occupied in 1950. With India among other countries in the world having acknowledged the original Tibet as a sovereign part of China, extension of Tibet to Arunachal Pradesh may give China an opening into its sovereignty claim on Arunachal Pradesh. Beijing believes it as another instrument to pressure India.

Although historically and according to international law China’s claim on Tibet is legally tenuous and questionable, the political and economic importance of China have won them the battle.

But Beijing’s claim on Tawang is the critical issue. Notwithstanding the facetious evidence being presented by China on Tawang’s ownership, the fact is that this town, located in the tri-junction of Tibet, Bhutan and India is of high strategic value to China. Tawang is located near the Siliguri corridor/chicken-neck which connects the larger India by land to its vast north-eastern region. It is now common knowledge that China continues to support insurgent and separatist groups in north-east India. w If Tawang went to China it could garrison its troops there, ignite a major turbulence in north-east India, and roll down from Tawang to engage or cut off the Siliguri chicken-neck, preventing or slowing down Indian military movement. A success of this strategy would be disastrous for India. One can, therefore, understand China’s strong objection and criticism against India’s enhanced force deployment in north-east India.

What is particularly galling for Indian observers is the fact that China is quietly building its military deployment in Tibet or Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) that does not appear normal. The Chinese military has constructed or upgraded five airfields in close proximity of the border from the western sector to the eastern sector. There are indications that round the year air deployment is taking place or has already taken place. In the height of winter in January this year, People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAF) conducted live fire exercises in TAR.

The railway net work in Tibet may be projected by the Chinese as for development purposes, but its military and strategic emphasis are obvious. At least one full train load of transfer of arms and ammunitions from Golmud to Lhasa has already been conducted. The next step is bring one line to Xigaze (Shigatse) near the eastern sector border, and another to the Nepal border and then on to Kathmandu.

The road infrastructure along the border on the Tibetan side is being continually upgraded, and high altitude military exercises have also been conducted. In fact, two-dimensional military preparations in TAR can be said to be in an advanced stage.

In his report (unclassified) to the Senate Intelligence Committee (Jan 31), Director of the US National Intelligence Agency said “despite public statements intended to downplay tensions between India and China, we judge India is increasingly concerned about China’s posture along the border and Beijing’s aggressive posture in the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific Region (APR)”. The report went on to say that the Indian army believes a major Sino-Indian conflict is not imminent, but it was making preparations to balance Chinese power projection in the Indian Ocean.

The unclassified NIA report supports the general belief in India to never forget the Chinese deception in 1962, and be prepared. But, for a number of domestic reasons and influences, a real effort to balance the Chinese Force projection started late, only about four years ago,. What the classified version of the report contains is anybody’s guess, but will be certainly more thought provoking than the unclassified version.

Tantalisingly, the unclassified report has this line for all to see “India has expressed support for a strong US military posture in East Asia and US engagement in Asia.” This is a probing observation and would further reinforce Beijing’s suspicion of India joining the US along with Japan to contain China.

China’s military modernization programme is widely discussed by governments and experts all over the world. Area denial to the US and naval power projection in the outer reaches of the Indian Ocean in the east are discussed by the Chinese themselves. What is more secretive in nature are its cyber warfare capabilities, C4ISR and electro-magnetic weapons.

Discussions among Chinese experts on acquiring military bases abroad especially in the Indian Ocean region, and the use of military as an option on territorial issues are issues that call for close watch. China has already said that the return of the US in the Asia Pacific Region has disturbed stability and peace in the area. The fact is, the US re-entry has diminished China’s domination, and helped the countries of the region who have territorial disputes with China over the Spratly Islands in the South China sea to stand up for their rights.

Japan is another country with which China has territorial disputes (Senkaku Islands) and, despite China being Japan’s largest trade partner, political and security confrontations have only sharpened over the last two years. Japan has become proactive, officially declaring (2011) China’s military posture as “aggressive” for the first time. China has also raised several questions about the intentions of the India-Japan defence agreement.

As is well known, the Chinese Communist Party and the government have kept their people starved of information on the happenings in the world. The people have been fed by the state and party controlled media, tailored to project official views and thinking. China’s 500 million netizens’ views on different countries are shaped by official media. A study made by Simon Shen, Associate Professor in the department of social sciences, Hong Kong Institute of Education (published, China Quarterly, Sept. 2001) reveals interesting insights into the minds of these netizens. One thing that emerged from Simon Shen’s three-year research was that 90 percent were hostile to India. On territorial issues, the result was “why should China negotiate with India when it is superior and can hold off India?” India is also seen as servile to the west, and also as imperialist. Over all, the views are anti-India and based very closely if not exactly to the Chinese official propaganda.

This deliberately created mind set by the Chinese authorities can be a double edged sword. While it creates support for the party and the government, at times this can also pressure the authorities to do what they may not want to do. The Sino-India border issue is one of the questions discussed by the Chinese netizens who prefer a military strike in “South Tibet”’ Arunachal Pradesh, to teach India a lesson. These views are not of the 1950s or 1960s, they are contemporary and relevant.

