Monday, June 28, 2010



( To be read in continuation of my earlier article titled " Hu Proposes, PLA Disposes)

There are apparent moves made by the US as well as China to de-escalate tensions due to Chinese objections to the prposed joint US-South Korea naval exercise in the Yellow Sea in which the nuclear-powered US aircraft-carrier USS George Washington was reportedly to participate.

2. The "China Daily" has inter alia reported as follows on June 29,2010: "Large-scale, anti-submarine drills were set for earlier this month in the ROK, but were postponed to give the US more time for preparations. They had been rescheduled for this week, but were delayed again and may take place in July. "If they insist on holding the drills under the current circumstances, it would only further escalate tensions in the region," said Zhai Dequan, deputy secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association. "The US and ROK should continue to postpone or cancel the military drills," Zhai said. "

3.The " Global Times", published by the "People's Daily" group of the Communist Party of China, has reported as follows on the morning of June 29: "The planned US-South Korean military drill was postponed until July because the schedule remains unfinished, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said Monday ( June 28)."

4. With the postponement of the proposed US-South Korea naval exercise, there has been an apparent attempt by Chinese circles also to play down the earlier interpretation of the live-ammunition exercise of the People's Liberation Army's Navy in the East China Sea as in response to the proposed US-South Korea naval exercise. Some Chinese commentators are now claiming that the dates for the Chinese drill were fixed sometime ago and that the Chinese drill was not connected with the US-South Korea exercise.However, while the US and South Korea have postponed their joint exercise, the PLA Navy is going ahead with its exercise as scheduled from June 30. It will continue till July 5.

5. While the "China Daily" coninues to display on its web site the hard-hitting article against the proposed US-South Korea joint exercise, the "Global Times" has come out with a little more balanced article on June 29 written by one Huang Jingjing. It says inter alia as follows:

"A public announcement saying that the Chinese navy will kick-off a six-day exercise tomorrow in the East China Sea that will feature live ammunition has stirred speculation about the timing of the drill.

"A fleet under the PLA will take part in the drill from tomorrow to July 5 in waters off Zhengjiang's east coast in the East China Sea, according to a notice published Sunday (June 27) on the local Wenzhou Evening News at the request of the fleet.

"The drill will be held from midnight to 6 pm every day. All irrelevant ships are prohibited from entering the region during the drill, the notice said.

"The notice gave no more details. However, many military observers and experts interpreted the drill in different ways.

"Some see it as a response to the joint military drill by the US and South Korea, which was originally set to begin Monday (June 28).
The drill reportedly includes US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington and was supposed to be held in waters off the west coast of South Korea, or the Yellow Sea, the waterway leading to China.

"It is reported that if the aircraft carrier enters the Yellow Sea, China's territorial sea, the entire North China region and the Liaodong Peninsula would be within its range, which was deemed a provocation to China, according to Hong Kong-based Ming Pao daily.

"The location of the Chinese drill is set to be held in the East China Sea, which would make the foreign navies entering the Yellow Sea uneasy," Song Zhongping, a military analysis for Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, said on his blog on people. Monday (June 28).

He said the East China Sea is the only way into the Yellow Sea. He said it would be easy to form a favorable war situation for the Chinese navy to "shut the dogs up and beat them."

"However, the planned US-South Korean military drill was postponed until July because the schedule remains unfinished, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said Monday.

"Some other military experts said the Chinese drill is just a routine exercise.

"The drill was planned early. It's a coincidence that it falls near the joint drill by South Korea and the US," Li Jie, a naval expert with the Beijing Naval Research Center, told the Global Times. "It's not only an exercise to improve defense ability, but a military action to coordinate with foreign policy."

"Song Xiaojun, another expert, did not think that China is holding the drill in response to the US-South Korea. China already fixed the date for its drill while the other drill's date has not been set, Song said."

6. At the same time, Chinese circles have expressed displeasure over the reported remarks of President Barack Obama at Toronto that while he understood President Hu Jintao's need to show restraint over his neighbor and ally, "there's a difference between restraint and willful blindness to consistent problems."

7.In an editorial on the subject, the "Global Times" of June 29 has stated as follows:

"US President Barack Obama groundlessly blamed China for "blindness" to North Korea's "belligerent behavior" in an alleged attack on the South Korean navel vessel the Cheonan while speaking at the G20 summit Monday (June 28).

"His words on such an important occasion, based on ignorance of China's consistent and difficult efforts in pushing for peace on the peninsula, have come as a shock to China and the world at large.

"As a close neighbor of North Korea, China and its people have immediate and vital stakes in peace and stability on the peninsula. China's worries over the North Korean nuclear issue are by no means less than those of the US.

"The US President should have taken these into consideration before making irresponsible and flippant remarks about China's role in the region.

"The facts speak for themselves, and very clearly so: China has made tremendous efforts in preventing the situation on the Korean Peninsula from getting out of control, including in the aftermath of the Cheonan incident.

"Without China's involvement, there would not have been the Six-Party Talks, and the outbreak of yet another Korean War might well have been a possibility.

"It is thus not China that is turning a blind eye to what North Korea has done and has not done.

"Instead, it is the leaders of countries such as the US that are turning a blind eye on purpose to China's efforts.

"The US President made the remarks only because China has not acted in accordance with the requests made by some countries. But those are unreasonable and irrational requests."

8. The controversy between the US and China on North Korea continues, but in politically measured tones to underline that the Chinese political leadership commands policy-making. ( 29-6-10)

( 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: )



As President Hu Jintao took a series of steps to repair relations with the US which have come under a strain following the decision of the Barack Obama Administration earlier this year to sell a new arms package to Taiwan and the meeting of His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Mr.Obama in the White House during his visit to Washingtom DC, the goodwill sought to be re-generated between the political leaderships of the two countries is under threat of fresh dilution as a result of measures taken by the People's Liberation Army of China (PLA).

2. Among the measures taken by Mr.Hu to repair relations with the US were the Chinese support for sanctions by the UN against Iran on the nuclear issue, the Chinese decision to let the yuan float slightly in relation to the US dollar and Mr.Hu's acceptance of an invitation extended by Mr.Obama during their meeting in the margins of the G-20 summit at Toronto to pay a State visit to Washington DC later this year. According to all accounts, the meeting between Mr.Obama and Mr.Hu at Toronto went off cordially though the Chinese did not come out with a decision to lift the suspension of exchange of visits by military and defence officials of the two countries, which was imposed by them in protest against the sale of the arms package to Taiwan.Recently, they had refused to lift this suspension and extend an invitation to Mr.Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, to visit China after his visit to Singapore to attend an Asian Security Conference. It was reported that while Mr.Hu readily accepted the invitation from Mr.Obama to pay a State visit to Washington DC, he did not respond positively to a suggestion from Mr.Obama for a visit by Mr.Gates to China.

3. The interpretation by many China analysts that the strong line taken by Beijing on military-related issues after the announcement of the arms sales to Taiwan must have been on the insistence of the PLA leadership is likely to be further strengthened by the strong Chinese reaction to the proposed participation of the nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier USS George Washington in a joint naval exercise with the South Korean Navy in the Yellow Sea. This exercise and the participation of the US carrier in it were reportedly decided upon by the Obama Administration as part of a series of cautionary measures in the wake of the incident in March in which a South Korean Naval vessel sank after being hit by a torpedo allegedly fired by a North Korean ship. A number of South Korean naval personnel were killed. China has so far avoided supporting any move for economic sanctions or other punitive measures against North Korea in this connection.

4.A wave of criticism in Chinese blog spots and internet chat rooms of the proposed naval exercise in the Yellow Sea and the participation of the US carrier has been followed by an announcement by the PLA on June 28 that the PLA would be conducting live ammunition exercises in the East China Sea from June 30 to July 5. Sections of the Chinese media have made no secret of the fact that these exercises are in response to the US-South Korea naval exercise and the participation of the US carrier in it. A strongly worded commentary under the title "US Military Presence in the Yellow Sea" by one Huang Xiangyang uploaded on the web site of the " China Daily" on June 28, stated as follows:

"In a terse news release, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) announced on Monday that it will conduct live ammunition exercises in the East China Sea from June 30 to July 5. No reason was given for this seemingly unusual military arrangement--the last time the East China Sea was turned into a shooting ranch was in March 1996, when the PLA conducted ballistic missile exercises by firing surface-to-surface rockets from the mainland to sea targets to deter then-Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui from his political stunt of seeking the island's independence.