The Chinese are past masters of the mind game, developed and sharpened over 4000 years. Therefore, their propaganda frequently mentions the 1962 border war when a rag-tag Indian army was routed in the cold October of that year. They also report India’s military acquisition and development as a threat to the South Asian region. At the same time, the Chinese authorities have completely left out the mention of their attack on Vietnam in 1978. The attack was ordered by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping to not only teach Vietnam a lesson but also cut the Soviet Union’s finger in the far east. The attack was not a suo moto decision. The US was taken into confidence, and the White House is said to have given an indirect support. It was a much bigger game played by China, but too long to be detailed here. The fact is that the PLA went into Vietnam with a force of 450,000, and the air force. Suffice it to say that China had to retreat with a bloody face and in shame.

The PLA has fought three wars. In 1950 in Korea, where they overwhelmed the US forces through sheer numbers irrespective of causalities suffered. In 1962, it was not only the rag-tag Indian army, but confusion in command and control from New Delhi, and misapprehensions of Chinese aircraft bombing Calcutta if India used its air force. The Chinese forces retreated not out of goodwill as they claim, but they were fully aware that they could not hold on to the ground once the Indian army reorganized and the political leaders awoke from their stupor. The third war was with Vietnam in 1979.

Today, the scenario is different. The PLA is not prepared to fight a revolutionary war where giving up one’s life for the communist party was a matter of pride. It has not fought a battle for more than 30 years. Even the PLA’s fight against terrorism against small bands of Uighur separatists in Xinjiang does not show any special expertise.

At the same time there is the PLA’s significant advancement in the areas of armaments, information supported warfare, and tri-services coordination.

India’s military planners have been assessing these developments. A nuclear warfare in a limited confrontation is not in the calculations of military planning. That is a separate aspect.

Despite China’s naval projection in the Indian Ocean and offer from Seychelles to open a naval base (obviously as a repayment to Chinese aid), an India-China confrontation on the high seas is a distant speculation. This, unless China perceives India’s Look East policy is conflicting seriously with China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

An India-China conflict can manly be visualized along the borders. This issue is just not moving forward, and China does not want to under the current bilateral agreements. The issue is that China signed an agreement at the Prime Ministerial level in 2005 that there will be no exchange of settled population areas. Since then, they have reneged on this. The recent (Jan 16-17) Senior Representative (SR) level talks on the border and other issues not only saw little progress but rather froze such meetings for some time to come. Hence, one can safely believe that the boundary talks have gone to the mode of ‘time buying’.

China sees India along with the US and the west as a spoiler of its Asia ambition. It suspects India supports the Dalai Lama and his allegedly sponsored Tibetan uprisings inside China to disintegrate China. And the boundary issue is an available cause to launch a “teach India” limited military attack where the air force will be used along with the army and electronic warfare.

China’s foreign policy has certain goals, many of them hid in a shell of opacity. This makes China’s interlocutors uneasy. Hence, there has been a constant demand for China to be more transparent in its military modernization and strategic policy. It is not to say that China has not improved. It is far more transparent to outsiders than it was in 1960s – 1980s. But even that is not good enough.

The Chinese have perfected, in a sense, the strategies of “denial” and “deception”. But increasingly these strategies have degenerated from a fine art in the battle field to one of ham handedness. For example, as a part of ‘deceit’ they embed intelligences officers with expertise in different fields in appropriate delegations. This has become known. At the same time they vehemently ‘deny’ officially as conspiracy whenever their agents in a foreign country get caught, or violation of international treaties and conventions / regimes to which they are signatories, are exposed. Examples are numerous and need not be discussed here. Hence, it has become difficult for most countries to establish a relationship of trust with China. Pakistan is, perhaps, the only exception.

Since ancient times China has been a self-centred nation or nationality. In a manner, it is correct to say that China never colonized another country. But it is equally true that China tried to colonize Vietnam, raided Indonesia and coveted neighbouring territories. Their sovereignty over Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia is highly debatable. History is very clear that China had to take over Tibet militarily. Unlike in the Indian case where different languages, cultures and traditions joined together voluntarily to form the Indian union in a long process, in China’s case all the three regions are still struggling for independence in one way or the other.

At the same time, however, the Chinese emperors did not go too far across the seas to establish colonies which they would find impossible to rule. It was, perhaps, one of the most important strategic decisions not to over stretch.

China, under Mao Zedong, drew out contours of sovereignty, suzerainty, and countries who will kow-tow to the Middle Kingdom along the borders. It was made clear at that time China wanted Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh with it, with Nepal and Bhutan under its suzerainty. Tibet had already been taken over. This was far looking strategy for a forward defence line.

As China grew stronger it unveiled its territorial claims in the near seas – East China Sea, Yellow Sea, and South China Sea – and became more assertive leading small clashes at times in recent years. This has turned the entire region unstable if not a “hot spot”. If this is not coveting territories of others, what is it?

Authoritative Chinese writings over the last decade have indicated that China is impatient to exercise its influence from the Gulf through the Indian Ocean to Western Pacific. This embryonic strategy has very deep and long term reasons. China is energy and raw material starved and has to source them from abroad. The resources are “core interest” for China, and must be protected by any and all means. Protection means use of a superior force than those which can obstruct the flow of resources. Once such a force is deployed tensions are bound to rise, and can be the reason for a potential conflict.

Apart from the India-China border issue which both sides are trying at the moment, with some difficulty to put on the back burner, both sides are watching each other closely. What are the other imperatives?

Clearly spelt out “core interests” of China, which are paramount to its sovereignty and territorial integrity are as follows: dominating rule of the Chinese communist party; reintegration of Taiwan with the mainland; maintaining a stable, peaceful and integrated Tibet.

The Party’s paramount position, in China’s perception, is not threatened by only internal challenges but by insidious western machinations led by the US. After the 1989 Tiananmen Square riots, Deng Xiaoping described it as result of USA’s operation called “Peaceful Evolution” – sabotaging a communist country’s people through western democratic values. The Soviet Union was the first victim, and the Chinese Communist Party is the next target. The Chinese authorities mince no words about it, but can do very little. They believe if the party disintegrates so will the country.

On immediate external challenges, Taiwan figures at the top. The Chinese believe if Taiwan declares independence it will encourage Hong Kong and Macao to move similarly, and encourage Tibetan independence. The US position on Taiwan is complex. While it does not encourage independence, it also keeps Taiwan armed with a strong self-defence against a Chinese attack. The US Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1978 obliquely enjoins it to come to Taiwan’s aid in case of a Chinese attack. Mainland–Taiwan relations have improved significantly , but not to the extent of integration. In the January Taiwan presidential elections the mainland friendly KMY led by Ma Ying-Jeo won, but the opposition anti-integration Democratic Peoples Party (PP) won a solid 20 percent vote, keeping the question mark well and truly alive. Those who voted for the KMY need not be pro-integration. They are the status quoits who see a stable relationship with the mainland to their economic advantage.

The PLA is not yet capable of waging a war in two theatres at the same time. It has cornered Taiwan with around 1300 medium range nuclear capable missiles, and is working on area denial capabilities to the USA. Yet, in China’s calculations if it gets involved in serious military engagement in another theatre, Taiwan may move for independence.

China’s concerns over Tibet should be an issue of concern for India. After the Dalai Lama resigned from his political role last year, China’s counter action policy went awry. They clearly did not expect this, and find themselves on the back foot. The Tibetan government in-exile has Harvard educated lawyer Lobasang Sangye as the Prime Minister. China does not want to talk to him as it may give the new Tibetan administration in-exile political recognition. And the Dalai Lama has taken his hands off. At the same time, Tibetan monks and nuns in the Tibetan areas of Sichuan province have raised their anti-China activities, calling for independence and the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet. Since March 2011, 20 Tibetan monks and nuns resorted to self-immolation, and the protests have spread wider. China’s response has been on harsher methods, and trying to overwhelm them with re-education and propaganda to support the motherland.

In China’s calculations, the resurgence in Tibetan protests in China is a US-Dalai Lama conspiracy in which India may be involved, and the spring board is Nepal. Beijing, it appears, has failed to completely stop anti-China Tibetan activities in Nepal because of US and Western pressures. Their disapproval of Nepal’s position was demonstrated when Premier Wen Jiabao cancelled a 3-day visit to Nepal in December, and only spent 4 hours later in Kathmandu on his way to the Gulf countries. Wen Jiabao reportedly spent most of his four hours in Kathmandu on the Tibetan activities in Nepal and threat to China’s security.

China strongly feels that the presence of the Dalai Lama in India, location of the Tibetan Kashag in Dharamsala, and more than 160 thousand Tibetan exiles in India comprise a serious threat. This is interlaced with the Sino-Indian border issue, and can emerge as a critical question in Sino-Indian relations.

But Beijing has equally important issues to consider along its eastern sea board, Far East to South East Asia. The general details are very well known and documented. At the centre are three imperatives (i) oil and gas (ii) extension of maritime territory, and fisheries which is a major economic basket, and (iii) control of sea lanes.

China contends with Japan and claims exclusive sovereignty over the Senkaku (Diayotai in Chinese) islands in East China Sea; similarly, it claims in entirety the South China Sea and the Spratly group of islands, which are in part or whole claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

China’s assertive position in 2010 on these issues, and a surreptitious attempt to persuade the US to accept South China Sea as its “core interest”, and earlier a separate unofficial offer that a line be drawn in the western pacific to divide China’s and US’ domination. Both were outrightly rejected by the US. This has changed the whole scenario in the Asia Pacific region. The US has returned to the region, creating a new challenge for China. Beijing’s assertions with military backing backfired.

China is, at the moment, faced with options of protecting its territorial claims in its near sea areas which are imminent, and Sino-Indian border ard the Tibetan issue on the other.

Currently, China is overburdened by the developments along its sea board. It is setting up a fourth naval fleet in Hainan island which overlooks the South China Sea. The US is also planning to base special ships in Singapore which can quickly intervene in the same area. The situation is complex.

Given these developments it is unlikely that China will endeavour on a military conflict with India in the near future. Unless, of course, it concludes India is sabotaging its sovereignty over Tibet. From 2003, when Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited China, India has bent over backwards to assure China that India does not wish to interfere in Tibet. A conflict with India in 2012 does not seem feasible. But in the next few years New Delhi must look out for “denial” and “deception”.

Courtesy: http://www.southasiaanalysis.org

Feb 16, 2012

Hegemony and Its Dilemmas

Back in May 2007, I stumbled across online sketches at the website of a Kansas architectural firm hired to build a monster U.S. embassy-cum-citadel-cum-Greater-Middle-Eastern command center on 104 acres in the middle of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.  They offered an artist’s impressions of what the place would look like -- a giant self-sufficient compound both prosaic (think malls or housing projects) and opulent (a giant pool, tennis courts, a recreation center). 

Struck by the fact that the U.S. government was intent on building the largest embassy ever in the planet’s oil heartlands, I wrote a piece, “The Mother Ship Lands in Iraq” about those plans and offered a little tour of the project via those crude drawings.  From TomDispatch, they then began to run around the Internet and soon a panicky State Department had declared a “security breach” and forced the firm to pull the sketches off its website. 

Now, more than five years later, we have the first public photos of the embassy -- a pool,basketball court, tennis courts, and food court to die for -- just as the news has arrived that the vast boondoggle of a place, built for three-quarters of a billion of your tax dollars, with a $6 billion State Department budget this year and its own mercenary air force, is about to get its staff of 16,000slashed.  In a Washington Post piece on the subject, Senator Patrick Leahy is quoted as saying: “I’ve been in embassies all over the world, and you come to this place and you’re like: ‘Whoa. Wow.’ All of a sudden you’ve got something so completely out of scale to anything, you have to wonder, what were they thinking when they first built it?”

The answer is: in 2004, when planning for this white elephant of embassies first began, the Bush administration was still dreaming of a Washington-enforced Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East and saw it as its western command post.  Now, of course, the vast American mega-bases in Iraq with their multiple bus routes, giant PXes, Pizza Huts, Cinnabons, and Burger Kings, where American troops were to be garrisoned on the “Korean model” for decades to come, are so manyghost towns, fading American ziggurats in Mesopotamia.  Similarly, those embassy photos seem like snapshots from Pompeii just as the ash was beginning to fall.  Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the news is similarly dismal with drawdowns and withdrawals suddenly the order of the day.  Something’s changing.  It feels tectonic.  Certainly, we’re receiving another set of signs that American imperial plans on the Eurasian mainland have crashed and burned and that the U.S. is now regrouping and heading “offshore.”

What a moment then for Noam Chomsky to weigh in on the subject of American decline.  (His earlier TomDispatch post “Who Owns the World?” might be considered a companion piece to this one.)  For him, a TomDispatch first: a two-day, back-to-back two-parter on imperial hegemony and its discontents. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Chomsky offers an anatomy of American defeats in the Greater Middle East, click here, or download it to your iPod here.) Tom 

“Losing” the World  American Decline in Perspective, Part 1 

Significant anniversaries are solemnly commemorated -- Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, for example.  Others are ignored, and we can often learn valuable lessons from them about what is likely to lie ahead.  Right now, in fact.

At the moment, we are failing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s decision to launch the most destructive and murderous act of aggression of the post-World War II period: the invasion of South Vietnam, later all of Indochina, leaving millions dead and four countries devastated, with casualties still mounting from the long-term effects of drenching South Vietnam with some of the most lethal carcinogens known, undertaken to destroy ground cover and food crops. 

The prime target was South Vietnam.  The aggression later spread to the North, then to the remote peasant society of northern Laos, and finally to rural Cambodia, which was bombed at the stunning level of all allied air operations in the Pacific region during World War II, including the two atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  In this, Henry Kissinger’s orders were being carried out -- “anything that flies on anything that moves” -- a call for genocide that is rare in the historical record.  Little of this is remembered.  Most was scarcely known beyond narrow circles of activists.

When the invasion was launched 50 years ago, concern was so slight that there were few efforts at justification, hardly more than the president’s impassioned plea that “we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence” and if the conspiracy achieves its ends in Laos and Vietnam, “the gates will be opened wide.”

Elsewhere, he warned further that “the complacent, the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be swept away with the debris of history [and] only the strong... can possibly survive,” in this case reflecting on the failure of U.S. aggression and terror to crush Cuban independence.

By the time protest began to mount half a dozen years later, the respected Vietnam specialist and military historian Bernard Fall, no dove, forecast that “Vietnam as a cultural and historic entity… is threatened with extinction...[as]...the countryside literally dies under the blows of the largest military machine ever unleashed on an area of this size.” He was again referring to South Vietnam.

When the war ended eight horrendous years later, mainstream opinion was divided between those who described the war as a “noble cause” that could have been won with more dedication, and at the opposite extreme, the critics, to whom it was “a mistake” that proved too costly.  By 1977, President Carter aroused little notice when he explained that we owe Vietnam “no debt” because “the destruction was mutual.”

There are important lessons in all this for today, even apart from another reminder that only the weak and defeated are called to account for their crimes.  One lesson is that to understand what is happening we should attend not only to critical events of the real world, often dismissed from history, but also to what leaders and elite opinion believe, however tinged with fantasy.  Another lesson is that alongside the flights of fancy concocted to terrify and mobilize the public (and perhaps believed by some who are trapped in their own rhetoric), there is also geostrategic planning based on principles that are rational and stable over long periods because they are rooted in stable institutions and their concerns.  That is true in the case of Vietnam as well. 