"Anyone with basic knowledge on geopolitics and military strategy would get the message behind the timing of the announcement. It is definitely not total coincidence that such sensitive news is made public on the same day that a joint military drill by the US and South Korean navies is scheduled to start in the Yellow Sea, citing threats from North Korea.

"But the Yellow Sea is no common place where a country can flex its muscles. It is historically China's front yard. In 1894 the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) fought a sea battle here with Japan in a vain attempt to retain the empire's fast-fading influence over the rest of Asia. For Chinese, the Yellow Sea has no less military significance to China's sovereignty and national security than the Gulf of Mexico has to the United States.

"Despite repeated complaints from China, the Pentagon has shown no signs of refraining from testing the country's strategic bottom line by going ahead with the plan to show off its military force. With the nuclear-powered aircraft USS George Washington set to participate in the joint exercise, China's key cities such as Beijing and Tianjin, as well as parts of its economically prosperous eastern coast are exposed under direct military threat from US forces. Given that the Pentagon has a history of dropping "missed bombs" on a country's embassy, such worries are by no means baseless.

"There is a Chinese saying that even a rabbit--meek and gentle though it may be--will fight back when cornered. It is justified that a wave of public outcry and vehement calls for tit-for-tat military arrangement has emerged in countless online chat rooms in response to the US military adventure at China's doorstep. We see the US ignoring Chinese security concerns as an act meant to cause humiliation. And the latest announcement of the firing practice, to some extent, helps assuage simmering sentiment.

"Because of the US policy toward Taiwan, characterized by continuing arms sales to the island, which has hurt China's "core national interest," the PLA has put its military contact with the Pentagon on hold. The sense of enmity has not eased, although US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has "stated for the record that the United States does not consider China as an enemy but as a partner." This is because Chinese culture values action over words. The US military presence in the Yellow Sea regardless of China's concerns, in addition to its never-ending reconnaissance activities along China's coastline, only reinforces Chinese impression of Uncle Sam as a double dealer.

"In 1996, the US sent two aircraft carriers near the Taiwan Straits--in the first act of American coercion against China in nearly four decades--to countermeasure Beijing's missile tests. It has been considered a provocative move to trample on China's dignity. Compared with the United States, China is still weak. But to emerge as a great nation in the world community, China has to stand up to the United States militarily, especially near its own shores."

5. It will be interesting to find out whether Mr.Hu raised the issue of the joint naval exercise in equally strong terms with Mr.Obama at Toronto. If not and if it is the PLA which has reacted strongly, it will be a clear indication that the Chinese political and military leaderships are not on the same page with regard to the relations with the US.( 28-6-10)

( 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: )




In an interview to ABC TV channel’s “This Week” Programme on June 27,2010, Mr.Leon Panetta, Director of the USA’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is reported to have stated as follows: “ Osama bin Laden remains in very deep hiding but consistent pressure will flush him out. While hard data on him has been slight since the 2001 attacks, the CIA and US forces have killed or captured at least half the leadership of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. We took down the No. three in their leadership (Mustafa Abu al-Yazid) a few weeks ago. We continue to disrupt them. We continue to impact on their command and control. We continue to impact on their ability to plan attacks in this country. Al Qaeda’s depleted numbers had shrunk dramatically. The pressure is definitely on bin Laden and Al Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri. I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100 (Al Qaeda members), maybe less. If we keep that pressure on, we think ultimately we can flush out bin Laden and Zawahiri and get after them. President Barack Obama had made going after Al Qaeda the fundamental purpose of the Afghan military mission. We’ve got to disrupt and dismantle Al Qaeda and their militant allies so they never attack this country again. bin Laden remains in very deep hiding in a tribal area in Pakistan surrounded by tremendous security. The terrain is probably the most difficult in the world. It has been years since the United States has had good intelligence on the whereabouts of bin laden, although he is thought to be in Pakistan.”