I will return to that, only stressing here that the persistent factors in state action are generally well concealed.
The Iraq war is an instructive case.  It was marketed to a terrified public on the usual grounds of self-defense against an awesome threat to survival: the “single question,” George W. Bush and Tony Blair declared, was whether Saddam Hussein would end his programs of developing weapons of mass destruction.   When the single question received the wrong answer, government rhetoric shifted effortlessly to our “yearning for democracy,” and educated opinion duly followed course; all routine. 

Later, as the scale of the U.S. defeat in Iraq was becoming difficult to suppress, the government quietly conceded what had been clear all along.  In 2007-2008, the administration officially announced that a final settlement must grant the U.S. military bases and the right of combat operations, and must privilege U.S. investors in the rich energy system -- demands later reluctantly abandoned in the face of Iraqi resistance.  And all well kept from the general population.

Gauging American Decline
With such lessons in mind, it is useful to look at what is highlighted in the major journals of policy and opinion today.  Let us keep to the most prestigious of the establishment journals, Foreign Affairs.  The headline blaring on the cover of the December 2011 issue reads in bold face: “Is America Over?”

The title article calls for “retrenchment” in the “humanitarian missions” abroad that are consuming the country’s wealth, so as to arrest the American decline that is a major theme of international affairs discourse, usually accompanied by the corollary that power is shifting to the East, to China and (maybe) India.

The lead articles are on Israel-Palestine.  The first, by two high Israeli officials, is entitled “The Problem is Palestinian Rejection”: the conflict cannot be resolved because Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state -- thereby conforming to standard diplomatic practice: states are recognized, but not privileged sectors within them.  The demand is hardly more than a new device to deter the threat of political settlement that would undermine Israel’s expansionist goals.

The opposing position, defended by an American professor, is entitled “The Problem Is the Occupation.” The subtitle reads “How the Occupation is Destroying the Nation.” Which nation?  Israel, of course.  The paired articles appear under the heading “Israel under Siege.”

The January 2012 issue features yet another call to bomb Iran now, before it is too late.  Warning of “the dangers of deterrence,” the author suggests that “skeptics of military action fail to appreciate the true danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to U.S. interests in the Middle East and beyond. And their grim forecasts assume that the cure would be worse than the disease -- that is, that the consequences of a U.S. assault on Iran would be as bad as or worse than those of Iran achieving its nuclear ambitions. But that is a faulty assumption. The truth is that a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States.”

Others argue that the costs would be too high, and at the extremes some even point out that an attack would violate international law -- as does the stand of the moderates, who regularly deliver threats of violence, in violation of the U.N. Charter.

Let us review these dominant concerns in turn.

American decline is real, though the apocalyptic vision reflects the familiar ruling class perception that anything short of total control amounts to total disaster.  Despite the piteous laments, the U.S. remains the world dominant power by a large margin, and no competitor is in sight, not only in the military dimension, in which of course the U.S. reigns supreme.

China and India have recorded rapid (though highly inegalitarian) growth, but remain very poor countries, with enormous internal problems not faced by the West.  China is the world’s major manufacturing center, but largely as an assembly plant for the advanced industrial powers on its periphery and for western multinationals.  That is likely to change over time.  Manufacturing regularly provides the basis for innovation, often breakthroughs, as is now sometimes happening in China.  One example that has impressed western specialists is China’s takeover of the growing global solar panel market, not on the basis of cheap labor but by coordinated planning and, increasingly, innovation.

But the problems China faces are serious. Some are demographic, reviewed inScience, the leading U.S. science weekly. The study shows that mortality sharply decreased in China during the Maoist years, “mainly a result of economic development and improvements in education and health services, especially the public hygiene movement that resulted in a sharp drop in mortality from infectious diseases.” This progress ended with the initiation of the capitalist reforms 30 years ago, and the death rate has since increased. 

Furthermore, China’s recent economic growth has relied substantially on a “demographic bonus,” a very large working-age population. “But the window for harvesting this bonus may close soon,” with a “profound impact on development”:  “Excess cheap labor supply, which is one of the major factors driving China's economic miracle, will no longer be available.”

Demography is only one of many serious problems ahead.  For India, the problems are far more severe.

Not all prominent voices foresee American decline.  Among international media, there is none more serious and responsible than the London Financial Times.  It recently devoted a full page to the optimistic expectation that new technology for extracting North American fossil fuels might allow the U.S. to become energy independent, hence to retain its global hegemony for a century.  There is no mention of the kind of world the U.S. would rule in this happy event, but not for lack of evidence.

At about the same time, the International Energy Agency reported that, with rapidly increasing carbon emissions from fossil fuel use, the limit of safety will be reached by 2017 if the world continues on its present course. “The door is closing,” the IEA chief economist said, and very soon it “will be closed forever.”

Shortly before the U.S. Department of Energy reported the most recent carbon dioxide emissions figures, which “jumped by the biggest amount on record” to a level higher than the worst-case scenario anticipated by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  That came as no surprise to many scientists, including the MIT program on climate change, which for years has warned that the IPCC predictions are too conservative.

Such critics of the IPCC predictions receive virtually no public attention, unlike the fringe of denialists who are supported by the corporate sector, along with huge propaganda campaigns that have driven Americans off the international spectrum in dismissal of the threats.  Business support also translates directly to political power.  Denialism is part of the catechism that must be intoned by Republican candidates in the farcical election campaign now in progress, and in Congress they are powerful enough to abort even efforts to inquire into the effects of global warming, let alone do anything serious about it.

In brief, American decline can perhaps be stemmed if we abandon hope for decent survival, prospects that are all too real given the balance of forces in the world.

“Losing” China and Vietnam
Putting such unpleasant thoughts aside, a close look at American decline shows that China indeed plays a large role, as it has for 60 years.  The decline that now elicits such concern is not a recent phenomenon.  It traces back to the end of World War II, when the U.S. had half the world’s wealth and incomparable security and global reach.  Planners were naturally well aware of the enormous disparity of power, and intended to keep it that way.

The basic viewpoint was outlined with admirable frankness in a major state paper of 1948 (PPS 23).  The author was one of the architects of the New World Order of the day, the chair of the State Department Policy Planning Staff, the respected statesman and scholar George Kennan, a moderate dove within the planning spectrum.  He observed that the central policy goal was to maintain the “position of disparity” that separated our enormous wealth from the poverty of others.  To achieve that goal, he advised, “We should cease to talk about vague and... unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization,” and must “deal in straight power concepts,” not “hampered by idealistic slogans” about “altruism and world-benefaction.”

Kennan was referring specifically to Asia, but the observations generalize, with exceptions, for participants in the U.S.-run global system.  It was well understood that the “idealistic slogans” were to be displayed prominently when addressing others, including the intellectual classes, who were expected to promulgate them.

The plans that Kennan helped formulate and implement took for granted that the U.S. would control the Western Hemisphere, the Far East, the former British empire (including the incomparable energy resources of the Middle East), and as much of Eurasia as possible, crucially its commercial and industrial centers.  These were not unrealistic objectives, given the distribution of power.  But decline set in at once.

In 1949, China declared independence, an event known in Western discourse as “the loss of China” -- in the U.S., with bitter recriminations and conflict over who was responsible for that loss.  The terminology is revealing.  It is only possible to lose something that one owns.  The tacit assumption was that the U.S. owned China, by right, along with most of the rest of the world, much as postwar planners assumed.

The “loss of China” was the first major step in “America’s decline.” It had major policy consequences.  One was the immediate decision to support France’s effort to reconquer its former colony of Indochina, so that it, too, would not be “lost.”

Indochina itself was not a major concern, despite claims about its rich resources by President Eisenhower and others.  Rather, the concern was the “domino theory,” which is often ridiculed when dominoes don’t fall, but remains a leading principle of policy because it is quite rational.  To adopt Henry Kissinger’s version, a region that falls out of control can become a “virus” that will “spread contagion,” inducing others to follow the same path.

In the case of Vietnam, the concern was that the virus of independent development might infect Indonesia, which really does have rich resources.  And that might lead Japan -- the “superdomino” as it was called by the prominent Asia historian John Dower -- to “accommodate” to an independent Asia as its technological and industrial center in a system that would escape the reach of U.S. power.  That would mean, in effect, that the U.S. had lost the Pacific phase of World War II, fought to prevent Japan’s attempt to establish such a New Order in Asia.

The way to deal with such a problem is clear: destroy the virus and “inoculate” those who might be infected.  In the Vietnam case, the rational choice was to destroy any hope of successful independent development and to impose brutal dictatorships in the surrounding regions.  Those tasks were successfully carried out -- though history has its own cunning, and something similar to what was feared has since been developing in East Asia, much to Washington’s dismay.

The most important victory of the Indochina wars was in 1965, when a U.S.-backed military coup in Indonesia led by General Suharto carried out massive crimes that were compared by the CIA to those of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.  The “staggering mass slaughter,” as the New York Times described it, was reported accurately across the mainstream, and with unrestrained euphoria. 

It was “a gleam of light in Asia,” as the noted liberal commentator James Reston wrote in the Times.  The coup ended the threat of democracy by demolishing the mass-based political party of the poor, established a dictatorship that went on to compile one of the worst human rights records in the world, and threw the riches of the country open to western investors.  Small wonder that, after many other horrors, including the near-genocidal invasion of East Timor, Suharto waswelcomed by the Clinton administration in 1995 as “our kind of guy.”

Years after the great events of 1965, Kennedy-Johnson National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy reflected that it would have been wise to end the Vietnam war at that time, with the “virus” virtually destroyed and the primary domino solidly in place, buttressed by other U.S.-backed dictatorships throughout the region.

Similar procedures have been routinely followed elsewhere.  Kissinger was referring specifically to the threat of socialist democracy in Chile.  That threat was ended on another forgotten date, what Latin Americans call “the first 9/11,” which in violence and bitter effects far exceeded the 9/11 commemorated in the West.  A vicious dictatorship was imposed in Chile, one part of a plague of brutal repression that spread through Latin America, reaching Central America under Reagan.  Viruses have aroused deep concern elsewhere as well, including the Middle East, where the threat of secular nationalism has often concerned British and U.S. planners, inducing them to support radical Islamic fundamentalism to counter it.

The Concentration of Wealth and American Decline
Despite such victories, American decline continued.  By 1970, U.S. share of world wealth had dropped to about 25%, roughly where it remains, still colossal but far below the end of World War II.  By then, the industrial world was “tripolar”: US-based North America, German-based Europe, and East Asia, already the most dynamic industrial region, at the time Japan-based, but by now including the former Japanese colonies Taiwan and South Korea, and more recently China.

At about that time, American decline entered a new phase: conscious self-inflicted decline.  From the 1970s, there has been a significant change in the U.S. economy, as planners, private and state, shifted it toward financialization and the offshoring of production, driven in part by the declining rate of profit in domestic manufacturing.  These decisions initiated a vicious cycle in which wealth became highly concentrated (dramatically so in the top 0.1% of the population), yielding concentration of political power, hence legislation to carry the cycle further: taxation and other fiscal policies, deregulation, changes in the rules of corporate governance allowing huge gains for executives, and so on.

Meanwhile, for the majority, real wages largely stagnated, and people were able to get by only by sharply increased workloads (far beyond Europe), unsustainable debt, and repeated bubbles since the Reagan years, creating paper wealth that inevitably disappeared when they burst (and the perpetrators were bailed out by the taxpayer).  In parallel, the political system has been increasingly shredded as both parties are driven deeper into corporate pockets with the escalating cost of elections, the Republicans to the level of farce, the Democrats (now largely the former “moderate Republicans”) not far behind.

A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute, which has been the major source of reputable data on these developments for years, is entitled Failure by Design.  The phrase “by design” is accurate.  Other choices were certainly possible.  And as the study points out, the “failure” is class-based.  There is no failure for the designers.  Far from it.  Rather, the policies are a failure for the large majority, the 99% in the imagery of the Occupy movements -- and for the country, which has declined and will continue to do so under these policies.

One factor is the offshoring of manufacturing.  As the solar panel example mentioned earlier illustrates, manufacturing capacity provides the basis and stimulus for innovation leading to higher stages of sophistication in production, design, and invention.  That, too, is being outsourced, not a problem for the “money mandarins” who increasingly design policy, but a serious problem for working people and the middle classes, and a real disaster for the most oppressed, African Americans, who have never escaped the legacy of slavery and its ugly aftermath, and whose meager wealth virtually disappeared after the collapse of the housing bubble in 2008, setting off the most recent financial crisis, the worst so far.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. He is the author of numerous best-selling political works. His latest books are Making the Future: Occupations, Intervention, Empire, and Resistance, The Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present, Gaza in Crisis, with Ilan Pappé, and Hopes and Prospects, also available as an audiobook. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Chomsky offers an anatomy of American defeats in the Greater Middle East, click here, or download it to your iPod here.

[Note: Part 2 of Noam Chomsky’s discussion of American decline, “The Imperial Way,” will be posted at TomDispatch tomorrow.]

Courtesy: TomDispatch
Copyright 2012 Noam Chomsky

Nepal: Indian hegemony has been institutionalized already

Jibanath Khanal
Social Activist, Sankhuwasabha District, Nepal

Jibanath Khanal, basically a social activist is a freelance journalist as well. Originally he hails from the Sankhusava district and is currently living in Kathmandu. He has also been concurrently monitoring the ongoing Nepali affairs from completely a different angle. Sujit Sharma for The Telegraph Weekly and its online edition telegraphnepal.com approached and talked to this person on several facets of Nepal-India relations and Nepali nationalism.
Below the excerpts of this exclusive interview: Chief Editor

Q1: We have come across with the information that you have recently handed over a demand paper to Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarari. Can you please tell us what sort of demand you have forwarded?
Khanal: I have registered a demand paper at the personal secretariat of Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai on Poush 28 ( December 12, 2011). I have also submitted its copy to President of Nepal, Dr. Rambaran Yadav, Speaker of the parliament Mr. Subash Chandra Nembang and Chief of the Army Staff (CoAS) Mr. Chhatraman Singh Gurung.

Basically, I made four demands with the Prime Minister. And all demands are related with the Nepalese security sector.

Dr. Bhattarai led Government is now all set to induct thousands of Madeshi youths in the apparatus of Nepal Army (NA). If the government proceeds further in this regard, I have demanded to make the apparatus of NA inclusive in the real sense. For this, the fair representation of people from Brahmin and Chhetri community and others should also be ensured, come what may.  

Brahmin community is further classified as Kumai Brahmin and Jaisi Brahmin. Similarly, Chhetris are also sub-categorized as Khatri, Thakuri and Chhetri. Each cluster from the Brahmin and Chhetri community should have the separate battalions if we want to make the NA inclusive in the real sense of the term. Firstly, I have asked PM Dr. Bhattarai to remain vigilant in this regard.

Secondly, I asked him to expand the numerical strength of the National Army. NA numerical strength must equal to at least one percent of the total population of our country. While swelling the strength of NA, the equitable inclusion of all ethnic groups must be ensured. Marginalized tribal groups like Chepang and Rautes also should have their fair representation in the national Army.

Thirdly, the proportionate inclusion of youths from Madhesh must be ensured in the Gurkha regiment working under the flag of other country who are generally taken as mercenaries. If this is not possible, the government should immediately stop the tradition of the recruiting Nepali youths in the Gurkha regiment of other countries. At the same time, the government should take diplomatic initiatives to dissolve the existing Gorkha Regiment.

Fourthly, after the Gorkha Regiment is dismantled, the soldiers coming from those regiment(s) should be integrated into the Nepal Army in a dignified manner to which they rightfully deserve. After all they were also the sons of this soil.

Q2: All of your demands look very strange and puzzling. Mr. Khanal! Which factors encouraged you to make such novel demands?
Khanal: I made the draft of the demand paper by considering the ground reality of Nepal-India relations. New Delhi had begun maneuvering in Nepali affairs as back as since 2007 BS itself. Because of such unwarranted and excessive maneuvering, the Indian hegemony has now been institutionalized in the country.   

As a result of the longstanding and all pervasive Indian hegemony, an interesting but yet dangerous drama is now being staged in Kathmandu. The Madhesi leaders are forwarding several doubtful demands and the Indian agents currently seated at the Singh Durbar are fulfilling those demands one by one.

I have now come to a conclusion that India has already realized that it is necessary for her to squeeze Nepal from all possible fronts. For this purpose, India wants the bulk-wise ingress of their citizens in the NA apparatus. The issue of the bulk-wise absorption of Madhesi youths in NA is guided by this malicious hegemonic intent. After comprehending this grand design, I drafted the demand paper and registered it in the office of Prime Minister.

Q3: Mr. Khanal, you are making pretty baffling remarks. How can you say that the inclusion of Madhesi youths in the NA will strengthen the Indian presence in Nepal? Can you please clarify your saying?
Khanal: Well, according to the existing military laws and regulations, any person possessing citizenship certificate of Nepal is able to get entry into the NA by meting the set standards. With this situation on the ground, why the Madhesi leaders have been insisting for the issue of bulk-wise absorption of Madhesi youths in NA?  Don't you smell rat in their demands? Don’t you think that their demands are guided by some vested interests?

After the second People's uprising bagged success, the restored parliament passed Citizenship Bill under the alien directions. Millions of Indians received citizenship certificate under the provision of this bill. The citizenship certificates acquired by the Indians are the wonderful tools for New Delhi to penetrate into the political, economic, military and other possible sectors of Nepal.

Q4. Are you suspecting the nationalistic credentials of the Madhesi population? Is it so?
Khanal: Let me answer your question along with the background information.

You might know as to who were the Madhesis and from where and when they entered inside the Nepali territory?

Tharus were the only indigenous people of Terai region of Nepal. They lived in the southern part of Nepal, struggling with the fatal threat of malarial fever. During the Rana regime, there was no dense settlement of people in Terai. People from other region used to get scared to visit Terai because of the malarial threat. Terai of Nepal was similar to the Siberia of Russia. Rana rulers used to send the culprits to the Terai region for panelizing them.

After the Rana regime was toppled in 2007 BS, people from other regions began to swarm Terai. During the regime of King Mahendra, the landless people from the hills were awarded sizeable chunk of land in Terai and the flow of people towards this region increased considerably. Tharus and the newcomer landless people from the hills jointly cleared the bushes of Terai, controlled the threat of Malaria and established human settlement there.

Only after that, people from India entered inside Nepali territory for business purposes. Those Indians are now popularized as Madhesis. I don’t believe that the Madhesi population is loyal towards Nepali nationalism. Their loyalty is towards somebody else.

However, some genuine Nepali Madhesis are exception. Yet some others are more loyal to the nation than those who take themselves as nationalists.

You might have heard incumbent Minister of Information and Communication Mr. Jaya Prakash Prasad Gupta saying "It will hardly take two months or slightly more than that for Madhesh to get totally detached from the state" some days before. This expression does in many more ways than one manifest the disloyalty of Madhesi people towards Nepali nationalism. This is what I presume personally.

Q5: The Unified Maoists party claims to be a nationalist force. Do you believe in what they claim?
Khanal: I cannot take any claims of the Maoists at its face value. I cannot forget the fact that the Maoist leaders had begun civil war inside Nepal by residing in the luxurious Bungalow of NOIDA, New Delhi. They had even received training and other technical support from the Indian regime. How can I believe that the political force which slaughtered its own countrymen by residing in the soil of the bullish neighbor could be a nationalist party?

Q6: Now let's change the context of our conversation. The latest media report claims that China in the recent days has assured India that the land which is being claimed by Nepal at the Kalapani, the tri-junction region between Nepal, India and China, belonged to the Indian regime. What you would like to say on such assurances of China to India?
Khanal: China might have tried to practice the essence of Realpolitik. I strongly believe that China will never pounce upon India for its hegemony in Nepal.

Kalapani, a Nepali territory proven by several historic documents, is an important region from strategic and warfare perspectives. This region adjoins border of the two Asian giants, India and China. I think that China had tried to trade this region with India in order to appease the latter.

China and India are the two Asian giants with an aspiration of being a global power.  Both countries are engaged in several internal insurgencies. The intensity of such insurgence in Chinese territory is larger than that of India. Taiwan, Tibet and Xinxiang are the most vulnerable part of China. The overt and covert involvement of US in these regions has made these issues more vulnerable and volatile.  

Dalai Lama, the former administrator of Tibet has been taking asylum in India. The increasing hobnob between India and the US has increased the wariness of China vis-à-vis Tibet. Beijing does now want New Delhi to unite with Washington on the Tibetan issues. Thus, for appeasing New Delhi, China may have tried to award the highly sensitive and crucial land of Kalapani to India undermining its age-old cordial and brotherly relations with the Nepal.

Courtesy: Telegraphnepal.com