2.It is nine years since the US intelligence agencies and military forces in the Af-Pak area started their hunt for Osama bin Laden after he was believed to have escaped into Pakistan’s tribal areas through the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan. They have had no success in getting at him. At least in the case of al-Zawahiri, his No.2, there was a report in January 2006 of a near miss in the Bajaur agency, but in the case of bin Laden there have been no reports of even a near miss. Neither the periodically enhanced cash reward offers nor stepped-up attacks by the Drones (pilotless planes) of the CIA have got him. The Drone strikes---helped by improved human and technical intelligence--- have been increasingly successful against leaders and cadres of the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan and the Punjabi Taliban organizations. There have been some successful hits against other leaders of Al Qaeda too, but not against bin Laden.

3. The Drone strikes have been largely confined to North and South Waziristan and occasionally the Bajaur agency. If bin Laden is in one of these agencies, he is most likely to be hit one of these days if the US keeps up its Drone strikes because Al Qaeda and its alles do not have a wide choice of hide-outs. The fact that there has not even been a speculation that bin Laden was anywhere near the areas which have so far been hit by the Drones would give rise to questions as to whether he could be in one of the Waziristans, where he is often placed by the US intelligence. Other likely tribal areas of his hiding are in the Chitral area of Pakistan and in the Nuristan area of Afghanistan. There has been no concrete indication from those areas either.

4. The announcements of huge cash rewards for information leading to his capture or death amounting to millions of US dollars have been widely disseminated all over the tribal areas in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan and in its Khyber-Pakhtoonkwa province (formerly known as the North_West Frontier Province ). The absence of any leads about him from the Pashtun areas could be attributed to the loyalty of large sections of Pashtuns to him and to their aversion to helping the US in getting rid of him. But not all Pashtuns like bin Laden or are loyal to him to that extent. The Shias among the Pashtuns particularly in the Kurram Agency of the FATA and in parts of Khyber-Pakhtoonkwa and the Pashtun members of the Awami National Party, which is a member of the ruling coalition in Islamabad and is the head of the coalition in Peshawar, dislike him. They have no interest in protecting him.

5. The fact that neither the interested reward-seekers nor the CIA Drones have been able to get any inkling of the whereabouts of bin Laden would once again bring to the fore the question which I had raised from time to time in the past. That is, is he really hiding in the tribal areas as assessed by the CIA or is he hiding in the non-tribal areas with the help of Pashtun migrants in those areas. The Drones cannot reach him in the non-tribal areas. There will be many non-tribals interested in the huge cash rewards, but they may not have access to information about him. It is easier to get information in the sparsely-populated tribal areas than in the densely-populated non-tribal areas. In the past, some top-guns of Al Qaeda were found hiding in the non-tribal areas---- Abu Zubaidah in Faislabad in Punjab, Ramzi Binalshibh in Karachi and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in Rawalpindi. Many Afghan Taliban leaders were found hiding in Karachi and other places and not in Balochistan as used to be assumed.

6. While continuing to maintain the present hunt for bin Laden in the tribal areas, it is, therefore, important to extend it to the non-tribal areas too. Karachi, which has more Pashtuns than even Peshawar, needs attention. So too Quetta in Balochistan, which has a large Afghan refugee population, who have given shelter to the leaders of the Afghan Taliban. The strong-holds of the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) in the Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan are other areas calling for search. Of all the Punjabi Taliban organizations, the LEJ and the JEM are the closest to Al Qaeda.

7. The question of Drone strikes in the non-tribal areas does not arise. The CIA cannot expect the Pakistani intelligence and Police to co-operate in the search in the non-tribal areas. The CIA has to organize its own search operations with the help of anti-Al Qaeda communities such as those of the Mohajirs in Karachi, the Balochs in the Quetta area and the anti-LEJ Shias in Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan. ( 28-6-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and also Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )